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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Cristina Bratu '11

Hometown: Arad, Romania

Major: Economics

Minors: German and Mathematics

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • English for Speakers of Other Languages - English Education Committee Co-Chair
  • Adopt-a-Classroom Literacy Campaign - General Co-Chair
  • Box Office Assistant, Lenfest Center for the Arts
  • DJ, WLUR 91.5 FM

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • 2009 Spring Term Abroad in Ghana with Prof. Dickovick and Prof. Blunch
  • Intern, Church Development Service, Bonn, Germany (Summer 2009)
  • 2010 Spring Term Abroad in Germany with Prof. Kramer

Post-Graduation Plans: Hopefully I'll get into one of the Economics master's programs in Europe I'm currently applying for

Favorite W&L Memories: Graduation 2009 when rain was no impediment for having the ceremony on the lawn in front of Lee Chapel; getting to see and hear Romanian playwright Matei Visniec at the 2009 International Theater Festival organized by Prof. Domnica Radulescu; being "adopted" by Summer Lollie's parents on Parents' Weekend 2010

Favorite Classes: Institutions and Economic Performance with Prof. Grajzl; French Culture and Civilization with Prof. Frégnac-Clave; my Spring Term Abroad classes

Favorite W&L Activity: WLUR Open Air Waves

Favorite Lexington Landmark: Lexington Coffee Shop

For a lot of Romanians, the U.S. is (still) this mythical place where all the magic happens. Whenever I go back home, it's pretty much expected of me to bring some of this magic back, at least in the form of stories. Since W&L is a magical place in and of itself--perhaps regardless of what's going on "outside"--it's usually not a particular challenge to share some of my experiences here. Maybe the only challenge lies in choosing the best ones to share. A challenge that I'm facing right now as well, as I'm trying to explain in a nutshell what W&L means to me.

As an international student who had never stepped foot in the U.S. before venturing into the mystery that is college life in any country, much less in one you're not really familiar with, I must say I didn't feel particularly at ease in my first few months here. Actively participating in conversations in any social context  was a challenge. It just seemed that in order to feel "at home," I had to catch up on whatever 18 years of living in the U.S. had taught my American peers.

It was a fascinating challenge, but a rather unrealistic and ultimately unnecessary one. That I came from somewhere else was precisely what made me who I was. I had a different story and a different way of approaching things. From the very first day I arrived at W&L, I happened to stumble upon all these amazing people who were interested in hearing my stories and whom I was eager to hear stories from, as well. I guess the trick is just to ask the right questions and you'll most definitely get some answers. Whether it was roommates and friends with whom I shared thoughts on growing up, college or the frightening prospect of graduating; my classmates who--involuntarily, perhaps--taught me so much about the different American perspectives on various aspects of life; my lovely work-study supervisors whom I genuinely consider my American mothers; or my incredibly dedicated and supportive professors who have always challenged me to break out of my comfort zone and explore unfamiliar areas of research; everyone I encountered here helped me turn W&L into my home away from home. And I was happy to be able to prove wrong all the skeptics who didn't believe such a dialogue was feasible at W&L.

Maybe I just got lucky, but maybe it's just that magic can happen, even where you least expect it.