Constanța: Arrival and First Impressions

I think that sunset says it all! (Also, whew!!!! A month in and this is my FIRST post about Romania?! So much catching up to do!)

This is the stunning view of Lake Siutghiol that my eyes get to feast on from my balcony every evening. I surely must have done something in a past life to deserve this. It’s been over a month since I’ve been here and it still often feels like a dream… Reveling in every moment! (But perhaps not the not so gorgeous moments… Spoiler: I had an awful case of food poisoning a few weeks back. Alas, this is all part of the journey… More on this in a later post.)

Let’s rewind to my first few days here, before heading to București (Bucharest) for my Fulbright orientation. I flew into Mihail Kogălniceanu, Constanta’s international airport, on the evening of September 26th. One of my advising professors, Ileana, met me there, and escorted me to my apartment via taxi. We stopped at City Park Mall on our way, and picked up a pizza to go from Pizza Hut (quattro stagioni!).

The cab ride was a quick trip to my apartment, but Ileana packed in so much information during those short twenty minutes. It was all very, very helpful, but most of it went straight over my head… Information about buses (I take Line 23 and can pay via SMS or by getting a tickets booths that look like magazine stands), seatbelts (not required in the back seat…), classes (too much to add a brief parenthetical elaboration)…. I quickly realized how many logistics I just didn’t bother to consider researching beforehand, and suddenly felt very nervous and unprepared. (But nevertheless, still very excited!)

I spent my first few days in Constanta navigating these logistics– grocery shopping, buses, a new SIM card, data, bank account, my apartment’s housing contract, budgeting… I’ll spare you the details, but to sum everything up, some things were quite simple to figure out (like groceries, my phone plan– unlimited data for 5 Euro/month?!? a personal hotspot too?! yes please!), and others took much longer than expected (the bus lines, my bank account).

That weekend, another professor, Ludmila, gave me an introductory tour of Constanta. We went to a part of the city called Old Town, where there are lots of restaurants (mostly Italian, Greek, and Turkish cuisine), museums (a list here), statues of famous poets (Ovid and Mihai Eminescu), the Grand Mosque that has a panoramic view of the city, and more. We walked along the promenade, and passed Constanta’s iconic Old Casino (pictured in the banner of this site). It was once considered Romania’s Monte Carlo, but has been abandoned since 1990. You can read more about it here.

Then, on Monday, October 1st, I attended the opening ceremony for the universities in Constanta (Ovidius University, the Naval Academy, and a few others). It was supposed to be held in Ovidiu Square, but was moved indoors to a gymnasium close by because it was raining. The ceremony started with a prayer by some Orthodox priests, and then administrators from the university spoke about their goals for the academic year. The student who accompanied me and I left early, since it was all in Romanian and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Nevertheless, I’m glad I went– it was good to experience. Afterwards, I went back to Ovidius’ Faculty of Letters campus and met some other professors.

And the next day, I was on a train to Bucharest for my Fulbright orientation! Lots more on that in my next post.

First impressions summary after week 1:

-Constanta is much larger than I expected!
-How do the buses work?!
-The contrast of architecture in Old Town is interesting… One building will be a communist style cement blocks, and the next a much more modern, European looking one. (eeek sorry, don’t know how to classify more specifically)
-Where are all the people?! (When it’s off season, everything in Mamaia– the area where I live– is closed and abandoned. Mamaia is a strip of land north of Constanta, with the Black Sea on one side and Lake Siutghiol on the other. It has lots of resorts, restaurants, a water park, beaches, and clubs. In the summer, it’s poppin’. But now, everything is boarded up, chairs are pushed to the side and stacked up. The beaches there are still quite nice, though!)

Posts to come:

– Bucharest: Fulbright Orientation
– RAAS Conference at Ovidius University feat. Meat Candles
– Histria: Ruins and Wine Tasting
– My First Classes
-Exploring Constanta
-Applying for my Residence Permit
-Food Poisoning Abroad
– Halloween Party at Bran’s Castle
-Brasov: Better than Firenze?
-My Birthday!
-Sofia: ETA Media Literacy Conference
-Romanian Course Beginner Level: Complete!

As you can see, a lot has happened in just one month! Will I ever catch up with these posts?! Yes, I shall! …eventually. Looking forward to sharing more with you. 🙂 Follow my instagram account ( @stephcoxon ) to stay up to date with my gallivanting!

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