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Lessons from Romania

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A couple of months ago the Marshfield Mail had the opportunity to sit down with Lillyanne Vestal; a newly graduated senior who was planning to take an eight week trip to Romania. Fast forward to last week when Vestal returned home from her trip.

Now a recent graduated and well traveled young adult, Vestal took time to share her experience with the Mail. 

“It was a really good experience. I went not knowing exactly what all I’d be doing, I knew I’d probably be working with some refugees from Ukraine and that the lady I was staying with does occupational therapy and that I’d probably be doing some of that,” reflected Vestal. “I did both of those things, but the best experience and learning experience was working with the refugees from Ukraine.”

“The lady I was staying with had a couple families from Ukraine that she was responsible for them-to help them find an apartment to stay in, help them find food and supplies. I mainly worked with one family,” explained Vestal. 

“I also met a girl who came from Ukraine. She was just living with her grandma and they had to flee because of the bombing. She was 17. I got to talk to her a lot, we were both there are the same time. We got there and left at the same time. It was really cool to have her and be able to support each other.” 

Prior to leaving, Vestal had spent some time learning Romanian to prepare for the potential language barrier. “It was actually not as hard as I thought it was going to be because a lot of people in Romania spoke English,” Vestal explained. “A lot of the people my age spoke English.”

“What I would say I learned the most was the community experience there. I think we have community in America but in Romania it’s different….when you go to someone’s house there you are expected to stay for the whole day. It was a really beautiful experience-they are always there for each other. People are very vulnerable with each other. I would be sitting at someone’s house and they’d be sharing all these things with me that normally most people wouldn’t do that because they don’t know you that well. But that’s what they do, you’re spending time with them and learning about their life,” reflected Vestal. “That was the best thing I learned-just wanting to do that more in my life. Realize the importance of strong relationships.” 

Vestal shared that one of the biggest challenges was doing things alone. “When I went I did not have the expectation that I would be doing things all by myself as much…at first it was tricky…” laughed Vestal. “I took the tram, which was good. It was kind of stressful to learn all the tram lines and everything but funny story-the tram I was on got hit by a car. I was like ‘of course this happens the first time I take the tram all by myself’ but it was fine-we all got off ok.” 

“Overall my trip-it wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it was going to be, but… learning to do things on my own. I had to grocery shop on my own, I walked places by myself, I didn’t expect to do those things but I learned so much from that.” When it was time to come home, Vestal traveled alone. “It went really well. I was really nervous about it-when I went my mom was with me…I was really proud of myself. I was like ‘I can do this. I am capable.’”

Vestals experience overseas taught her a lot of things and gave her insight into what she might do next with her life. “I was leaning toward occupational therapy. I learned so much and I loved that but I think what I got out of this the most and what I seem to have more of a heart for, was the kids…they had so much trauma from war and I think that developed a bigger interest for me. In working with kids who have trauma…I’ve been thinking about just therapy in general.” 

Vestal is set to start her first semester of college this fall and says she is just waiting to see what is next for her. “If the opportunity came to go back or to another foreign country, I’d be really open to it.” 

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