Featured on Delano: My female role model

You can find the article I wrote about my female role model on http://www.delano.lu

The thought of writing about a female role model made me sceptical at first. The minute I got approached to write this text and upon learning the brief, I have to admit my mind got seriously stuck. I kept thinking and thinking about some of the people who have entered my life throughout the years, who might have shaped the person that I am today.

Truth be told, I have encountered a multitude of reverse role models over the years, men and women who have shown me how not to do things or what not to become, but frankly there were few people whom I have genuinely admired or looked up to.

Role model

And yet, I got to realise the bar was standing very high for me and had been set at that level from a fairly young age. There was one particular person, outside my family, who has shaped my life, my principles and values, in what I would argue were the most formative years for my personality – my teenage years.

This is my former high school Latin teacher Valeria Socaciu.

As her first name suggests, which comes from the Latin verb “valere” meaning “to be strong”, Valeria was a powerful and audacious woman who insisted on swimming against the stream. And for this, she was often misunderstood and undervalued by her students and fellow teachers alike.

The truth is, Ms Socaciu was and still is too great and too ambitious for the small, provincial town I grew up in. Her refusal to settle for less than what she believed to be right was difficult to understand by others, especially when it came to the strict grading system for a subject matter that wasn’t as highly regarded as mathematics or chemistry or to her expectation of students to memorise and recite excerpts of the Catilinarian Orations – a set of speeches given by statesman and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero to the Roman Senate.

She was for some, and at times, a sort of “persona non grata” and certainly didn’t score high in the Top 10 Best Loved high school teachers in my hometown.

Walking encyclopaedia

Yet, for me, she showed great intelligence and was a walking ancient history encyclopaedia. She was led by strong principles and never took a shortcut to accomplish what she envisioned for herself or for her students.

I truly admired her knowledge on a vast array of subjects such as history, art and culture and her ability to remain humble and focused, to instil a sense of normalcy in what had been decades of hard work and devotion.

And mostly, in the mind of my teenage self, I admired her for her ability to read and decipher all the Latin inscriptions one could come across while traveling, while reading old books or visiting museums.

I remember thinking of her when I first visited the Louvre Museum in Paris, getting to understand why she was so strict, even harsh at times, with students who wouldn’t take her class seriously. She wanted us to understand that Latin was the basis for the group of Romance languages and that the Roman Empire became one of the key foundations for Western societies.

Fairness & integrity

While I never wanted to become a teacher, like herself, I’ve always aspired to be a smart and knowledgeable person, to be self-confident and remain focused on what matters in life. Years later, I realised she was one of the first people to instil in me a clear sense of what is fair and what is not and inspired the commitment to never compromise on my integrity and stand up when people around me grow complacent about abuse and injustice.

Looking back on my teenage years, I think I resemble her in some respects. We have both been considered ‘‘inadequate’’ when casting our opinions or challenging the “status quo”, we both have strong convictions that fairness and hard work should be the underlying principles in achieving whatever goals we set.

In following my former teacher’s example, I have myself become an ‘‘outcast’’ in many people’s minds but thinking of my high school years this is exactly why I admired Ms Socaciu so much. She remained true to herself even when that made her unpopular.

Have I become so knowledgeable that I can read all the Latin inscriptions I come across in my travels? Far from it. But I have grown even more appreciative of people who are smart and knowledgeable, who remain humble and don’t lose focus no matter how bumpy the road gets. Because in the end, as Seneca once said, “there is no easy way from the earth to the stars” (Non est ad astra mollis e terris via).

Read the full text on Delano’s website here .

Reflections on my Romanian identity ahead of Romania’s national day

The Romanian flag

The Romanian flag

Given this year’s troubled political context both nationally, on a European level and internationally, I find it somewhat difficult to write about my sense of belonging to one country or nation, without mentioning that nationalism is on the rise, giving birth to a lot of xenophobic and intolerant behaviour all across the world.

While I have been living abroad for the past 6 years, calling home, for different periods of time, the city of Madrid, in Spain, Aberdeen, in Scotland and Luxembourg, at the end of each day and mostly at the beginning of each conversation, I am Romanian, coming from the region of Maramures, in the north of the country.

Frankly, I think I have never been ”more Romanian” in my whole life than in the past 6 years both in my soul and in other people’s minds. It is funny and strange to reach the conclusion that you become  ”more” Spanish, Portuguese or American once you live somewhere abroad.

Yes, I am a proud Romanian, but I also like to be given credit for my personal skills, opinions and perspectives as to my own identity, origin and future. I refuse to be defined by others’ definitions of what is like to be Romanian or any other nationality for this matter.

Of course, there are many things that all Romanians have in common, among which the language, the cuisine, the friendliness (at least that’s what I want to believe), and other things linked to traditional outfits, music, dance, film and history. And I am happy to confirm it, to even emphasize that Romanians, be it home or abroad, keep in their hearts those moments in time and history that contributed to the creation of our nation.

romania in europe

Romania’s location within Europe

These days, it’s not easy being Romanian, as much as it is not easy being any other Eastern European or a non-European on the old continent and in the extended western world. Sadly, certain countries and some of their people are still patronising and offensive in their behaviour and political engagement, leaving a bitter taste on many people’s lips.

But, I don’t want to spend more time on that. I would like to rather use this opportunity to encourage each and all of  you to be avid learners of others’ cultures and origins, to seize the oportunity and become wiser, smarter and better-equiped for today’s globalised world.

Yes, we do live in a global-oriented world, but that doesn’t mean that people’s characteristics are or that they should become standardised, but rather that it is more important than never to respect, appreciate and tolerate others, no matter their ethnicity, nationality, physical traits, fashion style or music taste.

I am happy and grateful that I was born in a middle-class Romanian family, in the region of Maramures, having the parents that I have, the family that shaped my transition to adulthood and mostly to have infinite reasons to pe proud of other succesful and hard-working Romanians that have made the world a better place.

I am just one person, and of course I want to be respected for the values that I stand for, but I also know that it would be simply too complicated to understand billions of people based on their unique and personal choices. Therefore, stereotypes do make sense to some extent, but they should certainly not be misused to the outrageous degree that they are used today.

This being said, I want to wish all Romanians, no matter where they are, or how much they have succeeded or failed to date, to embrace their strengths and weaknesses, to not tolerate anyone’s wrong judgements or mistreatment and to always think that one’s belonging to a nation or more, is a blessing as much as one’s belonging to a family is.

Finally, I wish everyone Happy National Day on December 1 and let’s hope that Romania will soon become our permanent homes again, if that is what we truly wish for,  with less and less people leaving their families and children behind for a better-paid salary and life in a more efficient, well-developed society.

We have a lot of potential, we have natural resources, human talent, we belong to international organisations that make today’s decisions in the world, we have had 25 years to make the transition from communism to real democracy, there are no more excuses!

Now, we need the long-term strategy and vision, the strength and maturity to vote for the right people to represent our nation. Individual change first impacts on the local community, but it then creates further fundamental and systematic transformations and encourages others to act.

Let’s learn from past mistakes and be determined enough to build the future that we all deserve!