I grew up in Bucharest, the capital of Romania and a city of 2 million. I was born on November 21st 1989, one month before the revolution in Romania started. After the revolution it took years for the economy to come to some sort of stability with lower inflation and unemployment, for the people to start using their newly-attained freedom of speech to have private TV channels and newspapers, and for Romanians to venture outside into the Western world to travel and study. Life wasn’t very easy for my family either. We’ve lived for almost my entire life in a 2 room apartment. For a long time I did not have my own room, and shared my work space with the daily events of dinner and having guests over. In spite of the hardship, I have often met really nice people back home who have taught me a lot about the meaning of life and have overall greatly contributed to my life experience. I think of all of these people whenever I think of my home country.
As I grew older my mom insisted that I learn a foreign language, so she sent me to a German kindergarten where I started to learn German, before moving on to German school and studying everything from math to history and science in German.
I am the late and only child of my parents. I admire and love my parents more than anything I can imagine. They have been honest and hard working people, providing me with a lifestyle that was out of reach for many Romanian families and saving a lot of their hard earned money for my college education, money that could have otherwise been spent on vacations or to have a more comfortable lifestyle. My father graduated from the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest and has worked as a successful engineer throughout his entire life. Regime changes as well as economic turbulences have left his commitment to his profession untouched, since he still performs his job with as much passion as he did 30 years ago. My mother, while not attending college at all, has managed to work in the mayor’s administration and was very skilled at helping people with different problems throughout the transition to democracy as well as establishing some lifetime connections and close friendships. There are people with whom she still stays in contact even after as much as 30 years.
When a Romanian student goes to high school he or she mostly has two choices: Either to attend the so called “real” specialization, where the focus is mainly on math and sciences, or the so called “uman” specialization, where the focus is mainly on arts and humanities. Being a student at a German public school, I was lucky enough to have a third option called “special”. In this section, most classes are taught by professors from Germany and the degree handed in at the end of high school is the German Abitur, the same degree that students studying in Germany are awarded. Being taught by German teachers helped me a lot, since it offered me a new way of seeing the world, different from that of most Romanians. I spent one year in Romania studying in this sort of system, before receiving a scholarship to go on an exchange year abroad to Switzerland with Youth For Understanding (YFU), an international student exchange organization. This exposure to a foreign culture was a phenomenal step in my development and I returned to my high school eager to succeed and pursue my dreams. Upon my return I volunteered for YFU, because I wanted other students to have an amazing experience that was comparable or even better to the one I had had. I also worked during the summer before my senior year in the YFU national office and grew attached to the organization and its people. My last year of high school was the hardest, since it involved preparing for the Abitur final examinations, studying for SATs and writing application essays, as well as volunteering at YFU. At the end of it I felt I had been victorious for graduating as a Valedictorian and receiving an admission letter from Hamilton. Unfortunately, this involved leaving my friends from YFU behind, though I still keep contact with them and see them every time I go back to Romania.
While we were talking about studying abroad and comparing different universities, one of my best friends from high school, who now attends NYU, told me about the high quality of US colleges and about the wide range of opportunities available on a college campus. He recommended visiting the local EducationUSA center, called the Fulbright Educational Advising Center (FEAC) to convince myself of this. FEAC provides students with a variety of useful books to prepare for SATs and research different types of colleges, as well as testimonials and lots of information from students who have already been successful in their application. While going there throughout the summer and attending advising sessions as well as watching videos with Romanian students who were studying in the US I heard of Hamilton College. Specifically, the first time I saw the name Hamilton was in a video of Gabriela Ghimis ’08 where she was praising the value of a liberal arts education and how Hamilton is successful at providing it. Upon further research, I was able to realize that her statements reflect reality and decided to apply to a multitude of small liberal arts colleges. Hamilton of course had a special place in that list.
One of my first impressions of the college was that people always pursued what they were interested in and that the lack of a core curriculum does a lot to encourage such pursuits. This is one of the qualities that I admire most about Hamilton and I believe it will continue to be true as long as professors and advisors give a great degree of freedom to students, while closely guiding their decisions and giving advice. Both the quality of the proposed courses as well as the enthusiasm that professors have for their field create an environment where learning occurs for the sake of it, and not for some distant purpose.
Another impression I had at first was that the students at Hamilton were very welcoming and fond of meeting new people. This was absolutely true at the beginning of my year and it continues to be mostly true throughout the years, though it is sad to see how sometimes little groups are formed which live in a state of semi-isolation from the rest of the community. I think that overall the students at Hamilton are open to new experiences, even though there might be a few exceptions to this rule.
Finally, Hamilton is a place of great diversity. From different academic interests, sports pursuits, and hobbies to different backgrounds and life goals, the diversity of the student body and the sometimes heated debates on a wide range of topics, ranging from politics and religion to science and history, provide for a community that fosters a climate of tolerance and freedom of thought.
While my first defining element didn’t occur on the Hill itself, but in the Adirondacks, it was still a Hamilton experience, thanks to the people comprising my hiking trip. From basic wilderness skills to my first American cultural experiences, the trip provided the BEST way to start college, make friends, and gain the confidence needed to be successful in my college career.
My second defining moment was the end of my candidate education and my induction into Tau Kappa Epsilon. I have found many close friends in the fraternity, but I am also very close to my old friends. This has shown me that I have become an important part of the Hamilton community.
My third defining moment was not a cheerful one like the last two, but rather one of academic and personal maturity. I started my first semester of this year with 5 full credit courses, since I had taken 5 courses before and performed fairly well. A couple of weeks into this semester though I realized that having 5 courses and 2 on-campus jobs takes a lot of time away from extracurricular activities and socializing with my friends. One other realization was that I had a harder time concentrating and absorbing new material from my classes, since my energy was overused studying and working the entire day, with very few short breaks to gather my thoughts. I decided to drop a course in order to better focus on my other classes and participate more in extracurricular activities. Looking back I regret having to make that decision, but I realize it was a mature and strategic one.I liked all the courses I was taking and initially considered dropping a course as a sign of weakness. The consequences though were positive, since right now I’m prepared to finish this semester with excellent grades and I am more involved in extracurricular activities than I would have ever been with an extra course. After all, there is only one college experience and I should make the best use out of it while I have it.
7. What Hamilton voices (professor(s)/coach(es)/advisor(s)) have inspired you? Why?
There have been three people who have inspired me a lot at Hamilton:
My first-year advisor, Prof. Bruce Walczyk was the first professor Ir met at Hamilton. He strongly encouraged me to pursue whatever course I was interested in and recommended that I make full use of Hamilton’s broad curriculum. My second semester freshman year I took a class titled Martial Arts and Dance, which revealed to me the breadth of Hamilton’s curriculum and the ability of such a curriculum to teach students in different and interesting ways.
My Calculus 2 professor, Richard Bedient, taught his class with such passion and excitement, that he revealed to me my interest in Math. While I had always excelled in math and it had always been one of my favorite subjects, I wasn’t really considering moving on in math throughout college. After taking his course I knew I wanted to take another math course, just for the sake of it. With renewed confidence in my abilities and improved determination to succeed, I was now ready to move on further to study math.
One of the professors who have inspired me most has been Prof. Stephen Wu, who taught me Issues in Microeconomics during the first semester. He was a very helpful instructor and greatly increased my interest in economics. The way he taught was very close to the student: questions were asked and fully answered at all times, class discussion and debate were stimulated every class, and new and engaging topics were constantly brought to the board to stimulate different ways of thinking as well as to discover hidden interests. His way of teaching economics has given me the interest and confidence that I need to read the WSJ and The Economist to keep up with news as well as major in economics.
I have volunteered as a student only during orientation, when I went to a school in Utica together with my orientation group and helped the local teachers prepare for opening up to schools for the fall. The most rewarding aspect of the service was discovering a new area in the US, very different from the protective nature of the Hamilton campus.
After Hamilton I really want to work in business, since I admire the business environment which is competitive and collaborative at the same time. Specifically, I am looking for the type of job that allows me to do some interesting research about the current global economy and the financial markets as well as present this research to decision makers or investors. This would then provide me with a great experience for anything I would want to do afterwards. I do not have a plan for where I would live, but it would have to be somewhere where I could find the type of job I desire. My priority is to do what I like the most professionally, not live where I am most comfortable.
The chance that has been given to me to come to Hamilton is one of the greatest opportunities I have ever had and I am sure it will have a long lasting effect on my future! I hope in the future to be able to meet some of the people who have made my Hamilton education possible, though I realize that my life is too short to meet all of them.
Lord of the Rings
"I Did It My Way" by Frank Sinatra
Visual History of the World (in German)
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Ballroom Dancing, Hiking, Going to the Gym, Jogging, Reading Economics News and World History Books, Tennis, Skiing
Spending Thanksgiving Break with my best friend from Hamilton and coming back on campus to resume my Hamilton life.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
– Mahatma Gandhi