My 2022 SUSI Scholars Participation and a Sense of Duty

A row of emergency services tents welcoming refugees at the Romania-Ukraine border

I’m writing this from Romania after the end of the first 2022 SUSI Scholars Orientation Zoom meeting. I am one of the lucky scholars who will participate this year in the program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. 

Overwhelmed by my college courses and the coordination of my students’ final work projects, the trainings that I have in this period with journalists and communication specialists from public institutions, the preparation for the teaching certification I’ll have in May at the Institute of Communication from the University of Lyon, France, the research projects I work on which never stop and the two international conferences I also attend in May… overwhelmed by all this, until now I haven’t had time to think about this program and how lucky I am to have been selected.

It’s one of the busiest period of the year for me, as I think it is for everyone in academia. What would be a better way of finishing my 2021 – 2022 academic year than participating in the SUSI program?!?

So, today, while preparing the documents for the program and participating in orientation meeting, I started to really think about what this experience will be like for me. I saw myself back in Arizona (last time was in March, 2015, to long ago…), on its legendary Route 66, searching the horizon over the rocks of the Grand Canyon, hunting sunsets over Arizona deserts… Yes, it is an educational visit, but I would be lying if I said I thought of something else all day long… Carried away by my imagination, I thought about what I should pack, I’ve never used sunscreen, will I start now?…, from orientation meeting I found out we would have a “book allowance”, I definitely need to take an extra luggage!

While dreaming with my eyes wide open, a notification lights up my phone screen. I forgot to put the phone face down, so before I told myself I wasn’t allowed to be distracted, I already had the phone in my hand and I was reading the message. Suddenly, I’m awakened as if I’d had a cold shower in the desert. It is a message received on one of the communication groups of the volunteers involved in humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees. In these moments of reverie I had forgotten about the tragedy taking place near Romania. I spent the first weeks after the outbreak of the war in Siret Customs, Suceava department, where in the first month of war, over 180,000 refugees entered Romania (Romania has over 380 miles land, river and sea border with Ukraine). We accommodated several thousand of them on the campus of the University of Bucharest; several hundred, mothers and children, are still here. I feel guilty that I will spend these weeks of the SUSI program thousands of miles away, and that I will not be able to be involved in any way in their support. 

Ambulances near the Romanian-Ukraine border
Ambulances near the Romanian-Ukraine border (photo by Bogdan Oprea)

Because this war is also about propaganda and disinformation, I now tell myself that I will have to make full use of the SUSI program to learn how to better teach others not to be fooled by anyone. Defending democracy today is more than ever before about defending against propaganda and disinformation. And it is our duty, teachers and journalists, to be the spearhead in this battle. 

To become a better teacher: this is my expectation from the SUSI program, and with this thought in mind I am heading to United States this summer. It is a more beautiful dream than anything I had ever dreamed of earlier today!

2022 SUSI Scholar Bogdan Oprea and his volunteer team at the Romania-Ukraine border
2022 SUSI Scholar Bogdan Oprea and his volunteer team at the Romania-Ukraine border (photo by Bogdan Oprea)