Beyond the Conventional

A virtual reality screen showing a seaside cave scene

Eighteen different people, 18 different countries, 18 different mentalities, 18 different backgrounds. It looks so… different, doesn’t it? If we add the host country, we are 19 in total. It is not my intention to prove my math skills to you, but to share with you how 18 can become a single whole. We, as Romanians, have a proverb that goes ”a fi domn, e o întâmplare; a fi om, e lucru mare” which means that having a high status is coincidental, while being a decent human is greatly appreciated. And, I found in these 17 ”differences” so many beautiful humans. Because beyond our nationality, age, professional status, level of education, all these descriptive aspects, I’ve seen so much more. I noticed solidarity, joy, care, protection, interest, willing to surprise the others, the wit of humor.   

Nonetheless, these are all related to decent humans, to common sense–which for me, Nicoleta, matters more than anything else. This is my main criteria on evaluating people. If these aspects don’t exist, the others almost don`t matter. I have known my other 17 colleagues for almost three weeks, and day by day a few of the differences vanished, leaving the core elements that are not bound to social criteria.


The scholars that ride together, stay together... unless they miss their stop
SUSI Scholars on the light rail train (Photo by Nicoleta Munteanu)

We were about to take the bus, according our schedule for that day. One of my colleagues had lost her card and her key. It might seem like a minor incident, but it was not. We were all concerned about it, even though we were about to get onto the bus. She was so unhappy about the situation, so she decided to go back to search for them. One of our male colleagues even offered to go back and help her, despite the fact that they were supposed to wait for an Uber after.

Another colleague was late the same morning. Many of us called and texted her. We had to leave for the bus station without her, which was a first. Some of us had the feeling that someone was left behind, because we all got used to starting activities together. Two events, on the same morning, which offered me a show of emotions, of both verbal and nonverbal expressions of concern. In the end, just like a fairy-tale, both situations happily resolved. The key was patiently waiting for my colleague on the sidewalk, a few meters from the bus station, and my other colleague managed to take the bus on time with all of us. Here I would like to mention that the bus being several minutes late is what contributed to this happy ending. But also, it was a Saturday. The same Saturday when we helped those in need while volunteering and showing off our cooking skills. Just simple things…


Close up of an assortment of handmade purses, a gift from one scholar to his colleagues
A special gift from Nepal (Photo by Nicoleta Munteanu)

“My wife made these for all the girls in the group.” This is how one of the class days ended this week. And we, the girls, received the most special little hand made purse from Nepal. Just like that, on a regular day, without any other special meaning. That purse, for me, became the meaning of that day. The meaning in terms of joy. Because by giving joy, you receive joy. So, it`s not only about being grateful for that handmade purse, it`s about gratitude for the joy. You made our day. Just simple things….

Willingness to surprise the others

The way to a SUSI scholar's heart is through their stomach
The scholars share a home cooked meal (Photo by Nicoleta Munteanu)

“I was thinking about cooking a special food from my country and I want invite all of you to attend.”
It was a bit of struggle, because she couldn`t find a certain type of rice (the main ingredient in the recipe). It could have been a bigger problem if the Kyrgyz girl (please notice that this word demands a special pronunciation 😉) hadn’t been a great cook. 

During the first week I got a message from my Indian colleague, saying that he needed to talk to me. This is how the adventure began of the cake that we wanted to surprise one of our colleagues with, for her birthday. With a simple message… Speaking of cake, I appreciated our team leader’s strategy to change the program to start 30 minutes early one morning (this is not the part I appreciate 😊). In fact, she surprised us with a lot of donuts, celebrating another colleague’s birthday. So many delicious donuts, that I heard some of us saying that they shouldn’t have had breakfast. Just simple things…

United in diversity

A slide showing the names and countries of the 2024 cohort of SUSI scholars at ASU
The full listing of the 2024 SUSI Scholars (Photo by Nicoleta Munteanu)

This is the slogan of the European Union, the European Union I am also part of. I think this slogan fits perfectly here, across the Atlantic, within the SUSI program. Because even though it could seem idealistic, these simple things listed above help it become reality.

There are only a few aspects of what human communication means, from my perspective. Besides the professional activities this program consists of (which can be promoted through various communication channels), I preferred to explore what the people I met here represent. Also, communication channels, however sophisticated or technical, could never fully convey empathy, joy, humor or solidarity. I could give even more examples, but the editor-in-chief is very strict regarding the maximum number of blog words, seeing as she is a true specialist in this field 😊. [Editor’s note: more because I don’t want to edit a novella every day!]

As an observer of human nature, I tend to always see the brighter side, while also keeping in mind that we must always read between the lines. Because, nevertheless, we are 18 different people, from 18 different countries, with 18 different mentalities, 18 different backgrounds. Eighteen to build shared memories.

Until my July blog, be kind!