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My American Experience: Marius Nicula, Romania

This summer, CHI invited its USA Work & Travel participants to take part in a contest to help show off their program spirit. Participants were asked to submit an essay, video or photo slideshow that best demonstrated their personal ‘American Experience’.  In their own words and images, here is what this year’s CHI USA Work & Travel alumni have experienced during their summer in America.

Essay by Marius Nicula, Romania, worked in Richmond, VA


An hour has passed since I’ve started to shed light on the many perils that I’ve knowingly and mischievously allowed my soul to endure in the summer of 2012. As a participant in a work and travel experience, I had as my utmost purpose that of providing for myself the financial resources to aid in starting a career.

Had it been for my earthly flesh, I would have chosen comfort over discomfort, not knowing over knowing and inexperience over experience. But the heart has not the right to decide, for the decision is solely of the mind, and the mind has chosen to go against the tide and experience.

Landing in New York has not gone smoothly, for I hadn’t the privilege of seeing concrete jungles in my country, and I am not saying this with an air of disappointment, merely an observation.

Having been warned by no few acquaintances of the dangers of big cities, I was very precautious with my belongings, and this was what gave way for the first peril in the summer time. I had just taken a bus from the concrete jungle of New York, and went on my way to Richmond, former capital of the Confederate States, when I had a sudden urge to go to the restroom. But I had learned that other poor souls have lost their possessions on their journeys, and was not ready to lose mine. That bus ride was excruciating, for my bladder was ready to burst, but my mind wouldn’t agree to take the risk. Ultimately, the mind surrendered to the body and I let my feet carry me to the back of the bus. Quickly, trying not to waste a second, I went about my business, and returned to the seat. To my good fortune, my belongings have not wandered off in search of another master, and I arrived safely at my destination.

As I settled into my quarters, I had a decision that I wouldn’t allow the fast-food culture to entrap me in its deadly prison, a decision that persists still, although each day draws me near its noose, and I must admit I am afraid. Not afraid of the momentary physical consequences, but of the more severe emotional and mental side effects, which could leave a permanent imprint on my soul.

Exercising kept me accountable in terms of my food intake, and on one of my daily exercise routines, as I was walking through Huguenot Park, my eyes stopped upon a most peculiar creature: a squirrel. For the folks living in the area, seeing a squirrel is but a common thing, but for me, it was extraordinary. I drew closer to the little rodent, hoping it will let me feel its fur with my fingertips. That was a mistake.

“Aaaaaaa!” I found myself screaming. The little critter turned into a beast and was running after me. “How fast are these things?” I questioned my mind, as the squirrel was shrinking the distance between us. “I need to get away from the park!” Only after my feet were on concrete did the critter stop. Turning around, I pulled out a pen that had the shape of a knight, raised it to eye level and cried out: “Be gone, demon with teeth as sharp as blades! Be forever cast out of my sight!” The critter took a last look at me and left to be forever lost in the woods of Huguenot.

One month after my feet touched this foreign soil, I was on my way to Kings Dominion, an amusement park famous for its rollercoasters.

“Afraid? I laugh in the face of danger,” I responded to a friend when he asked me if I fear the rollercoaster. I was ready to embrace the danger, shake hands with adrenaline, and terminate the fear of heights. That did not happen. As soon as my feet were in the air, tears started running down my cheeks, although I can use the excuse that the speed caused them to materialize. Returning to the ground, I took my knight pen, raised it to eye level and let out: “Wretched machinery! You though you made me inexistent, but I persisted and escaped your grip! Be forever lost in the fortress of my subconscious!” Saying that, I turned and left the amusement park, leaving people amazed at my awesome pen knight power.

Getting supplies in this land is different than where my people lie. “Paper or plastic?” asked the woman, so I pulled out money from my country, as it was made from plastic. The result: she wouldn’t accept it. So I retrieved my knight pen from my pocked, raised it to eye level and shouted: “Thou shall feel my wrath pour upon thy bloody soul!” Immediately, my currency became their currency, and I had procured for me the necessities for the following week.

On the realm of the Internet, in a land called Facebook, I’ve discovered that people I know leave their phone numbers for all to see. At the insistence of my awesome pen knight, I sent a text towards that person. When she asked what realm is my number from, a poem was born as a response, one that I shall reproduce here in its entirety:

  A land beyond the oceans and the sea,

                        Where food is healthy, men propose on one knee.

            A country of most beautiful terrain,

                                Which shall forever in my heart remain.

Having a kind heart, I disclosed to her my identity, for I feared my actions could affect her emotions, which would not be the way of the pen knight.

These, kind reader, are but a few of the many perils that have left their imprint on my heart, and to you I leave the chance to guess which elements are true, and which have been added to enhance the stories in beauty and in color. A desire which I have is for you to explore this realm for yourself, to draw out quests and seek to accomplish them, to improve in experience and to defeat the Kraken of your heart.

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