Romania Semester

Northwestern College, in conjunction with the New Horizons Foundation of Romania, is pleased to offer a unique semester experience engaging the culture of a society still emerging from the debilitating impact of a dictatorial Communism.  Through this program, students explore various facets of Romanian society while enjoying the beauty of a part of Romania celebrated as one of the top back packing destinations in Europe.  Students engage in experiential learning through New Horizon's pioneering work with Romanian youth while studying Romanian culture, religion, history and language along with a course in sustainable development theory.  The program is group oriented, and includes excursions, a mountain backpacking trip, and homestays with Romanian families. Dana Bates of New Horizons leads this program along with faculty and staff from New Horizons and Northwestern College.


Romania is a country of great contrasts and paradoxes—full of great beauty, rich mythology and hard truths. It is a land of majestic mountains, medieval castles and the legend of Dracula. And yet, in the Jiu Valley, the depressed coal-mining region which serves as the base for this program, one sees first-hand the devastating effects of communism. Participants spend much of their time in this area, in the city of Lupeni, where they have the opportunity to live with a Romanian host family and engage Romanian youth through various service-learning projects. Lupeni is located in the southeastern area of Romania, approximately 200 miles from Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

Faculty and Staff

Dr. Dana Bates serves as the primary faculty member for this program. He is the founder and executive director of New Horizons Foundation based in Lupeni, Romania, and holds a Ph.D. from Oxford Centre for Missions Studies at the University of Wales. Other faculty and staff members include Brandi Bates who heads up the student life area and other numerous Romanian scholars and NHF personnel.

Course and Credit

All participants will take four courses and receive 16 credits upon completion of the program, which includes meeting the Integrative General Education Cross-cultural and Language & Culture requirements, as well as elective course equivalents in several majors (see courses below).  In addition, the semester fulfills the 16 elective credits of the Cultural Studies Minor and may be a substitute for four credits and/or serve as one of the Recommended Immersion Experiences in the Christian Community Development Minor.

Romanian Culture and History (With Eastern Orthodoxy component) (4 credits)

While lectures and readings will provide the context for your learning in this class, your day-to-day life and interactions in the Jiu Valley and other regions of Romania are key components to your learning.  This class will explore Romanian culture and history through visits to historic sites and museums, home stays with Romanian families, readings, and lectures. Lectures will focus on gaining insight into the historical and social development of Romania’s cultural values, especially the values Communism attempted to propagate and the devastating wake left by the realities of this failed ideology.  Exploring the social legacy of Communism (low social capital, civic apathy, corruption) is imperative to understanding the work of New Horizons Foundation (adventure education and service-learning as strategies for holistic youth development). There is also a substantial Eastern Orthodoxy component in this class, which serves to give Western students a good understanding of Eastern Orthodox faith, dogma, aesthetics, liturgies, and lifestyle. Even though the Christian Church started in the East, the Eastern Orthodox Church is largely unknown to Western audiences. There will be church visits and expert Orthodox authorities who will speak on behalf of their Church, thus facilitating an authentic approach to Romanian Orthodoxy.

Romanian Language  (4 credits*)

Did you know that Romanian is the closest living language to Latin—and thus is a bridge to all Romance languages?  This class will allow students to develop Basic Romanian vocabulary and grammatical structures so that they can successfully communicate. While lectures and readings will provide the context for your learning in this class, your day-to-day life and interactions in the Jiu Valley and other regions of Romania are key components of your learning.  This class will explore the basics of the Romanian language and will equip you to manage life in Lupeni with basic Romanian language skills. Not only will you be able to order food at a restaurant, have a basic conversation in Romanian with your host family, and be able to get to know some IMPACT kids (New Horizons service-learning clubs) in a second language, but you will also understand the cultural concept of language and the importance it makes in culture. Through learning and observing you will understand more deeply that language is not simply a neutral construct and is a living organism.
*This class covers the entire language requirement for NW students.

Experiential Education for Community Development and Youth Ministry (4 credits)

Want to safely take a group into the wilderness on a backpakcing adventure?  Want  to lead effective team-building activities and debriefs?  Want to take your youth group to the next level and get them involved in community action?  This class builds off the renowned youth and community development programs of the New Horizons foundation who pioneered both outdoor/adventure education and service learning in Romania.  You will learn—by doing—and develop your leadership skills through a backpacking trip in beautiful Retezat National Park as well as working with Romanian youth in the context of the IMPACT service-learning clubs that are spreading around the world (powered by, among others World Vision).    Besides the practical aspects, you will dig deeply into the theoretical foundations of experiential education including the classical virtue and "wisdom" (phronesis) tradition rooted in Aristotle, as well as experiential education’s later refinements with Kurt Hahn and John Dewey. 

Sustainable Development (4 Credits)

Why are some countries poor and others rich?   Is wealth only or primarily about economic development?  What does conceiving of development primarily in economic terms mean for the future of the planet?    If development is more than increasing incomes, what is it?  And how can it be measured?  What is poverty and well-being/flourishing anyway?    These and other questions will be addressed in this class on sustainable development.  Special reference will be given to the theoretical aspects of various paradigms of human well-being:  social capital and civil society, the Human Development paradigm (the Capabilities Approach of Amartya Sen that informs the United Nations work), Basic Needs, Geographical (Jared Diamond), and Marxist inspired Communism.  There will be considerable focus and care given to motivating students to 1) care about issues of global poverty and why these are central to the Christian ethos; and 2) think critically about poverty and human development via resources both from within and outside the Christian faith.


Students fly as a group roundtrip, Omaha or Sioux Falls—Bucharest. Generally, all in-country transportation costs will be covered by the program or via a per diem.  NWC will arrange group tickets from Omaha, NE, or Sioux Falls, SD. Non-NWC students will be provided specific travel instructions in a timely manner.
*flight costs are included 

Housing and Meals

Participants will spend part of their time in Romania living with Romania host families, one of the best ways to experience local culture and language. When not living with the host families or on a retreat, participants will be housed in dormitory style housing provided for by the program. Approximately 40% of all meals will be provided either by host families or the program (via a per diem or in group meals). Students will camp and make their own food during the Retezat backpacking trip.

Program Costs

The program fee is the same as NWC on-campus semester costs. It includes tuition for 16 credits, in-country transportation, housing/home stay, some meals or meal per diem, orientation, and all program excursions and retreats. All participants will need to cover books (est. $100-$150), passport and pictures, required wilderness excursion gear, immunizations/vaccines, international insurance and individual travel and spending money, among other items.

Financial Aid

All applicable Northwestern College financial aid applies. 


NWC sophomores, juniors and seniors with a minimum GPA of 2.5 are eligible to apply. This program is also available to non-NWC students on a space available basis. 

International Insurance

All program participants must purchase separate international travel insurance that will provide basic medical, medical evacuation and repatriation coverage (approximately $120). The Off-Campus study office will coordinate and facilitate purchase. 

Vaccinations and Health Information

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all travelers to Romania be up to date on routine immunizations. The program requires that participants have up-to-date tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccinations and receive Hep A vaccinations. Other immunization decisions should be made in consultation with your personal physician. Please plan ahead and visit your doctor at least six weeks prior to departure as certain immunizations require several visits or need several weeks to take effect. Specific health threats for visitors to Romania and Eastern Europe include traveler’s diarrhea among others. Please visit the Center for Disease Control ( for more information and complete details.

Passport and Visa

For U.S. Citizens, a passport is required for travel to Romania. Participants are responsible for applying for and obtaining their own passport. American citizens are allowed to visit Romania without a visa for a total of 90 days within 6 months from their arrival. The program will assist with obtaining a temporary residency permit (permis de sedere) once on-site. 


Upon acceptance into the program, a $250.00 deposit (cash or check made payable to NWC) will be required to hold a participant’s spot. This deposit will be applied to the final program fee.  

Pre-Departure Orientation

All students must complete all pre-departure requirements to participate in NWC study abroad programs. This includes attending your country-specific pre-departure orientation. There are no exceptions.  Further information and dates will be provided and confirmed upon acceptance into the program.