No matter how far you go, no matter where you decide to settle down, sooner or later the longing for your country catches up with you. And so it did with Roxana Baltaru up in Essex where she went to study Psychology. After one year, the young Romanian managed to soothe her longing by setting up a Literary Club for Romanian students living in UK.
Roxana says that “having a literary club for Romanian students living in a foreign country is just as natural as having an orthodox church or psychological counselling”, because it helps build a bridge between them and their country. But most of all, because it gives you the chance to speak your mother tongue.
“Back home, in Romania, I had written prose and poetry but in 2010 I found myself living in a foreign country, yearning to be able to express myself in my own language. I joined a literary club called Poetry and Creative Writing Society and it took me a whole year to realise that by writing in English I only managed to ‘encode’ and not ‘convey’ a message. And this is how the idea of setting up a literary club came to me. I thought there might be so many other students out there who, just like me, might give up writing”, says Roxana.
At the moment she coordinates the project herself, but she admits that all of these would not have been as easy without the support she received from her colleagues at the Romanian Society, who have given her the possibility to communicate with many fellow countrymen as well as offer her assistance with administrative matters. Roxana is well aware of the fact that “each member makes it possible for the literary club to exist.”
As for the members of the literary club, she says they are “mostly students, but anyone is welcome to join”.
“Invitations are sent to all the members of the Romanian Society, and not only. Those participating are Romanian students at Essex University who have the time and desire to join us. Not everyone at the club writes, but we all enjoy listening to the others, sharing our opinions or simply being there.
During our meetings we have someone playing the guitar, we serve sweets and we offer awards, all within the budget that Romanian Society can obtain through Student’s Union (e.g. the award for the best argumentative critique, selected by secret ballot). We also intend to organise creative competitions (once a fortnight), followed by the publication of the awarded papers in Romanian magazines that wish to collaborate with us”, says the young student.
The meetings of the literary club are held in a seminar room at Essex University and they consist of three parts: one member’s reading (followed by the others’ feedback), a debate on a topic agreed on previously and last, but not least, introducing a contemporaneous writer followed by critical discussions regarding his or her work. If time allows it, we also hold literary competitions and creative workshops.
As far as the future of the literary club is concerned, Roxana says that the only thing she wishes for is that the meetings go on. She also wants to launch an anthology comprising the members’ literary creations for 2011 and 2012, and to start collaborations with Romanian and foreign publications.
“I will personally do everything in my power to make sure this literary club stays open for as long as I am a student at Essex. I see this club as a space where Romanian language will be preserved and made the best use of through literary creations or, at least, through debates on various topics (cultural, philosophic etc.). I see this club as a bond between one’s native country and students living abroad; this is why the subjects we cover vary from literature (e.g. post-modernist poetry) to political and sociologic matters.
As members of the literary club we have opinions but we don’t necessarily want to share them with the world (we are not professionals), we simply want to make sure we don’t forget how to express them. The literary club set up in Essex is not meant to revolutionise but to preserve the love of Romanian language”, concludes Roxana.