Moldovan Fulbright Scholar Embraces Legal and Cultural Education at Southwestern
Last August, Dr. Andrei and Ludmila Gustiuc arrived in Los Angeles from Moldova, a small country in Eastern Europe landlocked between Romania and the Ukraine. As former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Chisinau, Dr. Gustiuc came to Southwestern as a Senior Fulbright fellow to study the U.S. constitution, focusing on the rules and structures of federalism.
The couple was very excited by the opportunity. "We heard so much about the United States and its culture and lifestyle. We decided that we should go to California and Southwestern for a unique chance to broaden our minds," Dr. Gustiuc said. After seven months at the law school, they expanded their cultural horizons in ways they had never before imagined. "It is not just legal issues we've learned here," he said. "The entire academic life and culture of Southwestern caused a big change inside of me."
In terms of Southwestern's academic environment, the cultural shock the Gustiucs experienced went beyond observing the casual manner in which American law students dress and behave. "Students freely discuss everything they are thinking about with their professors," Dr. Gustiuc said. "It is traditional in Moldava to stand to ask a question and then wait to be permitted to sit down. Also, it's not as easy to approach professors in our country, but the professors at Southwestern always have their doors open to students."
Both were also impressed with Southwestern's campus, from the tea room where students eat meals alongside their professors to the large library. Ludmila said, "I can see a mix of qualitative teaching, luxury and comfort because studying at Southwestern is a privilege and a pleasure."
This was their first trip to the United States. They saw the ocean for the first time in their lives, enjoyed fresh fruit from local farmers markets and basked in the warmth of their surroundings. But the friendliness and openness of Southwestern's faculty, students and administration has been their most pleasant surprise, as professors have invited them to join and experience their classes.
Dr. Gustiuc discovered a lot about constitutional issues from Professor Joerg Knipprath and also enjoyed learning about related areas of law with Professors Mark Cammack, Silvia Faerman, Robert Lutz, Jonathan Miller and Adjunct Professor/Judge Darrell Mavis. The Gustiucs are grateful to Associate Dean Patrick Pyle, who provided vital advice as well as the acceptance letter/invitation necessary for them to obtain visas to travel to the United States. They also praised Associate Dean Doreen Heyer as their cultural guide.
Although one of their goals was to improve their English (both are fluent in Russian and Romanian), they were also delighted to pick up a bit of Spanish as a result of living near MacArthur Park. Professors welcomed the Gustiucs into their homes; they celebrated their first Thanksgiving with Professor Robert Lutz, their first Chanukah with Professor Molly Selvin and they were astonished at Professor Judy Sloan's holiday party when they learned that in addition to being a legal scholar, she was also a talented musician. They also attended theater productions with Associate Dean Heyer.
They returned to Moldova at the end of April, and will try to bring "a piece of Southwestern" to universities in their home country that will hopefully be open to their ideas and allow them to teach. They wish to enhance the relationship between professors and students by breaking down the formal wall between them. "The most important thing we learned here is that you have to respect people and their opinions, even if their opinions are contrary to yours. You have to respect differences," Dr. Gustiuc said. "I want to teach in Moldova that you have a choice how to do things, and you have the freedom to do them."Upon returning to Moldova, they also plan to start a family. "My dream is to have children and have them study at Southwestern one day," Dr. Gustiuc said. "I'll do whatever I can to help them to come here and stay or come back to Moldova. The choice will be theirs."