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The “Key” to Cultural Immersion

August 10, 2012

By: Katherine (Kat) Kocisky, Work and Travel Administrative Coordinator, Work and Travel Department

A timeless inn and restaurant in Estes Park, CO is known for collecting keys from patrons when they revisit, and hangs them decoratively from the ceiling in a room off of the front lobby.

J-1 Summer Work and Travel participant Alexandra Claudia Leonte, a Communications and Public Relations major in her home country of Romania, returned to the inn for her 2nd summer working as a server, dishwasher, and housekeeper on the program.

This time, she’s back with a heavy, black skeleton key, a token from Romania. In smooth English, Leonte says, “I wanted to bring the key from my old dorm, but I thought that would be lame.” Instead, she brought something more traditionally Romanian, and much more mysterious: a key that unlocks a secret passage through a water well to the royal gardens of Dracula’s castle. She says, “the key also used to open the doors of the castle but once Queen Maria inherited the castle, that changed. The key is actually a replica, since the original one is still in use.”

Always smiling, Leonte comments on how proud Americans seem. A Romanian flag hangs above the bed in her summer housing, just a two-minute walk from the Inn. “I want to be a proud Romanian,” she says.

Her supervisors comment that she is a hard-worker and that they are glad to have her back. After this summer, Leonte plans to get her Masters’ degree in Romania. She says that “being here helps me understand how an organization works.”

We wish Leonte luck in her future endeavors, in Romania and the world!

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