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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 7 | May 2, 2002

Forced into Forestry But Learns to Love it

New life for student from Romania.

By Helen Lewis

In May, Iulia Litman will complete a journey that began 13 years ago and 9,200 km away when Romania's communists gave her little choice but to enroll in a forestry program.When Iulia Litman enrolled at the University of Transilvania in Brasov under the communist-dominated education system, her family background was considered "too intellectual" for her to be accepted into her first choice.

"I always wanted to be a history teacher when I grew up, but things were bad in communist Romania," Litman says. "One of my grandparents was a history teacher, another was a priest, and that didn't fit with the way the communists wanted to mould their people. I was part of the 'intellectual' kind of family and they didn't want to work with us -- they wanted people from the village to be the new power in the country."

Desperately disappointed but determined to attend university, Litman decided in 1989 to enter the Wood Industry Faculty where "they didn't ask you the place of birth of your grandparents". She completed three years of the demanding five-year program, which required students to take six courses per semester and attend compulsory classes up to 12 hours a day.

Litman left her studies and her home in 1994 when her high school sweetheart, who had left Romania immediately after the revolution in 1989, convinced her to join him in Canada.

"I was 18 when John left Romania and I knew I would never see him again because I had no chance to leave," Litman says. "But things changed and he didn't give up -- he said he loved me and wanted to marry me."

The move was very difficult for Litman, then 22, who had to leave her family and friends, and struggle with a language she knew only from American TV soaps.

"I remember watching Dallas with a notebook and pen in my hand -- it was on TV after the revolution and everybody in Romania knew about J.R. and Sue-Ellen and Bobby. I watched it and learned a lot of English."

In Canada, Litman helped make ends meet by working in a hardware store, but her desire to complete the journey she started in Romania eventually led her to UBC.

She juggled her studies with family life with her husband and daughter Hannah, who was two when Litman went back to school. She also had to devote time to learning English and to her summer jobs with UBC's Centre of Advanced Wood Processing and manufacturing company Unison Windows Inc.

It took her three years of study at UBC to complete the Bachelor of Wood Science.

"The best thing is the support I got both from faculty and my colleagues at UBC," Litman says. "Sometimes I didn't even have to ask them for help -- they've been there step by step and that's why I'm here."

She is considering Masters research in a wood science-related area at UBC, and has no plans to return to Romania. "I feel Canada is my home now," she says.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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