Homeschooling is hard. It’s even harder when you live in a “not-so-friendly” environment and you’re one of the first to practice it there. In this short article, I’d like to write about the challenges we faced and the bright moments of homeschooling in Romania.

Since I’ve been among the first homeschooled students in our country, we—a few families, including my own—had to create a supportive community for ourselves. We’ve started lobbying for the legal status of homeschooling in our country, visiting Members of Parliament and Ministers, and organizing conferences. I’ve always had the opportunity to accompany my father on these trips.

This year, I also managed to speak at two of our conferences about higher educational opportunities. We had to find answers for questions related to the educational system of Romania, homeschooling methods, or even creating an everyday routine. Questions like, “What kind of curriculum should we choose?”, “Who will help us in case the authorities investigate us?” or “What are the chances for a homeschooled student to gain admission to a college?” and so on. I’m very grateful for those people who helped us answer those questions, realizing that each family is unique, and there are no absolute solutions to these problems.

My parents started homeschooling me beginning in kindergarten. The first seven years of my homeschooling journey were “smooth” (although we didn’t think so then), as I was learning the basics of different subjects. I’ve always loved history, sciences, and arts, so my parents have collected a number of books (not necessarily textbooks) to help my three siblings and I learn new things. They’ve always encouraged us to read, not only fiction, but also informative books. This was the first step toward learning how to improve my skills and acquire knowledge on my own.

High school became more challenging. Our relatives or friends started asking me about my future goals and career plans. I think that this is the toughest period of time for all homeschooled kids, when these questions have to be answered. It’s almost impossible to make a life-changing decision at the age of 14 or 15. My parents helped me to decide, but they were patient at the same time.

I’ve tried to find a college which supports me both academically and personally. I decided to apply to New York University Abu Dhabi, which is a new campus of NYU. In February 2015, I was admitted with a full scholarship, and in August 2015, I started my first semester studying Political Science.

Of course, the journey here wasn’t as effortless as it seems sometimes. I had to prepare for the SAT, the TOEFL language exam, and I had to fundamentally transform my picture of the higher education. The educational system in most parts of Europe is dramatically different from the Anglo-Saxon system, which makes it harder to adapt to the new requirements.

I’m really thankful for the people and resources that helped me during these years. I have to mention amazing test prep materials, like Khan Academy, which I really recommend to everyone, or the Coursera and EdX, through which I could try out real college courses. And, of course the staff at the EducationUSA and at the Institute of International Education, who helped me to realize what applying to a US college really means. Finally, I’m very grateful to my parents, who supported me to make my dreams real.

My message to other homeschooled students is the following: Don’t worry about changing your mind—it’s natural. Try out new things and don’t lie to yourself. Appreciate the advice and help of others, but don’t let others choose your life path, because the responsibility is yours.