By Nick Pongratz
The end of the semester is here, and for a group of students, this is the end of their time at McDaniel College Budapest. Though most of them really enjoyed their time here, it was not without challenges, but as they look forward to returning home there will be many things about Hungary they will always remember fondly. I spoke with a few of these students about their experiences during their semester abroad.
Upon first arriving in Budapest, the language barrier was one of the first hurdles to overcome. Because Hungarian is unrelated to most other languages, besides Finnish and Estonian, there were few cognates that these native English speakers, and a few Spanish speakers, could pick up on. Nevertheless, several students made a real effort to study the language while they were here. Another culture shock dealt with was the attitude of people on the street. In areas of the United States, people generally make an effort to be friendly and will smile at one another on the street. Upon reflecting that behavior here, some were met with cold stares and looks of confusion. Being ethnically homogenous as well, some Hungarians are not used to seeing African-Americans as much as people in the United States are.
Once settled in, many students began to miss the comforts of home, specifically access to their loved ones and their comfort foods. Many American restaurants are now open in Budapest, but often these places will only have a variation of the menu that’s traditionally offered in their American counterparts. The culture of living in an apartment also differed greatly from that of living in a dorm. On the main campus, friends could be reached within minutes of walking in the same building, instead of having to leave your apartment to traverse the city. The time difference also made it difficult to reach family members, especially when seeking consolation after a particularly rough day.
But despite these challenges most of the students found the city to be a great place to spend a semester of their college life. Budapest being a transportation hub in Central Europe, many students made several trips to neighboring countries and beyond, including a trip to Venice and Vienna, losing the self-consciousness that comes with carrying a suitcase, as it had become rather commonplace. The nightlife of Budapest was also a great improvement to that of the main campus’ location in Westminster, Maryland. Not only were the drinks cheaper, but because of the city’s central location, there was also an abundance of fellow students to meet, from all different parts of the world. The ease and efficiency of public transportation also made it quite easy to get around.
Now that the time has come to return home, many students are reminiscing about their time spent in Budapest and what they will miss the most. Among the unique things to be missed about the country, Jose De la Cruz noted the cuisine. From funnel cakes to lángos and gulyás leves, these Hungarian dishes will not soon be forgotten. Looking out over the bridges and the River Danube from the lookout point at the top of Gellért Hill, Trevor Green reflected that he would miss the European character of the city. Remarking on the style and culture of the building and streets, Hannah Krobock compared strolling through Budapest to “walking through a history textbook.”
None expressed immediate plans to return, but many expect that they will in a few years. Grateful for the opportunity to have lived in a different country, and also to have immersed themselves in a different culture, they are now ready to return home to their friends and family. There are still many places in Europe they would like to visit but Budapest, Hungary, will always hold a special place in their hearts.