From Budapest to the main campus – the truth behind the myth

Hanna Barker

There are many preconceptions of the main campus floating around. Are they actually true?  These perceptions contribute to the desire, or lack thereof, of students to go for the American Experience, a requirement for graduation.

Four out of 10 McDaniel Budapest students that responded to an anonymous survey conducted over the internet report getting a negative impression of the main campus from the stories they hear from other McDaniel Budapest students who have been there. Over half say that they get a neutral impression from talking to the main campus students that study abroad.

Why is this?

“The problem is main campus students who come to Budapest say really bad things about the main campus,” said sophomore Caitlin Bennet, who is currently studying in Budapest. “The thing is it really isn’t as bad as we complain it is.”

This may be a contributing factor, but other factors seem to be at work here, too.   Students dislike the greater cost, the lack of choice, and the rural location of the Westminster campus, as well.

“They [McDaniel College] explains to us that we will be in good hands on the main campus, but it’s not always true, as the students who experienced it say,” explained senior Mona Monsefi.

Sophomore Luke Schmidt, a main campus student currently studying in Budapest, says that this is an unfair misconception: “The staff and professors [on the main campus] are really helpful and should not be a concern for those who might be studying abroad at the main campus.”

“My professors are the reason I know McDaniel was the right choice,” said Schmidt.  “They actually care about their students.”

International students are not without resources on the main campus, either.  Rose Falkner, Director of the International Programs Office, serves as the main contact person of international students.  She explained that international students are also assisted by two peer mentors and a host family, who help the students throughout their stay at McDaniel.  (For more information on this, go to www.mcdaniel.edu/internationalstudents.)

Many students noted that there seems to be nothing to do in Westminster, especially compared to Budapest.

Mona Monsefi said that she fears she will miss the “exciting lifestyle and opportunities of visiting festivals, museums…. and so many cultural events that are always possible to find in Budapest.”

It is true that Westminster is not a cultural hub, but it must be remembered that it is located within an hour of both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., that the College sponsors bus trips to both of these locations, as well as to as that most iconic of American cities, New York.

“It is obvious that Budapest has more activities and more diverse ways to have fun, but there are plenty of student-organized activities on campus, that you don’t find in Budapest,” adds Luke Schmidt. “A lot of organizations plan activities for students during the week and on weekends.”

Other students dislike that a semester in Westminster is mandatory, especially due to the increased cost of American study as well as potential political difficulties involved with obtaining a student visa or returning to their home countries later.

Rhaelynn Givens, a junior student currently studying abroad in Budapest, sums up the situation.

“I think that coming to main campus may not be the most preferred choice, but it fulfills everything that study abroad stands for–an opportunity to integrate yourself into a new culture,” said Givens.  “The point is, no matter where you are, you have to invest yourself in the experience, keeping in mind that not all experiences are the same. That’s why they are called experiences. To be fair to themselves, Budapest students should not go to Westminster with preconceptions. ”