By: Olivia Nickerson
How well do you know your fellow peers at McDaniel College? Daniel Bailis is in his final semester here on our Budapest campus. He majors in communications with a minor in political science. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but he began schooling in the city of Mentor, Ohio. Unfortunately, due to the large size of this school system, he described it as underfunded, understaffed, and unprepared to make proper accommodations for students with learning difficulties. This proved quite challenging to Dan, who himself struggled with dyslexia. He later would attend a school called The Lawrence School, an independent private school, meant to cater to the needs of students with learning differences. He felt his strengths were initially subjects like math and science, but this school was able to give him the time, patience, and understanding needed to help him strengthen his literacy skills. Today he writes music and doesn’t experience the same literary struggles. He credits The Lawrence School for this.
After graduating high-school, Dan first heard of McDaniel College (the Maryland campus) through his best friend who was planning to apply himself. Dan had applied to a handful of universities, but McDaniel saw his potential and offered him a full ride scholarship. This really sweetened the pot, so Dan decided to attend college at McDaniel.
In his first semester, he had heard about McDaniel’s campus in Budapest, Hungary, and he was immediately interested. When he arrived in Budapest, he began to experience what he described as a “new kind of independence.” After all, most first year college students are experiencing independence from their parents for the first time. However, Dan did it 4,000 miles away from home in a whole new culture. He originally planned to stay in Budapest for one semester but ended up completing most of his undergrad degree here in Hungary.
When I asked him why the Budapest campus ended up being a better fit for him than the Maryland campus, he put a lot of emphasis on the people he met here. He became immersed in a very diverse international community and ended up building lifelong friendships.
I asked Dan to describe any significant events, both positive and negative, that affected him throughout his time at McDaniel. I applauded his honesty when he admitted how both, his turbulent relationship with his girlfriend at the time, and his mental health struggles resulted in him needing to take some time off from school and work on himself. This was a turning point for him. He began to learn about himself and work on the things he wanted to improve. He said, “I had a choice to make; either wallow in his own misery or try to move forward”. When he was ready, he came back and continued his education.
When I asked him if he felt the school was accommodating of his mental health setbacks, he suggested the school should integrate more resources for struggling students. I fully agree with this, although we do have some resources provided for the student community, many students feel we still lack those intended for more serious issues.
When he was asked about something positive that shaped his time here, he spoke of the international community. In his first semester, he very quickly made friends with a group of men from Iran which helped him develop a better understanding of other cultures. We spoke of how growing up in The United States, warped our views of what life in other cultures is really like. We agreed that Americans are often somewhat indoctrinated, particularly regarding our knowledge of middle eastern countries. This was also during the time when Donald Trump was elected president of the USA, he had enforced the “Muslim Ban” creating an environment that openly harbored xenophobia and racism. To Americans who lacked a proper education on the workings of these countries, this ban could have made sense to them. Though Dan was already against the beliefs of Trump, hearing stories from his friends about them being accepted to American universities just to have their acceptance and visas taken away following the implementation of the ban, really gave him a new perspective.
Next, I wanted to know if he had any professors or faculty members that left a positive impact on him. Without hesitation, Dan gave me two names: Gabor Molnar & Orsolya Danyi. He described Professor Molnar as being incredibly kind and understanding. He said, “he always encouraged his students to bring their own knowledge and perspective to the table.” He even took the time to meet with Dan weekly to advise his thesis when Dan’s major was not Molnar’s usual area of expertise. Professor Danyi was an art history professor who unfortunately no longer works with McDaniel College. Dan described her as quite simply being “very kind and very good at what she did.”
I asked Dan if he had any advice for new coming students and he shared a few different things. First being: “know who you’re rooming with”. Some people just don’t work well together as roommates, so he felt this was something important to consider. Second, he brought up a very important point that should be practiced everywhere but particularly in a city like Budapest that has a big nightlife. “Watch your drinking, don’t turn your back on your drink, make sure you’re going out with a group you trust and stick with that group.” Its very important to be mindful of these things particularly in a new environment. He also wants us to remember there’s more to this city than the night life. He suggested “go see museums, cafes, listen to good music, eat good food”. He says most importantly for new students, “budget budget budget!” This can be hard for many new college students being on their own for the first time, but incredibly helpful overall.
To conclude our interview, I asked if he has any plans for after graduation. After graduation he plans to go home to Ohio for at least a year to work, then ideally end up back in eastern Europe for a master’s program to study political science. It was quite a pleasure interviewing Dan! Stay tuned throughout the semester to get to know more of our graduating students/soon to be alumni!