Reason you chose this program: I chose Budapest for three reasons: I wanted to learn what it is like to live in Europe, study a less-popular language, and gain insight on the transition from Soviet Bloc to an EU member state.
Favorite classes: European Integration and Security (POL 430) and Political Problems of Transition in Central Europe (POL 469). In Hungary, professors normally have one or two additional jobs—these guys ran a think tank and worked in the Ministry of Education.
Describe the housing situation: I lived with two other Americans in a beautiful apartment in an historic district of downtown Pest. Most people lived in this type of arrangement, but a few lived with Hungarian families.
Greatest challenge: Choosing where to travel each weekend! Vienna is 3 hours away; Prague, 7; Belgrade, 6; Krakow, 10; Transylvania, 4 (all by train).
What I know now: In most places, the struggles people face are weighty and underexposed. Studying their stories and history while living in the present sheds light on why things are the way they are.
Best memory: The universities in Hungary throw parties from time to time. Halfway through the semester I went to my school late at night and found it transformed into a 2,000-person club with lines outside.
Experiences with culture shock or reverse culture shock: Shopkeepers in Hungary do not smile at customers. They are probably just as helpful as in the United States, but “service with a smile” is not part of their culture. It takes some getting used to.
Advice to future study abroad participants: Elizabeth Simon, the Resident Director, does an amazing job of getting students involved in activities around Budapest. Teach English to NATO officers. Work for an English-language newspaper. Intern with the Ministry of Education. Don’t miss out!