Since I came to college my freshman year, I knew I wanted to study abroad. I figured I would study abroad in a common western European countries like Spain or Italy where I would be familiar with the culture and language, being fluent in Spanish, I felt comfortable going to one of these countries. However, last summer I studied abroad in Budapest, Hungary. Before the trip, I was nervous to go eastern Europe because I didn’t know the language or the culture. Despite my anxieties about studying abroad in Hungary, it was by far one of the best experiences in my life.
For five weeks I lived with two Hungarian roommates. At first, I was overwhelmed by the idea of living in a foreign country. Living with Hungarians and not my American classmates was definitely not my idea of perfect. However, now that I look back at my trip I would not have wanted to go and live anywhere else.
Studying abroad affords you the opportunity to expand your horizons; it allows you to truly get to know a culture. Our professor on the trip, Maxey Parrish, senior lecturer in the department of journalism, public relations and new media, encouraged us to take these five weeks and become a local and to stay away from being labeled as a tourist. We did this by learning common phrases in Hungarian, observing Hungarians in their everyday lives as they traveled to work or school and going to the same restaurants and locations. By the end of the trip, I had made friends with the barista in the coffee shop down the road from the dormitory, and Kelet Café had become our go-to breakfast place in the mornings.
Hungary is quite different from the United States: People are less materialistic, they are not high maintenance and they live life day-by-day — Unlike Americans who are constantly worrying about their futures. Our Hungarian teacher told us in class, “Life is lived and not managed here.” I will forever remember that because that is something I believe most Americans struggle with.
By studying abroad, you’ll learn a multitude of things. You’ll learn that everyone has their own story – Hungary is a country with a heavy history that is still working to heal the pain and injury the people have endured.
You’ll learn to not take the little things for granted, like water and the bathroom. In Europe, you have to pay for water wherever you go. In most places, except if you are eating at a restaurant, you will have to pay to use the restroom.
By studying abroad, you will learn to respect a culture that is not like your own. You will find the beauty in common interests and be appreciative of something or someone that is different.
Most importantly, by studying abroad you will realize how blessed you are — blessed to be traveling around the world, blessed to be learning in a city filled with history and to learn about a different culture by becoming a local.