Budapest or bust


Welcome to my oh-so-clever and original column from abroad — I don’t believe anyone on the Trinitonian has ever done this before! This past summer I’ve been bracing myself, both body and mind, for a world of change. I am going to spend this fall studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary.

Why Budapest? I spent hours and hours last semester poring over brochures for programs in places that I’ve always wanted to go: Florence, Edinburgh, Seoul — you know, the works.

But the more I thought about what would make the experience important to me — which was foremost independence — the more that I realized that the program in Budapest was the place to be. It boasts great public transport, a favorable exchange rate and centrally located housing accommodations, all while offering classes that count toward my economics major. I’m looking forward to exploring a vibrant city and culture in addition to making new friends and taking advantage of free time to explore other parts of Europe.

This decision process really started all the way back in the summer after my first year at Trinity when I went to Berlin on a faculty-led trip as part of a German political science course. I had such a memorable time with my professor and classmates. After the two weeks were up, I met up with my parents to explore Prague and the Czech Republic.

That trip piqued my interest in the east-west division of Europe during communist occupation, and that was part of the reason I was drawn to this Eastern European city. Budapest, like Berlin and Prague, is cosmopolitan enough that I — hopefully — won’t have a hard time adjusting my lifestyle (i.e. access to WiFi and laundry machines), but it has a vastly different political context and folk culture that I can’t wait to immerse myself in.

I’m also ready to try food. And lots of it. I’ve got my lactose intolerance pills at the ready, so be prepared for detailed reports on the cheesy, buttery and paprika-y goodness waiting for me once I hop off that plane.

Let me tell you that all of this anticipation hasn’t come without its own set of fears. All summer I’ve been imagining horrible, yet probable, situations that I’ll get myself into. The most prominent ones revolve around not being able to speak Hungarian.

I know, I know — I made the choice to spend three months here. I could’ve chosen London or Dublin or anywhere in Scandinavia, where English is widely spoken. Or I could’ve chosen anywhere in France, where I could brush up on my conversational skills while surviving on the foundation of six years of French lessons.

Confusion and misunderstandings will inevitably occur, but it’s difficult not to worry. In the meantime, I’m making sure to download multiple different translator apps on my phone. (But — just to be safe — I’ll likely purchase a handheld English-Hungarian dictionary before I depart.)

I keep rambling on about my expectations for this coming semester, but — in reality — it barely happened. I breezed through five semesters of Trinity classes — and before I could blink, I was wrapping up my junior year without even once considering studying abroad seriously. But, nearing the finish line last spring, I kept feeling regretful for not making the choice to have this singular, inexplicably life-changing experience. I want to emphasize to anybody reading: Take advantage now! Of the homeschool pricing model that Trinity offers. Of the crazy amount of freedom that you have in college. Of the chance to discover a new place and try new foods. Because I can’t promise you it’ll be available once you leave.