This post comes to us from Grant Kessler, who is currently studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary from Clemson University.
What a journey it has been so far. During the summer of 2017, I made a choice. That choice was to take a step into the unknown. At that point, I decided that I was going to fully commit to the dream of studying abroad in another country. Fast forward approximately 7 months and I’m sitting in an empty café, sipping on an Americano, and trying to put the past two weeks into words.
When I left the Charlotte airport on January 27th, I was leaving behind family, friends, and ultimately, the only culture that I was immersed in at this point. The trip took 15 long hours in total, and I was exhilarated when I finally landed in my new home. After hours of watching videos and looking at pictures of Budapest, I was finally seeing it with my own eyes. Upon arrival, I had the task of finding our abroad group. This may seem a simple task, but when you are jet lagged and staring at signs that are in Hungarian it’s tricky. After a few trips up and down floors and some helpful instructions, I finally found my group.
When I walked into the orientation room I was greeted by 32 new faces. I didn’t know it then, but over the next week and a half, these people would quickly become good friends. One of my biggest fears entering this adventure was that I would have to experience Budapest alone. I couldn’t have been more wrong. These people are some of the nicest and most fun I have ever met, and I wouldn’t want to be studying abroad with anyone else.
Alright…enough gushy stuff, now I will tell you about our wonderful city. The Hungarian people I have met so far seem to be more reserved than Americans I know. During our orientation week, I have no doubt that at each new spot we went to our mannerisms screamed “American.” One thing that didn’t change was the music. Hungarian people seem to love the American hits, and you don’t have to go far to satisfy the desire to scream along to Drake or Kanye.
In Budapest, the USD goes a long way. $1 is equal to 250 HUF. Getting a coffee for 200 HUF is not uncommon, and something I’ve been able to do a lot! Budapest is well known throughout Europe for its baths. These thermal springs are perfect if you want to relax and get rid of some of the soreness from walking around the city. Around the middle of orientation week, a friend and I decided to take a trip to one of the more traditional baths. As soon as we walked through the locker room doors, we realized that these baths were unlike the touristy ones we had heard of. Everyone in the bath was wearing something that resembled a washcloth and a string. Too put it lightly, this outfit was revealing. I looked at my friend and he suggested “well we have to do it for the culture” so we put our washcloth strings on and made our way into the steaming waters. Once we got over the awkwardness and got yelled at for not showering before getting in, we relaxed for the next hour in the hot water.
During my time here, I have been able to see historic monuments such as St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Millenium monument, the chain bridge, and the massive parliament building. The chain bridge connects Buda to Pest and is probably the most iconic scene of Hungary. The image of it shining brightly over the Danube River will always stick with me. It hit me how large this city is when I hiked to the top of Elizabeth’s tower on the Buda side. This was one of the greatest views of my life and made me realize how beautiful and big this world is.
Class started on Monday of this week and so far I have met so many nice people and am very interested in my Marketing courses. Having the opportunity to study with people from all over the world will teach me things that can’t be found in a textbook. The weekend brings even more great times, as we leave for Bratislava, Slovakia on Friday. To sum up my first ever blog post, I leave you with this; While facing the challenge of setting up my semester abroad, I was tempted to give up on multiple occasions. I owe it to my friends and family for pushing me forward. Whenever you have the desire to do something in your life, you must do everything in your power to accomplish it. With that, I am signing off, and I look forward to sharing many more great adventures and experiences with you.