Thursday, December 5, 2013

Amy Flores on Studying Abroad in Hungary

            Amy Flores, a third year at Grinnell College, is currently studying abroad in Hungary as part of the Aquincum Institute of Technology (AIT)-Budapest program, which is directed at students interested in computer science and software engineering. As more of a math person, she was intrigued by the “creativity” portion of the program, since she could take more math-focused classes at another program in Budapest while still getting an intensive look at computer science and its applications at AIT.
            Amy did not speak Hungarian before studying abroad, so, although there are many English-speakers in her program and in Budapest, learning some of the basics (hello, bye, sorry, thank you, etc.) made her feel much better. She feels uncomfortable demanding English from a study abroad experience that is not in an English-speaking country, so she uses Hungarian as much as possible. Although the courses are all in English (except for the courses in which Hungarian is taught), Amy is able to interact with native Hungarian speakers that are also in the program. So she has been able to experience the Hungarian language in a social context, even though there are English-speakers in all the touristic places.
            In addition to the difference in language, being a Latina woman from the U.S. has also played a role in her study abroad experience. She has found that she is considered a tourist in many people’s minds, given her race, as she is stopped more frequently by ticket vendors for touristic places. Sadly, she has also found that people seem to feel weird about the color of her skin “as if those that have a darker skin tone will be the ones to rob you.” In addition, she feels that many people believe Americans, especially those who can afford to travel to Hungary and stay, are educationally and financially privileged, so she has a slight sense that others think she is elitist for being American. Besides differences in language and culture, the main difference that Amy finds between the U.S. and Hungary is that there is a greater preservation of architecture and parks so that people can “sit and appreciate the beauty of Budapest.”
Although living in a foreign country has been a challenge, Amy has been adapting relatively easily, especially since her roommate is also new to the culture and language, so they have been able to adjust together. She has also had other international experiences, living in Bolivia and France as well as visiting Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Belgium, and Canada, where she visited or was traveling with family. However, given that this experience abroad is her first international experience on her own, it has posed a new challenge. Amy has learned so much with each of her international experiences and wants to be an open book during her interactions with others internationally in order to learn and give as much as possible. She has found that the skills she is acquiring to help her surpass cultural barriers will also be useful in her post-graduation plans in the U.S. as they allow her to be a more well-rounded person. Although Amy does not yet feel that she can call herself a global citizen, she is well on her way and hopes that her international experiences do not end with her study abroad program in Budapest.

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