College of Letters and Science Testimonial
COLS Student Newsletter Editor, 2008-2012
Living in Hungary: A UWSP Study Abroad Experience
Shane Stricker (right) at a Festival in Hungary
Studying abroad is the greatest experience a student can take advantage of, well worth the extra paper work and expense. I say this having just completed my own semester abroad in Hungary. Money was a concern for me, too. I don’t have much of it. Neither did the others who went with me. In fact, my financial situation is one of the reasons that I wanted to go abroad now. Traveling abroad as a student is much cheaper than traveling later in life. It’s also more believable. With the work and responsibilities that set in after college, is four months in a foreign country really feasible? I knew if I didn’t have time to study abroad while I was a student, I probably never would.
Living in another country was a scary, exciting, and life-changing experience, especially since I didn’t know how to speak the language. They speak Hungarian in Hungary and I didn’t know a word of it. This caused more than a few communication break-downs. On the first night in Hungary, I thought I was being mugged by two Hungarian men who were actually just trying to help me get back to the hotel. After that embarrassing miscommunication, I learned to leave my American paranoia at home. People abroad ended up being much friendlier than I expected.
During my four months abroad, I changed. It was inevitable. The foreign county of Hungary stopped being foreign and became my second home. My return to the US came entirely too soon. On the airplane home, I realized that I now have friends from all over the world. At the University of Szeged in Hungary, I attended class with students from France, Finland, Austria, North Korea, and Belgium. I also met amazing people in Italy and Slovakia whom I still keep in contact with. Travel in Europe is very cheap and study abroad programs are designed to encourage travel.
When I returned home, I didn’t notice any changes in myself right away, but my friends and family sure did. While I used to be a fast eater, nowadays I tend to stick around, eating slowly and telling stories during family dinners. This I’ve carried over from Hungarian (and generally European) culture. Hungarian meals are designed to be eaten slowly and enjoyed, not inhaled. My friends say that since Europe, I am totally different. They say I’m way more adventurous than I used to be. A fair warning about studying abroad: your hunger for adventure will grow. Part of the culture shock of returning is trying to find new adventures here at home.
There is one difference in myself that I noticed before anyone else. I’m better at talking with people. Months of communicating via charades will do that. I’ve learned how to read body language. If I can get the gist of what a Hungarian is telling me based on his motions and tone of voice, understanding English-speakers is a cakewalk. Living in a foreign country is a challenge which, once accomplished, will give you the confidence to easily overcome whatever life hits you with next.