year Rotary has come to my school and given a presentation on their youth
exchange program and every year I have told myself to apply. This year I
finally stopped contemplating and filled out the program application. And I
am very happy I did because I will be going to Hungary for my senior year!
While school takes up the majority of my time, in terms of hobbies, I enjoy
anything having to do with tennis, whether it be playing or watching,
baking, though only deserts, because when I try to cook, the food usually
burns, reading, watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with
my family and friends. I also enjoy visiting my sister and brother- in- law
in New York City a few times each year (this year’s visits included a
week-long pastry making class and attending the US Open).
I love traveling and have been to several countries outside the US with
my mom (including the UK and Italy). I enjoy learning about other countries,
their histories and their cultures. I am so grateful that I have been given
this incredible opportunity to learn not only about a new culture but even
more about myself. I know this experience will shape many decisions I make
in my life going forward. So thank you so much Rotary for what is sure to be
an incredibly difficult, but rewarding once in a lifetime experience.
I arrived in Hungary a day short of a month ago. Acknowledging this also
meant it was time for me to write a journal, my first journal to be exact
and I’ve been staring at my computer screen for about an hour now trying to
figure out how to start it, so this will just have to do…
My flights from Jacksonville to Atlanta to Amsterdam to Budapest were really
easy, while only one delayed flight and even then it was only for about half
an hour and we were already on the plane. I didn’t learn how easy they were
until I arrived in Hungary and Nicole, another exchange student in Szeged
from California, told me about her flights which unexpectedly included an
eighteen hour layover in JFK, which I guess is a future caution to never fly
internationally (or domestically) through JFK.
My first weekend here, I went to Dabas with my YEO, his wife, brother-
in-law, and Raymond, one of the other exchange students in Szeged from
Taiwan, for a small fish soup festival. There I also met some other inbounds
from who are currently live in Kecskemét. It was my first time trying fish
soup, but I was told it was solely for preparation of the fish soup festival
that happens in Szeged every year. This brings me to the following weekend,
when the exchange students from Pécs, Dabas, Kecskemét, and Szeged gathered
with the Rotary club in Szeged for the festival. Although you would think
that there would be little difference in fish soups, that not true, and the
one we had in Szeged was just a little bit better, maybe it was the fact
that there were no fish eggs in it, I’m not sure.
School here is a bit confusing, but as I’m in mostly English, Spanish,
and PE classes, it’s not too bad, though at times I am honestly surprised
when I walk into the halls and hear Hungarian. My school, which I’m told is
the best in the city, is located just outside of the city center, so
whenever we get out early Nicole and I walk around a bit and explore some.
My favorite night so far in Hungary came about a week and a half ago,
when my Rotary club took Nicole, Sami (exchange student from Argentina), and
I to Serbia for one of their parties. It may seem random that we’d go to
Serbia for a party, but as it was less than an hour bus ride (including
crossing the border) it wasn’t that unusual. While in Serbia, I watched some
traditional Hungarian dances, and learned a bit myself, had dinner and a
tiny bite of what was described to me as “Bambi” and a dessert filled with
I have gotten used to a sort of weekend schedule, at least one for Sundays:
the whole family (including my host aunt, her family, and the exchange
student they are hosting) go to my host grandparents house for lunch, which
actually really convenient seeing at we all live within a three house radius
of one another. Sunday afternoons are when the fun really begins, either my
host family or host aunt have a Ping Pong Party at their house. Neighbors
and friends come over for a few hours to play multiple tournaments of
doubles ping pong.
Last weekend, I spent the night at Nicole’s house where we made chocolate
chip cookies for her host family. Needless to say they were a success and
were almost gone by the next morning. I don’t know if chocolate chips are
sold in Hungary, but Nicole’s host mom declared that if they are sold
somewhere, she will find them.
My host family here is really great. I get along really well with my host
sisters (Lili and Réka) and I end up getting most of my Hungarian help from
them. My host parents remind me a lot of my parents back home, which has
made it a lot easier to adjust here. Most times during the week, I end up
watching either Game of Thrones with my host parents, or Desperate
Housewives with my younger host sister Réka. Both of which are dubbed in
Hungarian, so it makes following the shows a bit difficult, but when we walk
movies there are usually English subtitles for me to be able to follow.
It may sounds weird, but at times I forget that I’m in the middle of
Europe, in a country that speaks one of the most difficult languages in the
world, but then you notice things like:
• Stoplights don’t just go from red to green, then go from red to red and
yellow, then to green.
• At school you stand up when the teacher comes into the room.
• There is no lunch break at school, only a twenty minute break at eleven,
but people are constantly eating throughout the day.
• You take the city bus to school; something I think is much better, if you
miss one another comes ten minutes later.
• Ping Pong and foosball are everywhere
Although this past month has not been easy, it has been amazing. So thank
you to my family and Florida Rotary!