First Impressions of Budapest, Hungary

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Groggy from my first international flight, I’m barely standing in line as I wait to leave the Hungarian airport. There appears to be a process happening at the front desk; people are handing their passports to the workers and unmasking. I can feel myself starting to panic, as I realize I have to talk to people.

Oh god.

Will they speak Hungarian first?

Maybe they know English because it’s an airport?

What do I say if they say I don’t have the proper paperwork to stay in the country?

A million thoughts are running through my mind as I walk up to the desk. I make eye contact with the lady working… and regret eats at the back of my mind as I realize how unprepared I am for studying abroad. What have I got myself into, I think hopelessly…

Such negative thoughts seem to haunt me as I leave the airport and head to the flat I’ll be staying at. Every billboard sign catches my eye, and I expect to read the words on them. Then, I realize the words are in Hungarian, and suddenly, home feels so far away…

The creeping fear that eats at my sanity seems to continue growing and growing as the minutes tick by.

Then, I enter my flat.

As if I have entered a new part of the world (which I did.. technically), I am awed. Sunlight beams in the courtyard of the flat, and all the units of the flat surround the courtyard- as if a village of people are hugging a child. Above is a friendly face, watching us haul our suitcases to our unit. And suddenly, I don’t feel so homesick.

This is how I remember my first day in Hungary. It is a day full of fear and regret but also one of excitement and newfound courage.

Such a complexity in feelings follows me throughout the week as I explore Budapest.

I have been courageous enough to explore my neighborhood- reading street signs and trying to remember intersections with iconic restaurants. Moreover, I meet different people from my university.

And on days that I am overwhelmed from everything, I sit in my room- listen to music, call my family, and just exist. My choice to arrive in Budapest a few weeks before my program seems to have been a good one because I have time to rest, explore, and take care of myself before the hectic semester starts. In addition, I am able to meet people at a comfortable pace.

Although it has only been a week in Budapest, I’ve already taken away so much from the past few days.

About a year ago, I had been looking at study abroad programs… being presented with numerous options- all written and presented to captivate students. I had been stressed and unsure about studying away. Especially with a Computer Science major, many people around me discouraged it or felt it was unnecessary. But when you’re physically there, doing the study away program, the experience seems to speak for itself.