With the help of the STEP program I was able to use my funding to study abroad in Hungary, as well as visit other countries such as Austria and Poland. I spent a total of four weeks abroad. Three of those weeks were spent in Budapest while the remainder of time was spent between Vienna, Austria and Warsaw, Poland. During my time there I wanted to observe how they spent their leisure time, specifically in regards to recreational activities. My goal was to analyze how they participated in recreational activities on a day to day basis and in doing so better understand their attraction to sports related activities. I was also interested in the safety/medical aspects of those activities and compare it to that of the United States.
My experience was life changing; and definitely one I will never forget. The trip as a whole exceeded my expectations by far. I had gone into the trip with a set idea of what I might learn based on my own research and hearing about other study abroad programs from other students but none of that could quite explain it enough. I learned a lot about the culture of the countries and small social interactions, which in turn changed me as a person. There were life lessons that you often hear about or some times even go unspoken but it was a whole different experience living through it. If I could have increased the length of my time spent there I would have in a heartbeat.
One of the biggest lessons I learned was being content with what you have and to enjoy the little things in life. Many people do not have the same privileges as others yet they seem to still be much happier with less and make it go a long way. I have a better appreciation of what I do, have, and learn. The opportunities are endless and should not go to waste. I learned so much about myself in that short four-week span of time being out of the country than I had anticipated. I still apply what I learned and notice the subtle differences between the people in Europe and here at home.
My best experiences came from learning about the history of each country and seeing how it affected the people today. The walking tours were my favorite part and stood out to me the most. I saw places that housed the wealthy and areas that were occupied by the less fortunate. The differences were quite fascinating to me and being able to interact with both sides of the spectrum was memorable. I gained an appreciation for the day-to-day activities of the people there and how they were able to manage their situation, no matter good or bad.
Outside of scheduled programs when I was able to spend my free time how I chose, I was able to even further immerse myself in the culture and explore the streets and shops that were outside of the tourist areas. Participating in the Escape Rooms and listening to owners talk about how much they love what they do and their fascination with the popular trend that is sweeping across the world was amazing. Some talked about how much of their own money and efforts they spent into their businesses and making sure the customers were satisfied. Not just the Escape Rooms but also barbershops, bars, clothing stores, markets, and many other businesses had similar stories about how they do it because it is what they love and they enjoy seeing the smiles on people’s faces.
There is not just one experience that I could say was the single factor that changed my point of view, rather it was the accumulation of events that had an impact on me. The more time I spent there the more I learned and the more I took away from it. I went into the program thinking I was going to solely learn about the leisure and recreational activities and focus much of time on that but as my time there progressed I reconsidered what I wanted to take away from the trip. It was more so of learning about the cultures as a whole than just the recreational aspect.
I am glad that all of my expectations were shattered after my trip. I took away much more than I had anticipated. I was expecting one thing to happen while I was there but it took a different turn that I am grateful for. It can be equated to life such that you may have thought you have your whole life planned out moment by moment when in reality a change of events can prove to be more beneficial and satisfying for you in the end. My trip to Budapest Hungary will also be one I will cherish.