Budapest and I- STEP

Media Scrapbook: Global May Hungary, Media scrap book-2lfs9yt

Mohammed Moumen

Global May Hungary Study Abroad Program

 

My STEP project was to study abroad in Budapest Hungary over the month of May. The program focused on the history, culture and traditions of Hungary and Poland. It entailed 3 weeks in Budapest, Hungary and a week in Warsaw, Poland, I also had the chance to visit each of Slovakia, Austria and Czech Republic. The program was a mixture of class discussions and excursions to key cites that included museums, castles, and other monuments discussed in class.

This program forced me out of my confront zone, it was my first time abroad for a long period of time without my family and close friends, in a country that I knew very little about.  The language barrier was the largest issue, which made it hard to make conversations with locals. This helped me reflect more on myself and try harder to make meaningful connections. The program also helped me learn key phrases in Hungarian and use them in my time abroad which helped ease talking to locals and making friends outside of my program cohort, allowing me to deeply engage in the Hungarian culture and be more of a traveler and less of a tourist.

There is a huge difference between a traveler and a tourist, one that I did not quite understand before this program. A tourist looks at the big things, the obvious ones, takes pictures and souvenirs and leaves without really questioning the space he or she is in. A traveler pays attention to the little things, tries to talk to locals and learn more about their culture and history. I believe my biggest transformation that this project resulted in is going form a tourist to a traveler.

My professor, Daniel Pratt, advised us in our first class to be more like travelers and less like tourists. We visited many monuments, parks, coffee shops, and malls to help us gain a cumulative understanding of the Hungary, Hungarians and Hungarian culture. Our professor told us to try to understand why things are the way they are and how they happen to be there. One should ask questions that raise other questions. A traveler never stops asking, never is satisfied. Words along these lines stuck in my head for the entire time I was abroad and was working towards them and getting closer to them day after day, experience after another.

It was quite hard to live up to the expectations of my professor, when I have never been thought how to be a traveler. Every time I travelled before, I was always a tourist and did what tourists do. I never learned to keep questioning and asking questions, never enjoyed long talks with locals. I only visited places that the country is famous for and disregarded the rest.

I started to look deeper into things that I encounter and question them more. I visited different monuments numerous times, at different times of the day to see how time changes how people interact with these monuments. I also tried to have more conversations with the locals and understand how they see their country and their own culture. This gave me an insider point of view, one that I can compare to my own country and draw conclusions on our differences and similarities.

Going through this experience and transformation is something that I see of great value. I managed to learn skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I learned the proper way to approach a culture that I am unaware of and how to understand people that may be so different from me, how to find the similarities between us and discuss our differences in hopes of a better understanding. These skills will help me in my future travels to better understand the country and the people that I visit. I only hope to keep improving these skills to get the best out of each future experience.

 

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