This past March, I choose to spend my spring break in Hungary as part of a class about minority populations in Eastern Europe. Focusing on the Jewish, Roma, and German populations of the country. It is at this point I should state that this trip was my first time ever leaving North America, and I am very happy that this was my introduction to the region.
The class and trip was organized by Professor Swanson of the History Department. With his professional and academic history in the country, Professor Swanson was able to plan a very unique experience of Budapest and Pécs, the two cities the class spent most of the time visiting. During our time abroad, we were able to meet with some of the people and professors of the area who would give us information about the city and landmarks that would not normally be shared by hiring a local tour guide. But even these activities were not the highlights of the trip.
Towards the end of the adventure, while we were still in Pécs, we were able to visit Gandhi High School, a school that exists solely for educating the youth of the Roma in the area and gives these kids a chance to earn a high school degree. Here, we were able to participate in an English class. Being able to hang out and connect with these kids was amazing and eye opening. Not only was I able to share a little bit of what my life is like, but I was able to experience part of the students’ daily life. The students had a half-day that day, so we left after lunch.
That same day, we traveled to a small, remote, Roma village outside of Pécs. When we first arrived, we were given a brief tour of the village (and met its many adorable dogs, cats, and chickens); then, we headed back to the tiny community center and learned about the history and current state-of-affairs of the village. Afterword, we all took the time to help out with an after-school program and visit with the kids. These are the hours that still come to mind when someone asks me about my trip to Hungary.
These kids were so inquisitive and just a joy to be around. We played games with them, such as foosball and an off-brand version of UNO®. As the evening hours began, a professional Roma dancer came to the center to teach the kids the moves of their culture. We were able to watch, learn, and even take part in the lessons. It was so much fun and heart-warming to see the future generation of this village learn their own culture and be eager to share with the foreign college students.
Ultimately, being able to experience culture and daily life so different from my own has shaped my own outlook on the world and even my own daily life. As a result of my experiences in Hungary, I am more understanding of people’s backgrounds and how they fit and clash with my own; and my life is all the better for it.
Paige Anctil is majoring in Liberal Arts with a minor in History. She participated in a faculty-led trip to Hungary over Spring Break, 2018.
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