Funnily enough, when you study abroad – you actually have to go to school. Who would have thought?! In Budapest, there are two programs that Kalamazoo College students can apply to: Cognitive Science or Mathematics through historic Eotvos Lorand University (the premier university in Hungary). I, along with my five other K comrades, am in the Cognitive Science program and there is another K student in the Math program (his campus is not the same as ours, so we rarely get to see him).
Cognitive science is a combination of psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience. We take one class a week for twelve weeks on various topics ranging from Philosophy of Language to Cognitive Informatics. Monday to Thursday we have lectures from 9:00am to 1:30pm and then on Friday, the class concludes with an exam over all the material covered in the week. Being a philosophy major is not really helping me with these classes and it is hard for me to get much out of them because I do not plan on ever going into a field of work that requires me to know the connectivist algorithms for McColluch-Pitts Neurons. However, the professors are usually very enthusiastic about their work and I can get a general feel for the information they present.
We also take Hungarian language and culture class. Language class is a lot more intense than we thought it would be, because we are actually learning conjugations and declensions. Hungarian is supposedly impossible to learn because there are very few words that are shared with other languages. For example, the word for ‘pharmacy’ in other languages is usually easily identifiable, but in Hungarian it is gyogyszerta – yeah. However, when we learn useful conversational phrases, we find ourselves easily ordering food, communicating with the doorman at our dorm, and introducing ourselves to our Hungarian peers.
Culture class is really interesting, because besides learning about Hungarian history and customs, we often compare American culture to Hungarian culture. We have learned a lot about life under communism in the 20th Century and we witness the everyday struggles of a country still trying to pull itself up by the bootstraps. While Hungary’s economy tries to stabilize itself, we Americans joke about how cheap everything is! Our school lunch costs about $5.00 (sandwich, apple, snickers, and pop). In the States, we would pay double for the same meal. Also, the average monthly income for a Hungarian is $750 (150,000 HUF).
Going to class can get tedious because we do not choose our classes, but it is an extension of our Kalamazoo College education, which values a well-rounded curriculum covering various areas of study. As a significant player in the K-Plan, studying abroad has granted me the ability to explore the world while continuing my liberal arts education – what more could I ask for?!