Abroad diaries part three: Cherishing the people you meet along the way


St. Martins Gate in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Emma Kostyun, Contributing Writer

As my time in Budapest continues, I began to think back to a time before the trip when I was packing my suitcase. For a fleeting moment, I rethought my decision to study abroad. I thought being away for four months would weaken my relationships at home and leave me a stranger when I returned. My mindset has now thankfully changed, my relationships at home have grown stronger and I know that I will be welcomed back with open arms. Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity that I hope many can experience if given the chance. 

Now for what you really want to read about: the excursions and fun activities we have been doing! In one of our Hungarian classes we were put into groups with students from different countries to research a topic related to communism and write a paper. Besides the assignment, this was a great opportunity for us to meet other students and potentially make friends. I was paired with Zoltan from Hungary and Lutz from Germany. When we met to discuss our project we ended up instead comparing and contrasting our home countries to learn more about each other’s homelands. 

I enjoy this aspect the most about studying abroad — meeting new people from other countries and learning about their lives. In addition to meeting people in class, we also met more new friends at clubs and bars during the night. For instance, March 17 was St. Patrick’s Day and we stumbled upon an Irish Pub. We drank green beer, watched traditional Irish step dancing and even met a lovely group of Irish students. We may never see the people we meet again, but we know their stories and we cherish the experience of meeting them.

Our recent field trips have left us to grapple with the emotional toll of history’s complicated past. Our first trip was to the Holocaust Museum in Budapest. A building with rich architecture and powerful exhibits that showed the horrifying evolution from discrimination and racism to genocide. Although a heavy experience, it was rich with new things to learn and ended the tour with a synagogue that was absolutely beautiful inside. 

Second, we went to a juvenile detention center for our comparative justice class to compare the differences in Hungary to those in the US. This was quite an interesting field trip; we were able to tour the facility and talk with an administrator in order to answer all of our burning questions. 

On a more exciting and happy note, I had some visitors in Budapest! My parents and my boyfriend, Joshua, traveled 5,000 miles across the pond from home just to see me. Well of course — I’m a catch! This was by far my favorite part of the trip as I was able to show them all of my favorite places in Budapest and even take a short trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. Besides the traditional Hungarian food that I was obligated to show them, I also indulged in several new cuisines in Bratislava. 

My parents were elated that we were all able to legally drink together, so I took them on a lovely night cruise along the Danube river. It just so happened to have bottomless proseco with the ticket. I brought them to the ferris wheel, the castle and many museums. We stumbled upon the Houdini Museum, which I did not know was Hungarian, that had a tour followed by a close-up magic show. 

One of my favorite parts of their visit was when my boyfriend surprised me with string orchestra tickets. They were playing all time classics in the St. Stephen’s Basilica. I am not sure I have seen anything more beautiful than the lady that sang Ave Maria in that church. We ended that night with dinner at Mazel Tov, a romantic Mediterranean restaurant that had fantastic shawarma and falafel. 

This small taste of home only lasted six days. Once again, I became overcome with feelings of homesickness. I wish I could’ve just hopped on the plane home with them. Yet, those were the best six days that I have had in the past couple of months. My loved ones experienced the life that I have been blessed to have over here in Europe, and I couldn’t have been more happy to know that they loved it as much as me. Watching my loved ones board the plane without me was indeed bittersweet, yet I rest easy knowing that we will be reunited soon.