5 years ago I enrolled for the very first time. Staying here for 5 (6***) years wasn’t part of the original plan by any means! The girls on my Hungary trip think that I’m refusing to graduate because of K-State Sports, which is not an unreasonable statement. I am so amazed at all the opportunities I’ve had here- some great professors, study abroad trips to Scotland and Hungary (maybe 1 more…shhhh), and the #K-StateFamily I have gained here.
Okay… that sounded a bit too positive: I should also think about the bad times I’ve had here, like some heartbreaking losses in football and basketball (never going to Waco, TX again…) Oh, and the late nights working on homework and/or avoiding it, the balancing of 16/18 credit hours with a full-time job, and the general stress of school.
This first week back has flown by; it’s a bit shocking to think that a week ago we were having our final dinner in Budapest. When I traveled to Scotland, I fell in love with the cities and country almost immediately. Budapest was a very different experience for me. I didn’t love the city; it was nice and I liked it. Instead, I fell in love with the people. Eszter and Janet were so magnificent as hosts; nothing I can say or write describes them well enough or gives them enough credit. Our study abroad experience would have been vastly different had we not had both of them. The workers at the hotel were especially fantastic and helpful to us in our stay. The teachers and other staff at ELTE were open to us observing and being with them, even when we know our approaches and philosophies might not be the same. One of them mentioned to our group leader that they knew we had seen things, both good and bad; and was surprised when she said we weren’t looking at that, just observing and appreciating what they do. Until I heard that, I wasn’t so sure that was the case for me. Looking over my notes, I did write fairly objectively. I attempted to come up with a negative experience, but I really have nothing that I would consider negative: we had a few public transportation mishaps, but nothing major. I didn’t buy many souvenirs and I wish I had bought a few more. One of my personal travel growths I saw was a lack of desire to eat out for every meal!
One of the major differences (besides language!) was the segregation of children with special needs. The rationale (paraphrased by me) centered on being able to provide the children with the specific therapy they need, which does make sense. For most of the United States, it is mandated that children receive these services in the least restrictive environment and most schools have the ability to accommodate. It’s hard to think about that not being the case in Hungary and I wonder if it’s a school support issue or a philosophical issue or combination of both. The approach worked in their case, so it was a good reminder that there is not one best way to do things: even when we may not understand or agree with that way.
All of the experiences were valuable in their own way: the schools were an application observation, while the institutes were a study into the approaches/concepts. The cultural experiences helped to understand how Budapest (and Hungary) is evolving as a city and country; we saw a new metro line and tram, modern buildings attached to older styles, Soviet-era buildings being transformed for new uses. However, the most valuable experience to me was the dialogue between the students, instructors, and hosts. I learned much more about the education system while in conversation with Eszter, I gained a better understanding of Hungarian culture talking to Janet, and the discussion among our group helped to refine my ideas and provide depth to my understanding and observations. I have a deeper respect for the Hungarian culture and approaches to early childhood education and a stronger sense of my beliefs and why I do what I do!
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins