Monday, July 16, 2012

I'll see you soon

So this is my final blog. I just want to let everyone know how I’ve been doing since coming home.
First, I want everyone to know that the last 6 months of my exchange were the best of my life. I cannot describe the joy the last 6 months brought me. Sure, I missed home but compared to how much I miss Hungary now that was nothing. I loved my life. I loved my friends- and I became closer to them than I ever have with anyone else. I was independent. I was travelling. I got to see Europe and I spent every day doing fun things with my best friends.  At the end of June most of my best friends had gone home so at that point I felt that I was ready to come home. Of course the hardest part of goodbye I thought was over. I had said goodbye to the girl I’d spent everyday for 5 and half months with, Annika. I’d said goodbye to my Budapest clan, Devin and Max. I said goodbye to Nicole, Shabree, Terry, Arthur, Bianka, Taylor, and Parcsa- the people who had saved my life the first 4 months and made my exchange. Leaving on July 2 I cried when I left my host parents- who ended being a great family for me. I cried when the plane took off- not knowing when I’d see my favorite city again. I cried on and off on the flight to Detroit because I thought about the year and the fact that I made it. I survived it. But mostly the fact that I just couldn’t believe it had been 10 months and it was over. I started this process over 2 years ago and it is all over with. For 2 years my mind constantly thought about it and it is over. To tell you the truth, that concept is still not hit me. I don’t want it to be over. Accepting that it is still really difficult.
I haven’t cried much since I got home. The first two days were difficult. I’ve thought about it a lot and I think reverse culture shock is much, much worse than culture shock. I was okay until this past weekend. It was the exchange student weekend for the all the exchange students in our conference area. To me if felt like a constant reminder. A reminder that my exchange is over, that I will be sad a lot, that high school will be miserable, that I can’t go back soon and that life will not be that exciting anymore. I had to watch all the new kids going out and how excited they were and it killed me. I just want to get in a time machine and head back to last August. There were lots of lows but many more highs and I just wish I could relive it. The worst part is knowing that even if I go back to Budapest it won’t be the same- my best friends won’t be there, it won’t be for as long, things will have changed. I can never go back to what I had. Accepting that has also been very difficult.
When I was on my flight from Frankfurt to Budapest last August I felt between two worlds. I had left everything I knew and at that point I was between to unfamiliar places- Germany and Hungary. That is exactly how I feel now. Except that flight was an hour or so and this has been 2 weeks. Hungary seems like home now and I am caught between knowing that Hungary is not the same now but neither is the US. I think I glorified home a lot when I was gone. I’m home now and the food isn’t as good as I remember. My bed is not as comfortable. The dollar is soooooo expensive compared to the Forint. I spend my days doing nothing. I drive my mom around because I’m trying to get my license and I watch tv episodes on my computer. I am reminded of everything I have to do-finding a college, college applications, swimming, high school senior year, getting a license, senior pictures.  My friends are so busy now with work and other things that I feel like I don’t see them much at all. I guess it is just lonely. It feels like the beginning of my exchange all over again- lonely with not much to do missing home. I miss home in 2 ways. I miss home; home being Hungary and I miss home; home being Michigan before I left. So much has changed in my life- including me- that I feel like I don’t fit into my own life. Excepting a new reality is a part of reverse culture shock and it is terrible.

So since this is my last blog I’d like everyone to know this year was by far the year of my life. I changed into a more mature, independent, loving person. I grew up and I learned so much about myself, others, and the world. I cannot put the benefits of this year into words. It was the best decision I will probably ever make to leave in August even though it killed me at the time. Leaving Michigan was the hardest thing I had ever done- but coming home and dealing with reverse culture shock is sooooooooo much worse.  For any student out there who is thinking about going- do it. It will be one of the best, most rewarding things you will ever do. I loved Hungary and I loved the people I met and I will never forget them or the experiences I had. Despite all the sadness I feel now and all the lows I had while there I would do it again 1000000000000x over. It was worth it.
Lastly, to put a song to my mood.

Szeretlek, Magyarország. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Recent Happenings

So I know it has been to long since I updated this- but to me this life is normal now so writing this doesn't seem as important. Anyways - I've been living in Budapest for awhile now and I loveee it! I always thought I would like living in the city but it is so much better than I imagined. There is always something to do and even when you can't think of anything you can just walk around and seeing the beauty never gets old!! Budapest is truely like the most beautiful city (maybe I'm just biased) but I haven't gotten over it. The Danube is such a beautiful color and all the buildings along it make so much cooler. Everytime I ride one of the trams to Pest from Buda or vice versa we go over one of the bridges and staring out I always think about how lucky and grateful I am to have this year. And to be living here; in the capital! I feel so blessed. I can't imagine that in just 2 months I have to leave. I can't make myself think about it- it is too hard. The people I've met this year have been some of the most amazing people I've ever met and they have completely changed me (in a good way of course) and the fact that I leave them to breaks my heart. Like I've always said- there is no bond like an exchange student bond! I know going to Midland will be good because I'll see my bestfriends again and my pets and my family and my American lifestyle but I think it will be beyond difficult. I will miss Budapest and the city life and my host family and my best friends here and having no school work and public transportation!!! God, I will miss public transportation. I think the only negative part of being an exchange student- you get to live an amazing life full of new things, new people, new food, new places, lots of traveling, and experiences up the wazzoo but it is only for a year. If someone gave me the option to stay another year living my same life I do now- no doubt I would take it. But since I know I have to leave I am very happy I was born into the generation of Internet users. Lucky that it is so easy to stay connected.

But enough about that! I figured I could update you on what I've been doing! So spring break I spent in another city (Győr) visiting my friends and hanging out with them- lots of fun! Then I had a Hungarian Easter- very similar to ours except not as much candy. Then the day after the have a "sprinkling" day. Basically the boys and men spray perfume and water on the women for good fertility. My host dad just sprayed me with perfume- I got off easy. Some of my friends were woken up by having water dumped on them and others just got attacked by squirt guns. Then came the Poland trip! 
The rotary took us to Poland for a weekend. Friday was all driving and then that night we went into Krakow and explored and had a good time. Saturday we visited Auschwitz (concentration camp). I cannot describe that experience. It was the worst place I've ever been. Just knowing that you are standing at the very pits of humanity and where the very worst type of human suffering happened. It was numbing. Some people cried; others (like myself) were just numb and silent. I felt nauseous the whole time. By the time we finished birkenau i was ready to leave. Birkenau was the work part (part 2) and there was a labor area and then Auschwitz part 1 was the worst part. This is where the experiements were held; the "hospital" that you didnt want to ever end up at; the sterilizations; the Gestapo held the "court cases" and then executed the "criminals" by gunshot on the death wall; ect, ect. We went inside the barracks where people slept 5 to a bunk
On a bed of wet straw filled with ticks and other nastiness. In one building slept about 700 women. 700!!! This might not be as appalling to you because I cannot think of a way to make you understand how small the barracks were. By far the saddest part was walking down "death road". After the cattle cars arrived at Birkenau men and women were separated and the "doctors" would sort the people- those who could work to the right; those who couldn't (all childen under the age of 13 and their mothers, elderly, overweight) to the left. On the left is a long dirt road. That dirt road was the last road most people who went to Auschwitz walked. At the end of it were the gas chambers. And 2 hours after the walk all those people were just ashes. By the ruins of the gas chambers (the Nazis destroyed them once they knew the Russians were coming) there are pits in the ground that were filled with all the peoples ashes. (They aren't now). But a friend of mine asked if we could walk around the other side the field (not along the path) and the tour guide said no because you would be walking on ashes. A field full of ashes!! The way it is set up now is that Birkenau has been left pretty much the way it was evacutated. The polish government burned down most of the barracks and the Nazis burnt lots of things so they wouldn't been implicated and the barracks have obviously been cleaned and changed so people can go through them and there are signs that give historical information but besides that it is very quiet and eerie and undisturbed. Auschwitz part 1 has been changed to more of a museum. They have display cases filled with tons of Jewish possessions; glasses, luggage, clothes, shoes, hairbrushes, shoe polish- and the worst- human hair. There is a case filled with human hair and experts think the collection was taken from about 140,000 people. I learned Hungary lost tons of Jews - at one point in 1944 German forces were sending 8,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz daily. Daily! So it was a very intense experience. 
Then we left and went to a famous polish salt mine then back to krakow and went into the city again. then sunday we drove home. 
Then on 4/20 I went to another city (Szeged) to see my friends for my birthday. I came home on my birthday and then celebrated with my Budapest friends
I have been very busy or I would be blogging more. Everyday is an adventure and I'm loving it!  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How I'm feeling

This is one my best exchange student friend's blogs. It pretty much sums up exactly how I feel as well so instead of rewriting it I figured you can just read hers :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

December and January so far.

So I already wrote this and it got deleted. Round 2!
I know I don't blog enough but it takes soo much time. & I procrastinate. Anyways-
December! In December I went to a Rihanna concert with the other exchange students and that was a good time. We were in the standing section and we enjoyed not only the music but the people around as well :)
That night I stayed at my second host families house and then the next day I went to meet all the exchange students because we had a trip that weekend! We first went to Gyor (favorite city previously blogged about) because the Gyor club was hosting that weekend. So we spent Friday night in Gyor and then on Saturday we went to Vienna, Austria! (My school went the previous Tuesday so I had already been) but it was still good. I spent the day with Annika (Colorado), Nicole (California) and Lolo (South Africa- technically Botswana). Lolo and some other South Africans came to Hungary for a 5 week summer exchange and already left :(. Anyways, that night we went back to Gyor and then next day (Sunday) I went to my 2nd host families house again and then home to Gyongyos.
The next weekend I went to my tutor, Eszter,'s house and hung out with her and her daughter (age 9). We played games and I made buckeyes. If I do say so myself they were excellent. :) So that was another good weekend.
Then came Christmas. I won't say much but it wasn't that great. I missed home and it didn't resemble regular Christmas to me. We opened presents on the 24th and didn't do anything the 25th. Just seemed like another day. But on Christmas eve I skyped with my parents who were at my grandparents house and so I talked to my extended family and I "hung out" with them via skype. That made me feel much better.
Then the 26th! My dad came to visit! That was amazing. He had never been to Europe and I missed him a lot so it was great. That night we walked around Budapest (5 miles including up a small mountain- it was too foggy to see over the city though). Then on the 27th we went to Gyongyos and visited with my host parents and Eszter. On the 28th we went to Berlin to visit my cousin Kristen and her husband, Alex. (He is German). It was really good to catch up and see Berlin. We visited Checkpoint Charlie, the old SS building, the wall (or what is left of it) and the Jewish museum. It was amazing to be in the center of such history! We had a good two days in Berlin and lots of laughs! Then we went back to Budapest and spent the 30th and 31st walking around and then on New Years Eve we stood on the Chain Bridge over the Danube watching the fireworks. What an experience!! The next day my dad left and even though I was sad it was still worth it to have him come :)
Then the 9th of January I went to skii camp with my school. It was good to spend my last week in Gyongyos with my classmates. Although I will say, 5 days of 7 hours of skiing is not my cup of tea. But it was still a good experience. Slovakia is so beautiful and we were surrounded by mountains. After skii camp I came home did my final packing and yesterday I moved to Budapest! My second host family are soo sweet and my bedroom window view is over Budapest! So that is really cool. (I'm in Buda, by the way). Tomorrow I start my first day at a new school so I'm super nervous. Oh well. That is all for now!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Győr and Thanksgiving

So I thought I should update you all on Thanksgiving.
But first a tiny bit on my trip to Győr!
Győr is a city on the other side of the country but it only takes about 2 hours by car to get there. My friend Orse was an exchange student in Michigan (Owosso) last year and she lives in Győr. I wanted to see her so we decided we would spend the weekend together. She picked me up on a Friday and then we drove to Győr. We talked the whole way just about how things were going and stuff. Then we got to Győr and I met her parents. They are the sweetest people and I felt very happy there. Her mom made dinner which was really good and then we watched Bride Wars. We chilled and then Orse called the other exchange students and we agreed to hang out. So we hung out with them Friday night. On Saturday morning we had to get up early to catch a train and go to Budapest for a Rotary sport day thing put on my ex- exchange students. We didn’t play a lot of sports mostly the current exchange students just talked. It was me, Arthur (Brasil), Taylor (NY) –both in Gyor- Nicole (CA), and Jill (FL). Like I said we pretty much just chatted but it was a lot of fun. Then we went to TGI Fridays with a few other exchange students and just chilled some more. Then Arthur, Taylor, Orse and a few other ex- exchange students took the train back to Gyor. That night we all hung out with a few future exchange students Parscha and Bence and Orse’s friend Aggie. We went to a karaoke bar and then a dance club. We danced for a few hours and it was a great time. Then we went home. Then next day Orse, and I watched The Devil Wears Prada while Aggie slept. Then they took me home. It was an excellent weekend.
Obviously I didn’t go into detail but I don’t want to make this too long.
Okay, onto Thanksgiving. Nicole (CA) met a woman on her flight on the way here who is American. She, her husband, and four children lived in Estonia for 14 years before moving to a city outside Budapest. They invited the American exchange students to have Thanksgiving with them. I was very happy about this because I obviously wanted to celebrate it. I originally planned to go with my friend Annika who lives in Budapest after spending the night before with her and then we were going to go together. We spent Wednesday night together but unfortunately she got something like the stomach flu on Thursday morning so she couldn’t go with me. L However, she is an angel and wrote me excellent directions because I had never used public transportation besides busses and I was a little worried because I had to use bus, metro and train. Luckily I survived and met Nicole, Jill and Teri (PA) for the train ride. So we went to the family’s home and it was so nice. We all agreed like we felt like we were in the USA. The food was excellent we had turkey, chicken, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rolls, casserole, and various types of pies. We also had buckeyes. Everything was sooooo good! Then we played Apples To Apples with the kids- (I won ;] ) and we hung out. Then we had to go, which was sad because it felt so much like home. I got home safely and skyped with my parents (who were at my Grandparents house with the rest of my family) and said hello to everyone before going to bed. I’m really grateful that the family invited us over because I think if I didn’t celebrate it, it would have been a rough day. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011


So last Thursday I was preparing to go to ITALY! Of course I was thrilled because Italy I’ve heard is simply amazing, and I love Italian food (or the American version of it haha). So I was supposed to be at the Westend City Center (Largest mall in Hungary- located in Budapest) at 11:30 and after a lot of discussion it was decided I would go to Budapest via bus and my second host mom would pick me up and take me to the mall (my second family lives in Budapest). So I boarded the bus with a duffle bag, purse, and backpack full of food. I arrived and my host mom drove me to the mall. I was supposed to meet one of my friends, Terry, but I found another and it all worked out because we eventually met up with a bunch of exchange students in the McDonalds. When Terry arrived at McDonalds we left to exchange Forints to Euros and that was all good. We had to get money out of the ATM and we also had to find the exchange store. After we found the place (we had to ask several people where the exchange store was) it turned out the ATM was right there and then we changed money with a very sassy exchange worker. Hahaha. Then we went to get Starbucks. The workers didn’t like us much because Terry kept changing her order. We took some pictures and then we went back to McDonalds. My best friend, who I’m going to the Rihanna concert with, Annika, was there so we went to exchange her money and then we left the mall and started to board the bus. Annika and I sat in the back and we began what would turn out to be 19 hours on and off in a bus.
Annika and I it seemed like discussed everything under the sun. From people at my school at home, to our daily lives here, to shows we like to watch. I was telling her about how many shows I watch online and we got on the topic of Modern Family. I happened to notice this Mexican kid, Juan Carlos (Now called Halloween), was listening but he seemed hesitant to join in. Finally he did and the three of us discussed various episodes and had long conversations. Then I started talking about Criminal Minds and I got Annika very interested. She told me she can’t watch it alone so I have to visit her in Budapest so we can watch it. Our conversation eventually turned to Halloween’s life in Mexico. He mentioned he has a ski home in Colorado and a vacation home in Cancun. So we were asking what is parents do. Lots of Cartel jokes followed. I asked him about Cartels and his opinion and he said they aren’t close to him so he isn’t really affected. We discussed scary movies and he said something about Halloween and the way he pronounced it was very “throaty” (that’s the best way I can describe it). So he was dubbed Halloween. Eventually we arrived at Lake Balaton area. We walked up and saw over the lake. Then we got back on the bus and an hour later it seemed stopped at a gas station. (We had been promised we would see a castle- the only castle I saw was the castle across the road on a mountain across from said gas station- hahaha). Then we drove to a nice building to eat dinner. It was one girl’s birthday, so we sang her happy birthday. Then as she is cutting the cake the President calls the only other girl from Michigan and announces she is going home. Then he tells her to talk. I’m not going to lie- Annika and I shed a tear at this. It was just so out of the blue and unexpected. We had no idea she was so unhappy. Then of course the girl can’t talk and is getting emotional. She sat down and we went over to her and asked her a bunch of questions and she just said she missed home and didn’t click with this culture and simply was miserable and had been since she had arrived.  This was sad. I felt like when I get sad I always think about the other exchange students and if they can do it I can, and that is part of what keeps me going. It felt like a loss because she couldn’t do it. But I completely understand and I won’t judge her because it is what is good for her.
Anyways after hours on the bus at 3am we crossed into Italy. Of course I checked to see if there were any attractive Italians and guess what? There were. The police officer at the border was really good looking. While we are watching him I casually said “Welcome to Italy, Ladies. Welcome to Italy.” It was a nice entrance.  At around 9am we arrived in Venice. We got off the bus and then took the fairy to the part of Venice we were going to. On the fairy we took lots of pictures. My camera battery died but luckily my friend Nicole gave me some replacement batteries. We got to Venice and then started exploring.  The first thing I noticed besides the venders were the pigeons. They are not afraid of anything and they won’t fly away unless you are literally about to step on them. Also, all the Venders sell the same things for the same prices. I went with Nicole, Annika, Maggie, Maddy, and Jill. From California, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida.  We started exploring the alleys and sometime during this we lost Maggie and Maddy. So the rest of us went to find a place to eat lunch after some exploring. We asked a bunch of people including a Gondola driver which pizza place was best.  (We didn’t go on a Gondola- they cost about 100 Euros for 5 people. 100 Euros= $173!). We got lots of different answers so we just chose one. It was a cute little place hidden away in some alley. We each got a 3 cheese pizza and then we got tiramisu. As expected, authentic Italian is amazing. On the restaurant loud speakers were Eminem, Justin Bieber, Bon Jovi and other popular singers. After we left and explored then went back to the town center to check in and saw some nice looking boys. For the record, I didn’t think they were super cute but Annika  was into them. She claims she was taking a picture of a building but literally pointed her camera lens right at them. They noticed and of course got all smiley. Then Annika started to defend herself that she wasn’t taking a picture of them. So Nicole and I ask a joke took out our cameras pointed them right at the boys and took pictures and the boys were smiling this whole time. After an awkward 5 minutes of pacing Nicole paid me 2 Euros to go talk to them. I casually asked them to have Gelato. They were from Denmark and they said they had to get a fairy. Too bad. Then we walked away and they got on their fairy. We went back to exploring. In the morning I had bought batteries and postcards. After the check in I bought a Venice hat and was able to bargain the price down from a very pushy salesman. We went to a deeper section and we bought sweatshirts. They are very soft J. Before dinner we bought Gelato. Mine was half Nutella flavored half mint chocolate chip. Delicious! For Dinner and we had some nice spaghetti.  On our way back we got pastries. We also saw various guys on every corner trying to sell these rubber toys. Basically they look like small balloon shaped animals and when you throw them on the ground they turn to goo and then they slowly become their shape again. After the first guy the second who was selling them looked at us and said “Yes?!” I causally said “No…” By the fifth guy trying to sell them Nicole said something like “Still not cool…” Hahaha. We went back to the town center after awhile because we had to leave at 6:30. We sat around with some other exchange students and talked while watching the people in town. There was a really  cute little boy in a kangaroo outfit and there were guys walking around giving out roses and then after you took one they demanded money. Nicole was the only one that bought one and I think Maggie was given one and he forgot to ask her to pay. We saw a man like him being chased by police later. We had randomly seen a girl in heels and a dress earlier getting photographers to take her picture and we saw another girl in what looked like a wedding dress doing the same thing. There was a crowd but when the photo shoot ended she walked by our table. Halloween gave her Maggie’s rose and got his picture taken with her. She was very pretty and looked no older than 17.  Eventually we saw her again and she was still carrying around Halloween’s rose. (I think he was happy to see that.)  We took lots of pictures and went back to the fairy and then got back on the bus. It was sad to leave such a beautiful place. We drove throughout the night. This night was different from the previous because I stayed up super late the first night but the second I slept the whole way. We had been told we would get to Budapest at around 9am. We got in at 5am. None of us had planned this so we went to a super classy Mcdonalds, got some wifi and I was able to call my host mom to come pick me up. (By the way- every Mcdonalds in this country seems to have wifi- I will miss that.) I got home around 9ish and was very tired. I loved Italy but if I was going back I would go to a different city then Venice simply because I’ve already been there.
Sorry this was sooooooo long. 

For your information

So, I know this is overdue- but blogging tends to be a hassle. I just have to remind myself I will want to remember everything that happens and therefore need to keep this going.
First I’ll start with saying that even though I have bad days sometimes and miss home a lot I still am SO SO SO glad to be here. I can’t even imagine being in Midland this year. I’ve met amazing people and I will just say if you are on the fence about doing exchange do it! I think it will be very hard to go home simply because I will realize what I’m missing. I find myself just wanting to mix two lives. I want to bring my family and friends here and want the USA to be in the middle of Europe. On the other hand I think about how much I’ve come to appreciate home. I feel like no matter how far or where I go home will always be home and nothing will ever take its place. I don’t think I realized how much different cultures are. Once you change cultures you realize how adapted you are to your culture. So I will list some subtle differences in our two Cultures.
·         I don’t know if I mentioned this in an earlier blog but the girls tend to not wear shorts. They wear skirts or jeans- sometimes they wear shorts but it isn’t as common (in my experience).
·         Censorship is almost nonexistent here.  They don’t bleep out swear words on the radio whatsoever- that could be because they don’t think people will understand. Also, on magazine/newspaper advertisements you will see topless women- I’m talking full frontal.
·         The door hinges are on the other side (in some cases). When I first tried to shut Barbi’s bedroom door I didn’t think it had one because there was a door but it looked like it was coming from another room. The door hinges were on the right part of the door frame and the handle on the left.
·         Hungarian bread is fantastic. American bread- I may not ever eat it again.
·         Hungarian prices are cheaper in almost every aspect. For example a 1.5L of water will cost me about 53 cents. New shoes are about $12-15. A new coat is about $30. A sub that is longer than a foot will cost me about $1.25 at the school store. Take that subway!
·         Village life is much more common. When I say village I mean village. It takes at least a 10 minute ride to get into town and all you see are homes and fields.
·         Pets are less common- somewhat common but not like in the USA. In the village usually pets live outside if the family does have them, in the flats people tend to have small animals; cats or small dogs.
·         Teenagers stay home a lot more, or that is my impression. At home most students go to the football games every Friday and then see each other on Saturday or Sunday. Usually we see our friends at least once a weekend. But Hungarians usually don’t see each other as much. They go out occasionally but it is much different than at home. (Maybe it is just where I live, but that seems to be the case).

Okay this blog is long enough. I will be posting a follow up blog about my trip to Italy shortly.