Wow. What an experience we had on this trip! I have traveled a good amount in my life, including to Europe three times, but I have never felt so completely immersed in a culture before. So many elements of this trip made it not only educational about American Studies, but also organically educational about the Hungarian culture. One of the most exciting components of this trip for me was the home stays. My host spoke very fluent English, although his parents did not. He had to translate everything we said. Regardless, the entire family was exceedingly welcoming and excited to have me in their home. Their hospitality made my visit that much more enjoyable! Going into the Home stay I was excited, but also nervous. Being isolated from not only my family and friends back home, but also from the rest of my group, I thought this was going to be a difficult and disagreeable experience. Yet, although my first night their was a little lonely, as I became closer with my host the experience became mush more enjoyable. It was fun and interesting getting to know a real Hungarian family and see how they live. His father builds planes and his mother is an artist. She makes beautiful detailed porcelain objects. I even got to see one she was working on at the time being. They also had two houses, which I found interesting. They had a town house, close to my host student's school and the father's work, and also a Lake house near Lake Balaton. I was able to see both during my stay!
Another unique component for this trip was the food! During my stay I was able to eat what a typical Hungarian family would eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (which is surprisingly more than a typical American family!). They were not shy with their portions and making sure I was well fed throughout every day! Even when I was not staying with my host family, the entire trip was filled with wonderful and distinctive food. We were lucky enough to have knowledgeable teachers and friends who could take us or tell us where to go to get the best Hungarian meals. One of my favorite classic Hungarian dishes was their Goulash soup, which is much different than one would expect in America.
Another soup I surprised myself by liking, a cheese and leek soup! It was delicious!
It was very interesting to see their take on things which we feel familiar with. Even something as small as the differences in Goulash soup can be eye-opening. I believe that with American accommodations, American food, and American language being prominent in a variety of places, organic cultural experiences such as this are hard to come to. I feel as though many Americans, me included, would opt to take the simple and familiar path while traveling in a foreign country. However, I have come to see that stepping out of one's comfort zone and trying new things can change one's entire trip and experience (and for the better!). I feel so lucky to have been a part of this group and hope to share everything I have taken from this experience to others!