Kate Driscoll, Babson field hockey rising senior
Most students in their junior year of college are pretty comfortable with the routine they have adjusted to, and I was no different. In the fall of 2018, I was stuck in the 'Babson Bubble' and needed a change. Studying abroad was my opportunity to not only see the world but more importantly, get out of my routine and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
To get uncomfortable I picked a place that was not a traditional "hot spot" for many study abroad students. There were a few things I knew I wanted out of my experience abroad. I knew I wanted to spend most of my time traveling, and I felt that Europe was the opportune place for this. Its accessibility and compactness is the perfect place for the weekend traveler. I knew I did not want to go to a city congested with tourists. Additionally, I knew I wanted a foreign university and the support of a smaller study abroad program to help me with the transition and the navigation of a new city. This all led me to apply to the API Budapest program through the Glavin Office here at Babson, and I can say with confidence that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I did not really know anyone from Babson or elsewhere upon arriving in Budapest. This was uncomfortable and lonely at first but honestly turned out to be the best thing for me. Without having any familiar faces to depend on made me grow even more during my time away. It allowed time to focus on myself and gave me the chance to fully immerse in these new surroundings. It also forced me to branch out and meet new people in my program and at the host school. I was able to cultivate new relationships with lasting impacts that now stretch globally.
The majority of my classes were liberal arts classes, and the teachers I had were very knowledgeable in their respective fields. For example, it was particularly interesting to learn about the post-war Soviet era in Hungary while living in the nation's capital. As a relatively new democratic country, many of my professors remembered living through the days of communism. Their first-hand experiences and understanding provided us with an education like no other. Learning about this in the classroom, helped me better understand Hungary's culture today, and how it was shaped by these events.
The comforts of Babson that students might take for granted became extremely evident during my time abroad. In Budapest, I lived in an apartment with four other girls from my program. The apartment was in an ideal location in the heart of Pest, and only two tram stops away from school. (Fun fact: Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River.) Although this was much better living standards than most students abroad, having to cook for myself and not having the luxury of a 5 minute walk to class was an adjustment from Babson life. Trim might not be everyone's favorite place for meals, but it sometimes looked better than buying groceries from a supermarket where you can't read the labels. Shopping at first took me twice as long as it would at home, and cooking every meal for myself was a challenge. It was an uncomfortable adjustment in the beginning, but one that happened quickly as I adapted to my new environment.
As I settled into life in Budapest, I tried to make a conscious effort to do something different every day. That could be something as simple as trying a new coffee shop or walking a new way home. I wanted each day to be unique, and I wanted to experience everything I could in Budapest during my short stay. Over the course of four months I was able to travel to thirteen Countries and twenty-three cities…. And yes, I did attend some classes! My favorite trip was to Bled, Slovenia, a small lake town. Feel free to google it, but just know that the pictures do NOT do it justice! Similar to making each day unique, I wanted to make my travels unique as well. I saw my time abroad as an opportunity to visit places that I would most likely not have a chance to return to. This usually involved long bus rides instead of comfortable plane rides, but in the end, the destinations were always worth the strenuous journey.
As a student athlete, I know that it's not about how a play turns out, it's about how you react. Do you sprint back under the ball and help your teammates or do you jog? While studying abroad, you might find yourself in a difficult situation once or twice. Whether it's a missed train, a sub-par hostel, or a stolen wallet, it may feel like the end of the game, but there are still more plays to run. In any unfamiliar situation, it is important to remain positive and open to the new possibilities that could be around the corner, and in general I like to think that everything happens for a reason. It may not be clear at first but hopefully you can reflect and learn something. The best advice I received while I was abroad was to approach every situation with a smile. A smile is a universal gesture that most people respond positively to. While I traveled, a lot of the time I had to rely on the kindness of strangers. People are willing to help, even if it is something simple like asking for directions, doing it with a smile can yield a better result. Overall, I know that it can look like there is a lot of bad out there in the world, but abroad showed me how much good there is too. I found that paying kindness forward was the best way to see this. Budapest will forever be a special place for me, and studying abroad will always be a special part of my college career. I am grateful for everything I got to experience, and thankful for all the kind people I met along the way.