Caitlin McDowell – Public Sociology – Level 3
Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
Now that my time in Budapest has drawn to a close I find myself reflecting on my time here. When I first arrived it -10°C! As my taxi drove through the city I watched the big pieces of ice drift down the Danube, it was quite a sight. The first thing that grabbed my attention (and continues to do so) is the architecture of Budapest. The city is filled with beautiful grand gothic buildings, so many iconic buildings across the city. The bridges that join Buda and Pest, the Parliament, the Great Synagogue… I could go on forever. For me the best way to see all these beautiful buildings is from the Castle District. From the viewing platform next to Mathius Church you can see the skyline of Pest across the Danube with the Parliament dominating, beautiful.
When I first arrived I was nervous, I felt out of comfort zone. I’d never been this far away from my family and I wasn’t sure how I’d cope without the familiarity of home and bottles of Irn Bru. It’s almost like being a fresher again, you have the same worries all over again. I was determined not to let my fears hold me back, I wanted to fully embrace the opportunity. Now I am back home I can say that just like freshers, I survived. I met so many wonderful people whilst I was there, both Hungarian nationals as well as other students from across Europe also on Erasmus. These people quickly become like family and I couldn’t have wished for better people to share this experience with. The social side of going on an exchange is arguably just as important as the academic. It was with these people I explored the city with, ate Hungarian food with and drank the delicious Hungarian wine with. I doubt I would have as great a time without them and as cliché as it may seem I have made friends for life.
As well as the social aspect there is no denying that being in Budapest has helped my development as a sociological. There’s a whole host of reasons for this. Firstly the classes I choose at Corvinus; they were different from what I was used to at QMU. The different teaching format was very complimentary to what I had already been learning, I feel I have gained a more holistic view in sociology by covering topics from different angles whilst covering new areas such International Relations. Classes are very participatory so it was good to have the opportunity to have others challenge my own views and vice versa. It forced me to think about how I identified as sociologist, the school of thoughts that best suited my views. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I as an individual see society and how this in turn influences my opinions as an academic. As well as this there was the differences I seen between Hungary and Scotland. Whilst observing these differences I found myself wondering why the have occurred, what factors have made them so different and so similar. Ellen and myself spent many afternoons in deep discussion about the sociological differences between our home countries and Hungary, as well as what we were learning in class. Learning at Corvinus was a really enjoyable, we got to choose what classes so I was able to choose subjects that i had an interest in.
As well as the good classes, Budapest has a fascinating history, I spent a lot of my time here going to museums to learn more about how this country came to be. Like Edinburgh, the stories of past Budapest are filled with tales mystery, royalty and war. Before coming here I was ignorant to Hungary and knew little more than it was once a communist country. Now having lived here I have a bit more knowledge of this history which goes far beyond post war Europe and even includes there stories of holding ‘Dracula’ captive This rich history has clearly had an influence on the city I explored over the past six months. I always had an interest in Hungary as a communist state; it was interesting to visit places such as Moments Park and The Hospital in the Rock which helped me understand what this meant for the Hungarian people and how it is still in living memory for most.
When I left it was 40 degrees warmer than when I came. The city looked just a picturesque with the sun beating down. It was like a different city as cafes put seats outside, there was a cosmopolitan alfresco feel in the city centre. Margaret Island became one of my favourite haunts whilst the sun was shining. At the risk of sounding over sentimental I can not emphasise enough what the experience has meant to me and what it has allowed me to achieve. Firstly as sociologist; I feel in sociology you run the risk of becoming stagnant and tunnel-visioned. I suppose I could say I feel reinvigorated in my studies, I have found new areas of interest that will no doubt influence the subject matter of my dissertation in the following academic year. Secondly what I gained as an individual, an exchange abroad didn’t seem like it was ever a feasible option but thanks to the scholarship I was able to go Hungary and have the time of my life. I have been able to share this experience with my friends and family (who are in no doubt sick of hearing about it by now). I have learned constantly as an academic and as a person. Thank you Budapest!