With low costs and in close proximity to many major European cities, Budapest has gradually crept onto the travel radar of backpackers, river cruisers, and students alike looking for a slightly more off-the-beaten-path destination. In a picturesque city with old-world charm dating back to the bygone era, you’ll never get tired of gazing up the twisting spires of the Hungarian Parliament building or soaking in ornately decorated thermal spas. Several renowned universities and institutions make up Budapest’s lively student population, and there’s plenty of programs for international students in Budapest to help you get a slice of that action!
Study Abroad Programs in Budapest
Budapest isn’t known in the academic world for any one specific subject. On the contrary, there are numerous fields of study here that have garnered world recognition, which means that regardless of whether you study Hungarian history, economics, or architecture, you can find a study program to match your interests.
Budapest’s unique position as a former Eastern Bloc country turned European Union member makes it an ideal location to examine the resulting blend of political and cultural ideals over the subsequent years. Politics, sociology, international relations, and philosophy are all highly sought after subjects to study here, especially at the prestigious Central European University. Founded right after the fall of the Soviet Union to foster international diplomacy and awareness, CEU offers several internationally focused graduate programs taught in English to a diverse student body.
Economics, management, and social sciences are strong, high-ranking programs at the Corvinus University of Budapest, easily identifiable by its ornately constructed main building on the bank of the Danube river, also a distinguished UNESCO site. Corvinus is a hot pick for study abroad participants because of its American formatted instruction style and wide range of subjects.
As a part of the EU, the city’s universities welcome students from all over Europe, especially in internationally-geared programs where the language of instruction is English. Unless you’re fluent in Hungarian, chances are you’ll be attending classes with a colorful mix of international students. A typical school year begins in the fall and ends at the start of summer, with time off around the winter holidays and summer. Hungary’s public holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, mirror its history as a traditionally Christian nation and also include uniquely Hungarian holidays. Don’t forget to wear red, white, and green on National Day in March and drop in on the endless celebrations for the country’s first king on Saint Stephen’s Day.
Life in Budapest
Back in the day, the imposing Danube River segregated the hilly city of Buda on the west bank from flat plains of Pest on the east bank. The two halves were unified in 1873 and the names uncreatively slapped together to form “Budapest.” Today, city life effortlessly flows between the formerly split regions with a goulash-like mix of transportation options like trolleys, a metro system, taxis, and cable cars. The bike-friendly culture and many biking lines are particularly advantageous to students who would rather save a bit of money and put in a bit of physical labor pedaling to class.
Budapest’s savory culinary scene and relatively inexpensive costs associated with eating out makes a paradise for foodies with a tight budget. Traditional Hungarian food can best be described as hearty. Wholesome, meaty stews and lángos, a delectable fried dough treat that can be prepared to your liking, will keep you warm and comfortable throughout the chilly winter months. While the sun is still out, grab a bite at the indoor Grand Market or relax at any one of the open-air cafés lining the cobblestoned roads.
A lively bar scene in trendy districts like Erzsébetváros appeals to students looking for an energetic atmosphere to meet up with friends at all hours of the night. If you find yourself being dragged to a shady-looking abandoned building in the middle of the night by a Hungarian friend, you don’t have to run the other way. These “ruin bars” have become a major trend in the past decade and are the highlight of Budapest’s nightlife. Old abandoned buildings are swiftly transformed into edgy underground bars, each with its own unique character, where you can strike up conversation with locals or just kick back and enjoy a drink.
Accommodation & Visas
Hungary is well developed and has one of the strongest economies out of the Central and Eastern European countries, meaning its residents enjoy a relatively comfortable standard of living. This is especially true in Budapest, where decent apartments can be found for a bargain, compared to other capital cities around the world. Study abroad programs in Budapest oftentimes include housing in either university dorms or nearby apartments, which saves you the trouble of house-hunting for a conveniently located, furnished apartment with a short-term lease. If you’re up for the challenge of independent housing, wait until you arrive in Budapest to tour listings, because photos posted online by agencies are known for being misleading.
Hungary’s status as a member of the EU and the Schengen Area makes for a simple, painless visa process. The Schengen Agreement opens borders so that there’s no passport control as you travel between the 26 member states. For students who study abroad in Budapest, it’s a dream come true that radically simplifies taking those weekend backpacking trips through Europe! For non-EU citizens, you’ll need a student visa from a Hungarian consulate if your stay is longer than a three-month period. Further information will be provided by your program or you can also check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more country-specific details.
Benefits & Challenges
The decision to study in Budapest certainly sets you apart from the Western Europe crowd, and could lead to some interesting conversations down the road at a professional level. Sure, you could have chosen to spend a semester in Barcelona or London, but clearly there’s something different about you that led you to venture deeper into the heart of Europe. Studying at one of Budapest’s prestigious universities also gives you that extra edge. Considering the low cost of living, convenient transportation systems, and picturesque views around every corner, there's very few downsides to studying in Budapest.
However, because Hungarian is known to be one of the most difficult languages in the world for English speakers, attaining fluency might be a lofty goal. On the bright side, most of your classmates and many locals in the city also speak English, which means that your Hungarian friends won’t have an issue explaining cultural quirks or introducing you to the newest “ruin bar”.
After studying abroad in Budapest there’s no doubt you’ll be left hungry for more. Just looking through programs will have your mouth watering!