From the ashes of Soviet occupation, Hungary has emerged as a top European destination and one of the most desirable study abroad locations. Hungarian folk culture is still living and breathing, because the nation has successfully preserved its historic streets, buildings, and towns that give visitors the feeling of an Old Europe untainted by the trappings of modernity. It is a rich locale with Central European charm without the high prices of many other destinations. Students are sure to experience the authentic Hungarian culture and history by choosing to study abroad in Hungary.
Geography & Demographics
Hungary is located in central Europe bordered by Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Ukraine. It is generally flat but has some mountainous areas in the north and west. Lake Balaton, known as the Hungarian Sea, offers nearly 230 square miles of clear waters surrounded by beautiful castles. lt is a wonderful place to visit in the spring and summertime.
Food & Culture
Hungarian cuisine consists mostly of pork and other meats that are usually topped with a salty and spicy red sauce. Their national liquor is Pálinka, a fruit brandy. Making the popular drink has become an art form and it is often enjoyed as a way to begin or end a meal. Exercise caution if partaking because it quite strong. Hungary is also famous for its mulled wine and cinnamon twist pastries that are available around Christmas time.
Hungarian culture has a rich and distinctive history that is influenced by the many different people that have lived within its borders. It is influenced by Romanian, Austrian, Transylvanian, and Turkish cultures. Black pottery, intricate lacework, and bright embroidery are among Hungarian specialties.
While Hungarian is the official language, many people, especially in cities such as Budapest, are able to communicate in English. Visits to a doctor or pharmacy can be a little complicated so write down medications or take a Hungarian speaker with you. Otherwise, communication is usually easily established.
Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language that is distantly related to Estonian and Finnish. It is not related to any other European languages and can be quite difficult to learn and understand. However, with determination, any language can be mastered. Empress Elisabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire learned Hungarian even though she was originally a Bavarian princess! The Hungarian currency is the forint.
Harry Houdini, perhaps the world’s most famous magician, was born in Budapest. Other treasured Hungarians include composers Franz Liszt and Béla Bartok, the actor Béla Lugosi, and inventor of the Rubik’s cube, Ernő Rubik.
Things to Do
Hungary is regarded as a generally safe country and traveling in Hungary by train is very easy and stress-free. Although things can get a little crazy on October 23rd, the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, or on days of big soccer matches. Smaller villages and large festivals offer visitors a chance to feel local and in touch with the past and present. Dress in traditional scary garb during the Busó Festivities at Mohács to help scare away the winter. The event is so unique and integral to Hungarian culture that it is recognized by UNESCO. Hungary’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites include villages, caves, the banks of the Danube, and several others. Plus, the famous hot outdoor baths can be visited year-round.
Studying in Hungary
Most educational programs for foreigners are limited to larger cities like Budapest. The types of educational programs are available for all educational levels. While some programs are inherently focused on Central European studies, others are based on the liberal arts. For instance, the graduate programs at Central European University in Budapest are all taught in English and have a wide variety of programs to choose from. However, other universities are more interested in foreign students being immersed in Hungarian language and culture.
Choosing the best program for you depends on your priorities. If you want to spend some time in Budapest without learning the language, a more broad, English-language program would be appropriate. But if you want to gain a more culturally-enriching experience, an immersion or language-focused program would be more suitable.
The API Budapest program lets students choose between semester and yearlong programs. Their mission is to help students evolve from tourists to global citizens. Undergraduate courses in economics, business, and social sciences are taught in English. Some graduate level courses are available. Program fees include pre-departure and on location assistance.
Academic life and expectations in Hungary are similar to those of the United States. Students are expected to do class readings, submit papers, give presentations, and pass exams. Most professors are experts in their fields and have vast amounts of experience to pass on to their students. Additionally, there are many archival opportunities in Budapest for historians looking to do research.
Housing options are very diverse depending on the area but students can pretty much find whatever they want. There are many apartments for students to rent alone or to share with roommates at reasonable prices. Many students are able to find well-maintained, furnished, older apartments in historic areas of Central Budapest at very low prices. If you prefer on-campus housing, some universities offer state-of-the-art dormitories with pools, cafeterias, saunas, bars, and laundry rooms.
Most people from Western Europe, the United States, Canada, or Australia are not required to get a visa for long-term stay in Hungary. Students of these countries require a registration permit that most universities will help them acquire. If your country is on the list of countries where a visa is required to enter Hungary, you’ll need to get a visa and then a registration permit after entering the country to stay long-term.