Each summer the Flinn Scholars Program takes an entire class of Scholars to Budapest, Hungary, and neighboring Romania for a three-week seminar on the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. Here’s a day-by-day account.
Howard Cheng (’08):
This was our first full day since our arrival in Pecs, and we started the morning by arriving at the American Corner and attending a lecture on Hungarian politics. This was refreshing, since it was a synthesis of multiple topics we have encountered before on previous lectures, such as Hungarian history, ethnic relations, and various cultural differences. Specifically, we learned about the corruption in Hungarian politics, heard various personal anecdotes from the speaker, István Tarrósy, and discussed with him various courses of actions that could be taken to combat this problem and transform the political system.
Afterwards, we visited the Zsolnay museum and appreciated some of the greatest ceramic works in history. We had a very cheerful tour guide, and his enthusiasm showed the great pride many Hungarians had for their culture. The works were truly astonishing–the intricacy of the designs and the delicacy required to craft such works left us in awe.
For lunch, we headed to the Trafik Restaurant, a trendy place with jazz music and some slick architecture. We were served delicious fruit soup (one of my favorite dishes I have had since arriving) and chicken with rice.
Our next stop was the Csontváry museum, where we pondered the works of a Hungarian artist and noted the contrast between his early works and later works, before he was stricken with mental illness. He was notorious for selectively modifying landscapes to suit his artistic preferences (in fact, one painting depicts an enormous cut stone which should not have been visible for miles!).
At the end of the afternoon, I met with Vizer, my local home stay for the night. We had dinner at a very nice local restaurant, and he knew the workers there and most of the patrons. He explained to me that this was one of the best parts of his city, to live in a small enough area where everyone knew everyone, a luxury I have not experienced while living in Phoenix. However, he also expressed his family’s desire to move to another country as well. Both of his parents were doctors, and their salaries in Hungary were far lower than if they lived in other European states.
This was one of the issues that most caught my interest. The brain drain in Hungary was one of the issues we had discussed during lectures, and my home stay was able to give me a first hand account of its effects. There is no easy solution to this problem, but the insight of my home stay gave me valuable information for future discussions on this very issue during our reflections and new issues to evaluate when considering ways to create a just health care system.
After this, we moved on to discussing more lighthearted subjects such as sports, music, and hobbies. Despite living thousands of miles away, we had many shared interests, no doubt due to the globalization of culture.