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.
Adam Martinez (’09)
Several somnolent Scholars were greeted with a rudely early wake-up call in the form of gale-force winds at four in the morning. Ultimately, the damage was small: one broken window in Sachi and Emma’s sleeping quarters. Needless to say, it gave them quite a fright, and many of us rode out the rest of the storm questioning the structural integrity of each of our small huts.
The morning began again under better pretenses at around eight, when we awoke to the smell of fresh rain and the sound of birds chirping in Romanian. Herded by our responsible chaperones, we made our way to the bus to depart to Cluj. The next few minutes saw us waving goodbye to both the immaculate lawn, upon which the hotel management had forbidden us to tread, and the looming Rimetean mountain, to which the thunderstorm had likewise denied us access. We got settled on the bus and, after a bout of bleary-eyed yet blessedly-brief reflections, took advantage of the opportunity to supplement our meager sleep supply.
The duration of the actual bus ride remains a mystery. Each passenger was either still caught up in the previous eventful night, looking forward to Cluj, or happily dreaming of shower curtains, peanut butter, and marshmallows, three objects that the Iron Curtain seems to have permanently scared out of Central Europe.
We crested the last hill before the city of Cluj, the supposed laundry Mecca of Romania, a detail that was anything but unappreciated by this ragged band of sink-launderers. Unfortunately, we appeared to have been misled, as laundromats were as elusive there as they were in every other city we had visited. Nevertheless, our attitudes were far brighter than our travel-worn attire would suggest, and we marched on proudly, if somewhat odorously.
After a brief stop at the hotel to gather our wits, we were whisked away to the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at Babe?-Bolyai University, the premier public university of Romania. Our lecture was on the Romanian economy, and it was given by Professor Michaela Lutas in a stuffy, humid room in which the air hadn’t been conditioned until our arrival. By the time the atmosphere became bearable, the lecture had finished and we’d exhausted our questions. Regardless, it was quite informative, particularly about Romania’s economy just prior to the economic downturn of 2008.
Next on the agenda was a themed video scavenger hunt in the heart of Cluj. Our gang of Flinn Scholars split into four smaller groups, each of which was handed a themed list of clues. The clues (perhaps objectives or directions would be more accurate) were the same for everybody, things like “Sing a Disney song in a public place” or “Taste an authentic Romanian dessert.” The themes, however, differed, and included “Transition,” “Contradiction,” “History,” and one that appears to have slipped my mind.
It’s safe to say that this activity became the landmark experience of the day–not to suggest that our later folk-dancing lesson wasn’t amazing as well. I’m positive that, during the scavenger hunt, each group experienced a great variety of wonderful things, but the only group I can truly speak for is my own. Our first stop was a public fountain swarming with children. It was here that we fulfilled our “Take a video of your group playing” clue. Several clues later and on our way to checking off the “Take a bus to a public monument” clue, we stopped by a fruit stand for sustenance in the form of a kilo of ripe cherries. The rest of the scavenger hunt was a big happy blur, with our enthusiastic, albeit roadweary, band of travelers proceeding fearlessly onward and leaving nothing but good memories and a trail of cherry pits in our wake.