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.
Nesima Aberra (’09)
Today was by far the most bittersweet day out of the entire Central European seminar. Bittersweet, because it was the most fun and engaging (in my opinion), while it meant we are near the end of the trip and will soon be leaving Hungary, our home away from home.
In the morning after eating breakfast, we took the metro to Graphisoft Park, an amazing park akin to Silicon Valley that hosts 40 companies from Microsoft to SAP and Servier. The park was very clean and well kept with elements of whimsical creativity and architecture that one would only expect to see around such talented designers. One sculpture that impressed us all was a giant Rubix cube on the lawn. We learned earlier in the trip that the Rubix cube was created by a Hungarian, so it was an obvious symbol of the country’s pride in their scientific and mathematical development.
Meeting Gabor Bajor, the entrepreneur who founded the Graphisoft company, the park and the Aquincum Institute of Technology was an amazing experience. Despite not being a business or science major, I was fascinated by his story of going from a physics major during the Communist-era Hungary to becoming a successful owner of a leading software firm.
Bajor craved bettering himself and bettering those around him, something that was looked down upon at his workplace under the Communist-style economy. His passion to compete and win made him realize that a free market with private ownership would be the most effective. As he said in his lecture, his goal was to “find people better than the owner.” Luckily, once private firms were legal in Hungary, Bajor jumped at the opportunity.
Bajor’s design company was cutting edge and had a competitive advantage because they were the first to do 3D modeling on PCs. This was easier and cheaper and would allow him to compete in the global market. His plan failed to garner attention from large oil companies and big corporations because they didn’t trust the idea, but Bajor said that architects were the perfect customers, because they are generally poorer and were happy to find such an affordable product.
This kind of business sense really connected with all of us and made me really admire Bajor’s passion for understanding his customers, paying attention to their mistakes and creating a product that serves the market best. Now that he has retired from Graphisoft, Bajor heads the Aquincum Institute of Techonology, which he hopes will train software engineers from abroad and make the school a competitor with American universities. According to Bajor, the 21st century is the century of the knowledge-based economy, so education is where his business mind is focused.
After listening to such a genius, we all had lots to talk about as we chowed down on a delicious pizza lunch in the Graphisoft cafeteria. We got to experience more creativity at the Ady Museum, dedicated to the great Hungarian poet Endre Ady. I had never heard of him before, but once reading through his poems with the guidance of our lecturer, Geza Kallay, I understood why he was so revered.
t was fun to analyze the poetry and discuss them with each other and then try our hand at writing our own poems at the Central Coffee House. Strangely, we had another lunch there, which was meant to be a very very early dinner since we would be later attending a ballet in the evening. Somehow we managed to finish our meal, along with dessert and coffee, as we listened to each other’s hilarious and entertaining amateur poetry.
We had a bit of free time to get ready before the ballet in the evening, but most of us went back to get dressed up since it would be a fancy event. The ballet was nothing short of amazing. We were all given box seats, which gave us not only a great view of the stage but also an air of prestige that is quite uncommon for the average college student.
There were five different performances, but unanimously, the group loved the final performance, entitled Whirling, which featured beautifully executed choreography, hauntingly melancholy music and even rain. The audience was so into the ballet that the applause lasted for over 5 minutes and compelled the dancers to bow over and over again and even come out in front of the curtains once they were already drawn. This was very amusing to my friends and I, because it seemed a tad excessive, but nonetheless, the dancers certainly deserved it after such quality work.
The night ended with ice-cream sundaes at a café outside the opera house and a viewing of the France vs. Mexico soccer game. After such an eventful day experiencing various parts of Hungarian talents, I went to bed quite inspired by the level of cultural immersion we had but also sad that it is almost over.