Each summer the Flinn Scholars Program takes an entire class of Scholars to Budapest, Hungary, and neighboring Slovakia and Serbia for a three-week seminar on the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. Here’s a day-by-day account.
Bethany Vu (’10)
A Light in Distant Dreams
Today began like most of the past few days—full of schedules, suitcases, and rainclouds turned upside down. We woke up from a turbulent but exhilarating night under the streaming sky and continued our journey from the farm to a small town called Sremski Karlovci, where we got to see some ancient architecture, modern sustainable designs, and world-class wine making. Disregarding the exhaustion I had accumulated from one too many nights of living life to the fullest, I poured all of my energy reserves into absorbing as much information as possible from our numerous speakers and guides. However, as interesting as it was to discuss all of these academic topics, I found that the most valuable experience today was our hike—in a completely natural atmosphere apart from the intellectual world.
After touring Sremski Karlovci, we took a hike up Fruska Gora Mountain. I will admit that since the quantity of my muscle mass and threshold for physical strain are equally tiny, this activity was setting itself up to be the worst experience for me thus far on this trip. A group of four or five of us fell pretty far behind and for a while we lost the indispensible Kata, who, upon rejoining our little band remarked huffing and puffing, “Now, we stop hiking and we start surviving.” We were all ridiculously tired and the humidity was only slowing us down further.
In the midst of my mental grumblings, I realized that because our little group had given up everyone else’s break-neck pace, we were noticing more of the natural beauty around us. We were also having more quality time with each other since our breaths weren’t divided between maintaining homeostasis and holding a conversation. We played word games, threw around history and geography trivia like the nerds we’re proud to be, and just delighted in each and every moment.
we walked a grueling forest hike
we waited for the rain to clear
we shared meals on the go
and I became intensely aware of how short our time together on this trip is and how easy it is to get caught up in the program and forget to slow down and just be with each other. We are all fueled by our individual passions for different interests that will soon carry us far away from each other, far away from the Flinn family, and far away from home. I found myself saddened by the very plausible reality that we would never be able to gather everyone for such a bonding experience again.
Now thinking back on the day in my room engulfed by the sound of rain pelting the roof, I am comforted by the fact that each one of us will become something great in the future, and for this one moment we all converged in one time and one place to share this one dream. I probably won’t remember much of that hike today, but I will remember the words and smiles that we exchanged. The Class of 2010 may not remember many of the facts and figures we learned on this trip in the years to come, but we will remember the friendships we solidified.
What will remain in my heart, illuminated by the light of distant dreams, is this:
In the summer of 2011, my dearest brothers and sisters and I went to Central Europe.
And there we walked one path. One journey to grow and develop together. We waited through the stormy challenge of facing the great and terrifying unknown. We shared one pulse, one breath in every experience we shared. And in this brief moment in our lives, we lived one life together, building each other up, and weaving the bonds that would hold us together long after time and space have separated us.