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.
Laura Moedano (’10)
Although a few days have passed since the first ever Flinn Hungerbia adventure began, some of the feelings felt upon landing in Europe remain. Sadness from being away from my parents and missing my sister’s college graduation, uncertainty about what to expect of the two weeks that remain of this pioneering experience, but most importantly, excitement for the month in Europe provided with the opportunity to grow and learn invaluable travel and life lessons along with my friends, classmates, Fliblings.
Today was the morning after our first European homestay. The local places visited and bonding that characterized last night while in the company of my fellow Flinn class and their hosts were definitely memorable. However, the conversation had this morning with my host was particularly enlightening. Peter, a mathematics graduate student at the local University, had hosted before. Surprisingly the previous Scholars in my position were Adam Martinez, a fellow Cibola High School graduate, and Lauren Johnston, an ’09 scholar who has become one of my dearest friends.
It was during this conversation that I considered the commonality that is shared among the Flinn Scholars of every class who have been provided with the opportunity to travel on the Central European Seminar together. Each class has known about it since the application process and heard the inside jokes and endless stories at the annual retreat from the Hungaromania returnees. However, landing in Budapest, carrying my luggage up an endless amount of stairs, and taking multiple unsolicited tours of entire towns due to my inability to consult a map didn’t provide nearly as much insight as I found this morning while drinking carbonated water–which I’m not a big fan of–and a sub that resembled a pizza pocket.
It was interesting to consider that a year prior my friends were staying in this exact apartment yet had a completely different experience while here. To a greater extent, the idea that long established friendships between the Flinn Foundation and countless European institutions and individuals at the various cities visited the past 10 years is incredible and quite a grand thing to consider.
Upon leaving Budapest, we traveled to Godollo Castle while in route to Bratislava, Slovakia. The castle, with its rich history, multiple secret staircases, and interesting tour guide proved to be so enjoyable. Unexpected rain resulted in our planned picnic becoming lunch in the castle, an added bonus. After the rain subsided, we returned to the bus as we continued towards Slovakia.
After the first few days’ fast paced and tightly packed agenda, we all welcomed a few hours of relaxation. While we were still exhausted, the time in the bus during our travel to Szigetkoz allowed for rest, napping, and processing of all the information gained through the tours, lectures, and great people met along the way.
This reflection was a great way for everyone to contribute insight on the varying viewpoints had towards the many different events attended. Recalling the initial home stay experience, the synagogue visit, being introduced to many issues relating to the Roma minority population, and incidents some of us had during our free time allowed us all to consider emotions felt by each of us after finding ourselves in circumstances never previously exposed to.
Less than a week has passed, yet looking ahead, I am excited for all that I will gain from what remains of the trip. I have realized that while most of us miss loved ones left back home, this truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should be experienced without holding anything back. Something that has already become apparent is the level of closeness that characterizes the 2010 Flinn class, which I am truly grateful for. We coined the term “Flibling” and epitomize its meaning, in every sense of the word. With a bond this strong, the remainder of the first ever Hungerbia experience can’t possibly be anything less than epic.