As a double major in computer science and physics, I didn’t think I’d have time to study abroad. But math professor Professor Karen Saxe advised me that there would always be time and proceeded to tell me about the AIT-Budapest program.
It proved to be an excellent choice. I lived in the center of the Pest side of Budapest and studied at AIT (Aquincum Institute of Technology), an exchange program run through the Budapest School of Economics and Technology. Studying at AIT allowed me to take additional classes in my major, such as data mining and complex networks, while experiencing life abroad. My courses in Budapest were taught by leaders in their respective fields, such as Ernő Rubik, the inventor of the Rubik’s cube.
Budapest is similar to the Twin Cities in that it is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, split by the Danube. The Buda side is more touristy, with the beautiful Buda hills and the large castle. Pest, on the other hand, is a vibrant, traditional Hungarian city, and living in its center meant that I was surrounded by an active night life and great food. Hungary has some wonderful traditional dishes; my favorite is csirke paprikash, which is chicken in a thick sauce made with paprika, sour cream, flour, and the oils leftover from cooking the chicken. It’s served with nokedli, which are thick, fried noodles.
Because Budapest is in the center of Europe, I was only about two hours by train from Vienna, and four from Prague. Also, both Ryanair and Wizz Air (extremely cheap airlines) fly from Budapest, so tickets to places like Greece, Belgium, and Germany cost as little as 10 Euros.
The idea of living in a city where I had never even heard the language was intimidating at first. I took an intensive two-week Hungarian course before school started, and the adjustment was fairly easy because most people speak English reasonably well and most of my classes were held in English.