Credit: Kamil Porembiński
COLA:Tell us a bit about yourself. (Major, hometown, interests, etc.)
Ryan Doonan: I’m a senior, History and Justice Studies major with a minor in Forensic Science. Before going to Hungary, my only travel experience was going Florida for a week in middle school, so needless to say this a lot of traveling at once, which was great because I’m not sure if I’ll get another chance to see Europe. As for interest, I’m into music, movies, reading, writing, stuff like that.
COLA: Why did you choose the Budapest Justice Studies program?
Ryan: Budapest is a good blend of the foreign and the familiar. I wanted to go somewhere that was different so I could see the world from a different perspective but if the place was too foreign, I was worried I would have difficulty adjusting. I hear some places like the UK are too similar to the US and going to the Far East may have been too much all at once. Central Europe will cause a change in perspective but most people can adjust to it. And in terms on the Justice Program, it’s interesting to see how black and white concepts such as the law and the legal system are done differently.
Credit: Mathias Apitz (München)
COLA: How did you finance your semester in Budapest? (How did you fund your time abroad?)
Ryan: The Trout Scholarship made things much easier. I recommend applying for it if you meet the basic requirements. Finding a professor to write a recommendation and putting a handful of hours into the essay is worth it. I also worked as much as possible before I left and was very, very frugal in the weeks leading up to the trip. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to enjoy yourself but you going on too tight of a budge may lead to more stress than fun.
COLA: How was it being immersed in a new language? Did you pick it up from them and how did it affect your day-to-day life?
Ryan: Hungarian is a very unique language. It’s not romantic, nor Germanic so it will come extremely foreign at first, to most people. I would say my language skills were between a mute and a cave man. I learned basic nouns and phrases so if they didn’t speak English, (which was fairly rare because most of them did) I could try to convey what I needed. We took a very brief, survival Hungarian class that give us an overview of some basic phrases and pronunciation. In terms of it affecting my daily life, context was huge. I was never able to pull to many word from my head but I was surprise by how much I knew once there was some context to it.
COLA: What will be your best memory of being in Budapest?
Ryan: Best memory may have been seeing a string orchestra performance. It wasn’t too expensive and it was very enjoyable. Didn’t have to worry about the language barrier at all because its music. There are some theatrical performances but only so many of them are accompanied with a monitor that displays the words in English. The performance was just the right length, it never dragged on and the music choice was paced in a manner that kept you interested. Only regret is that I wish I went to more, sooner. One of the guys did a solo performance on a cello and it was sick.
COLA: Did you have a chance to explore Budapest and other cities in Hungary?
Ryan: I saw a good deal of Budapest, once you get comfortable with the public transport it’s easy to get around. It’s tempting to plan trips every weekend but it’s easy to forget there is a lot to see under your nose. I went out of the city a few times. Once to Lake Balaton, in the beginning of the semester. Another time to I went Edgar, a small town that was the sight of a medieval battle against the Turks hundreds of year ago. The other time I went to a small town near the outskirts of Budapest to see some Roman ruins.
COLA: How has it been readjusting to life in Durham?
Ryan: It hasn’t been too hard. Most of the readjusting happened when I initially arrived back in the US. By the time spring semester started, I was pretty well adjusted. I do miss the convenience of Budapest, be able to get anywhere around the city with public transport is nice. The readjusting process is bittersweet, there are a lot of things you’ll appreciate more about being in Durham, and a lot things you’ll miss.