By Anurag Thakur, Volunteer from Indore
“At first look, it seems like a short program of merely 13 days but when I look back and recall my learning and experiences gained throughout the program then I must say that I learned a lot. We spent the initial days at Budapest and interacted with local AFS volunteers, got to know about little but handy conversational tips in Hungarian language; peeped in Hungarian history, lifestyle, culture, social behavioral pattern, historical sites, architecture, etc.
To interact more with local culture, we moved to Balassagyarmat chapter. Here we visited Holloko (a Paloc ethnographic village in Hungary and a UNESCO World Heritage Site). We witnessed traditional Hungarian village and pristine landscapes of Europe and traditional handicrafts. We also visited a school at Modry-Kamen in Slovakia and gave presentation about our country and AFS India. Presenting about our country overseas in itself gives a feeling of pride. We also visited a castle, its museum and an ice-cream cone manufacturing unit. Last but not the least is the warm hospitality by our host family. Our learning journey proceeded to Miskolc, our second chapter. On the way we halted at Iger and visited a school and the famous university where the astronomical museum and dark room experience was stunning. At Miskolc, we visited a school where we enjoyed local music & dance. We also met the Mayor and came to know about the education system there. All the seven of us were hosted by one family so it was a nice family time together like we have in India at our homes during occasions, we also discussed about history, culture and lifestyles. The hosts were also eager to know about ours. We enjoyed different Hungarian cuisines.
Lastly, we visited Nyireghyaza, our last chapter. For other group members it might be just another chapter, but I was excited to meet my host brother (Mr. Gabor, whom I hosted in Oct 2017). For me, it was like coming to my brother’s place. Here we visited Neo Toy factory, Tokaji Vineyards (the Tokaji Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2002.) and a few schools. We also collectively cooked Indian meal for our hosts at one of our host’s house.
I would like to highlight here what I gained from the program. Besides learning cultural aspects, historical information, social factors; the program helped me out in re-discovering myself. Like, I have tried some new things there especially in cuisines but the important change I felt in myself is my attitude towards new encounters. Earlier I used to stick to my choices but there I willingly adapted to try new offerings. I think this change will help me out in becoming a better human being. Secondly, I have been successful in finding families for life-time in a foreign land. Earlier I was in touch with my host brother only but now I have connections with his full family. My host brother stays separately but his family invited me for a dinner. We all had a good time and the family invited me for dinner again on the last night of our stay. Though we had to catch early morning train at 4:45 on next day still we talked for long hours after dinner. Besides, I am having one more family there.
I would like to thank AFS India for enriching me with this lifelong experience. Last but not the least, I am thankful to my school The Emerald Heights International School for showing faith in me to be the part of this program.”