Each summer the Flinn Scholars Program takes an entire class of Scholars to Budapest, Hungary, and neighboring Romania for a three-week seminar on the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. Here’s a day-by-day account.
Jennifer Chen (’09)
This has been a summer of many firsts. This was my first trip to Europe, my first time traveling with so many students my age, my first experience in homestay, my first time consuming gelato on a bi-hourly basis, and my first time seriously contemplating the minority issues surrounding other countries.
Today was reflection day on the bus ride back from Balaton to Budapest. As a class we were asked for our opinions regarding the latest visit to the Roma village. For an ethnic group that is shrouded in suspicion by the locals, they were extremely welcoming of our class. I found it amazing how quickly they accepted our hodgepodge group of students into their family. As the discussion continued, we hit a roadblock when trying to identify or characterize both the Roma and Hungarian people. While it is clear that the two ethnic groups are segregated, the solution is not as apparent. Who was right? Who was wrong? Where does the root of the problem lie, and what can we as people do to improve the situation?
These were all very heavy issues that seemed much too complex to fully comprehend, at least for me. I mean, if there has not been a solution in all these years, who are we to prescribe a course of action within our first week in Hungary? Nevertheless, Ravi summed it up quite simply noting that people must recognize each other as people, not as a member of one political party, cultural background, or religious affiliation. Rather than point out the differences, people must find the common ground they walk upon in order to take a step towards a better future, and each person is essentially linked by this sense of humanity. It was a beautiful thought, really.
After the bus reflections, we arrived at the Bartok house for a tour, lecture, and concert. The tour encompassed all aspects of Bartok’s life and exhibited his most arbitrary possessions (i.e. his cigarette stub and insect collection). The lecturer was wonderfully energetic as he danced and sang throughout his presentation. Following his presentation was a concert comprised of Bartok’s pieces. The contemporary music was quite an experience where the piano was more rhythmic and percussive than traditional piano pieces. While the music was interesting, it was a little too modern for my tastes.
Later that night we went out as a class to celebrate Ben’s 19th birthday. (I’ll save that story for him to tell, though.) Then again, I don’t think that Ben’s the only one who’s grown. I think that we’ve all grown a lot as a class through out this trip.