Each summer an entire class of Flinn Scholars engages in a group study-travel seminar. This year’s seminar, held in Hungary and western Romania, runs from late in May to mid-June. Here’s a day-by-day account.
Julia King (’11)
The days here are very long. And not just, “Wow, what a long day” sort of long….more like “Three-lectures-in-one-day-and-then-how-about-a-four-hour-hike-followed-by-a-two-hour-tour-of-the-city” long. So after 12 of these days, it was more than a little bit relieving to have a free morning in Budapest. And where better to spend two free hours than at the Budapest Zoo with my esteemed colleague Eric Chang?
Right next to the zoo are the Szecheny Baths, where doctors actually send women to who are having difficulties getting pregnant; whatever minerals are in the water have been hailed for their ability to restore fertility for many the happy Hungarian mother. This particular jewel of information wouldn’t have applied to Eric and I at the zoo, except for the fact that the water pumped into the baths is the exact same water given to all of the animals at the Budapest Zoo. I have never seen so many baby animals in my life.
After petting camels, goats, and even a sloth, Eric and I headed back to the hotel in order to pack up with the group and leave for Romania. The six hour drive included a loaf of ice cream, a flat tire, a dog determined to eat our soccer ball, and more than a bag or two of our favorite Hungarian snack, Duci Puffs. With six hours being the same length of my typical annual drive to San Diego with my family at this time of year, I also had plenty of time to realize how far I am from home.
So do I think that we are succeeding in one of the main goals of this trip, to teach us how to become independent travelers? At first glance, it probably wouldn’t look like it. We will never again get to travel in a group of 20 plus. We will never have these people to rely on to always have a map and follow aimlessly wherever they may lead. We will never have a bus driver to drive forwards, backwards, and upside-down in order to deliver us from city to city in one piece.
But the herd that this trip set us up with can’t be condemned too fast. These are the kids that we learned how to do bathtub-laundry with; they are the ones that helped devise a system for figuring out which stray dogs should be avoided and which are okay to pet (mostly the only factor in this evaluation is cuteness, but if anyone asks, no of course we didn’t find any that met the standards because obviously petting stray dogs if just way to dangerous and risky); these kids invented the “gelato crawl,” treating every dinner-on-you-own (doyo) opportunity like a five course gelato meal.
So at this point, we still look like goofy tourists when we travel altogether, looking far from independent. But in less than two weeks, this trip ends and the herd will be dispersed, some of us venturing out on our own immediately, some preparing still for future travels. We won’t have the comfort of our giant group. But we will also remember how NOT to get rabies, how to always smell clean and shiny, and how to never go hungry. Sounds like a successful set of skills so far to me!