How a Study Abroad Semester is Different from a Semester in Charleston by Troy Brennan

With my semester just about to finish as I am writing this, I wanted to talk about how a study abroad semester is different from a normal semester in Charleston. Obviously, my view is specific to the experience in Budapest and will vary from other universities in different countries. The first thing to note is that you are entering into a new culture that you most likely have not experienced at all or to the depth that a semester will give you. Everyone reacts differently to culture shock, and it is important to figure out how you react to new cultures. For me, I never felt out of place in Budapest as they are very welcoming to Americans and native English speakers. I experienced more culture shock in parts of Northern Italy where it did not feel like they wanted to speak English or talk to you. Saying this, you are in a different country and have to realize they do not have to speak your language. Think about when Europeans visit the US and must speak English to get around anywhere, the average American does not speak a second language to be able to help a Hungarian trying to order food. People are proud of their culture and language is part of that.

As for studies go, my university had a different method of teaching than schools in the US do. For starters, I only had classes Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I only had a one or two assignments throughout the semester that I was supposed to do myself. Most of my grade came from group projects and presentations that were typically due at midterms and end of term. This left the homework level very low but in day where projects were due work really picked up. With my university hosting people from all over the world, all of the classes were taught in English, and it was expected that you were close to fluent. Being a native speaker had advantages as I would not have to translate into English as I gave presentations. Saying this, the professors never gave students a hard time if their sentence structure was off or they did not know a specific word.

The culture behind school is very different as well. For instance, throughout the Erasmus system, their version of ‘study abroad’ there are chapters of Erasmus students at each city and school. I was in the Erasmus Student Network group which held events once or twice a week for students to all go to. This could be anything from a pub crawl to walking dogs in the park. The main goal being to get students together and talking. With everyone in the network wanting to meet people it made talking to people you have never met incredibly easy.

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