This past summer, I went to Budapest, Hungary to volunteer in the Summer For Youth program. Like many people going abroad through AIESEC, this was my first time traveling by myself.
I felt a medley of emotions as I made my 10 hour journey across the Atlantic. I was excited to spend the next 6 weeks in a different continent and experience a different culture, but I was also nervous because I knew there would be certain things that I would encounter that I have never experienced before.
When I arrived at the airport I was picked up by two very sweet AIESEC BME members. Fortunately one of the girls had a car and they drove me to the mall to buy last minute items I forgot (like toiletries and a sunhat because there was little no shade outside- something that I struggled with throughout my stay because I am used to cooling shade from the tall buildings in New York City) and then we drove to the dorms where I would reside for the next month and a half. I arrived a few days before the rest of the volunteers in my program so I spent most of my time either exploring Budapest by myself or with one of the AIESEC members from the program. Arriving early gave me a great opportunity to acquaint myself with the city and its transportation and I suggest doing this to anyone going abroad. I was able to help the other volunteers get around once they arrived because Budapest is a small city and I had already familiarized myself with many of the popular locations.
Meeting the other volunteers, or "facis," as they called us at the camp, was a bit awkward at first because we were strangers who had to get used to each other's living habits right away, but this also pushed us to become close to one another in a short amount of time.
We didn't have time for small talk; we jumped straight into deep conversations and because of this we were able to build strong bonds from the start.
After a couple of days to get adjusted, we started our work at the camp. The first few days were one of the most frustrating parts of my experience because the kids, who were aged 13 to 19, were too shy to talk to the facis or with one another, which made our classes very awkward since they were interactive lessons. There was also a big language barrier because many of the students were beginner English speakers. However, by the second week we were able to overcome the awkwardness and we quickly became comfortable with each other.
After the first two weeks of camp we had a break week in which the other facis and I traveled to neighboring countries, such as Germany and Austria, and to other villages in Hungary outside of Budapest.
My favorite place from all my travels was Visegrád, a small village in Hungary where you can find calm waters and an array of green mountains.
After our week off we returned to teach a new group of students at the Summer for Youth camp. This time the other facis and I were prepared and the two weeks went by quickly and smoothly. On the last day of camp we had a Global Village and students from both camp sessions were able to experience food and items from our various countries.
The best part of my experience was getting to know people from all over the world and building long lasting friendships with them. I am still in contact with most of the other facis and a few students from the camp. I am incredibly glad that I went out of my comfort zone to have this experience of a lifetime.
Originally posted January 2016