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2 posts from April 2015





Greetings from Budapest!

It is hard to imagine that the semester is coming to an end. Students will take their final exams after next week and we will close this term with a farewell dinner.  A lot happened since our last newsletter, so we would like to share with you some of the highlights.

Excursion to Eger

In March we visited the northern part of the country. The weather could not have been more beautiful and we all enjoyed being able to spend a lot of time outdoors. We discovered the lovely historic town of Eger. Eger is a gem of medieval monuments, home of one the most famous Hungarian fortresses, whose heroes and heroines successfully defended it during the Turkish invasion. Students enjoyed exploring the Fortress of Eger as we made a torch-light tour in the underground Casemates.

Emily’s story: Returning home

Emily shared her story with us about her trip to Veszprém.

“While attending 6th grade at a small Hungarian school in Veszprém, living in Balatonfüred for a year, and periodically vacationing in Hungary, I have developed many family-like relationships with people throughout the country. A few weekends ago I visited one of these dear families in Veszprém. Upon my arrival we decided to take a day-long road trip to see the countryside and Lake Balaton. Our destination was Szalafő, a small town where we learned how pumpkin seed oil is made. The Hungarian countryside is absolutely beautiful; an incredibly peaceful place where the Hungarian culture and importance of relationships can be felt. I am so thankful for welcoming friends who are willing to teach me more about Hungary each time we are together. I will cherish these memories of being with people I love and taking time to revisit the places I have come to call home”

Dylan’s family tree adventure:

“At age eleven, in accordance with a school project, I initiated a dedication to research my family background. That undertaking would spark an interest that carries on to this day. Of what would become probably the biggest passion of my life, genealogy has now carried me to places I never thought I'd go. With the mission to discover my family and learn and preserve the legacies of my ancestors, this hobby has now brought me to learn new languages and travel to distance places. Now, almost ten years later, an interest in my family tree has brought me on the journey of a lifetime. Last weekend I decided to pay a visit to my great-grandfather's home village of Magyarpolány in the Bakony Hills of western Hungary. Growing up I in fact did not know I was Hungarian. My last name had been changed and knowledge of the old country had been lost within my family. It took me years to discover where our roots truly stem from. After realizing I am Hungarian, I have now made it my mission to bring back the language and culture into my family. Now with the opportunity to live in Hungary, my dream is coming true. Traveling to my great-grandfather’s village, the culmination of my undertaking occurred. Upon arrival to this town, I hoped to do research and perhaps track down a living relative. My expectations of discovery were nowhere near what I would indeed find. With the help of some extremely nice locals, I was directed to the house of a woman of eighty-four years old. The grandfather of this woman was my great-great-grandmother's brother. Talking with her I was able to learn about the history and culture of my family, as well as find a true connection to this place. In addition, over the weekend she cooked me traditional Hungarian meals over which we bonded and reconnected as family members. Overall this trip helped me discover a branch of my family I never knew much about. I am very proud to say I am part Hungarian. Although I am American, I still find it important to remember where my ancestors came from. This country holds a rich and fascinating culture and language of which I am eager to embrace. This voyage has been wonderful and I am overwhelmingly grateful to have such an opportunity.” /Dylan, Spring 2015/

DSCN1262Dylan with the sweet old lady, Irén néni in Magyarpolány - highlight of  his family tree research

Western Hungary; Pannonhalma, Tihany, Szentantalfa

Our excursion to western Hungary included a guided visit of the 1100-year old Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma, a World Heritage Site. The Archabbey’s scenery and especially its library amazed our students. After a group lunch in a small town of Veszprémvarsány, we visited Lake Balaton, the “Hungarian Sea”. Though the weather was not very warm, some brave students decided to swim in the lake in Tihany. We closed the day by learning about organic farming as we visited a small family-run winery in Szentantalfa, dating back to the 18th century. We were welcomed warmly, learned a great deal about wine making, and were even were treated to great stories and delicious, home-made biscuits.

3Students at the Hungarian Sea, Lake Balaton

20150410_150110CIEE is everywhere - even in Tihany

Excursion to Transylvania

We traveled to Transylvania, Romania for a 4-days excursion. We visited the beautiful Kalotaszeg region, a special, Hungarian ethnographic area of Transylvania. We lived with local village families, experienced their warm hospitality, enjoyed their delicious, home cooked meals, and witnessed traditional, rural living and folk culture.

All forms of folk art have reached high level of sophistication in the Kalotaszeg region. In Körösfő, it is wood carving, and we visited a local small shop where chess figures are still made by hand.  Our host was happy to show us his skills. We learnt about local customs and traditions inside the beautiful village church where we also saw many beautiful pieces of embroidery made by local women. 

Albert, the chess carver and our students watching attentively

IMG_4516Rio and Tom practicing Hungarian with host children

DSCN1572     A group photo in front of the church of Kőrösfő

DSCN1466Another group photo among the tall cliffs of the Torda Gorge

Weather was summer-like when we arrived in Torda. We hiked through the famous Gorge of Torda, where nature did its best.  Here a mountain is split in the middle and the sight is simply spectacular.

Torockó with the monumental Székelykő (Székely Stone), a three-thousand feet tall rock was another highlight of the trip. Students were full of energy and decided to hike to the top of Székely Stone. The hiking trail was safe, marked clearly, and conditions were just right for this great bonding experience. 

IMG_7083Székelykő is one of the most famous locations in Transylvania. Students loved the sights from the top

With this Newsletter, we say goodbye for now.  We hope our students will leave Budapest with experiences and memories lasting a lifetime and will have the opportunity to share their stories with you.

Best regards,

Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director

Judit Fekete, Resident Coordinator




20150327_142228Dramatic view of the Danube River during our excursion

Greetings from Budapest!

We send you warm greetings from Budapest, where finally spring is on its way. Budapest is at its best when all the trees are in full bloom, flowers are everywhere, and temperatures are warm. Midterm exams are behind us, and so is half of the semester! 

Internship and volunteer work

Students in Budapest are encouraged to spend some of their free time in an internship for credit, or not-for-credit. We consider an internship as major vehicle increase student integration into host culture and to positively impact our local environment. This semester more than two-thirds of the students are engaged in internships! Here are some highlights.

Alexandra, Rachel, Rio, Alex, Natalie and Dylan are assisting English teachers in two local high schools in language classes, where Hungarian students welcome the opportunity to work with native speakers.

The Education Department of the Ministry of Human Capacities is hosting two of our interns. Katie and Emma are engaged there and their tasks include research and editing English-language documents. They are also gaining insight into the daily work of a major government office.

Several students are interning at the Eötvös József College for Advanced Studies. Abigail, Zazu, Kate and Corinne are enjoying tutoring university students and making new friends there.

Emily goes to a shelter once or twice a week to help prepare and distribute food for those women who come in for the night.

Alice and Caroline are interning at Secret Sauce Partners, a start-up company and their tasks involve product management, product marketing, sales support, and market research.

Bryanne is interning at the Hungarian National Gallery where is leading guiding tours of the permanent and temporary exhibitions, and working on translations of the English website.

Jake and Josh are completing an internship for credit at Traction Tribe, which is a tech, dot-com, and healthcare startup traction composer company. Tom is also a for-credit intern in the Ministry of National Economy, while Rowan is interning at Skool, an independent nonprofit organization focused on empowering young women to pursue careers in technology and engineering.  

Read more here about Skool:

American Corner

Shelby is helping in the the American Corner. The AC is an US information center where Shelby has administrative duties.  She helps with program planning and delivers presentations about the US and American culture. Here you can read about her latest American Corner event:

„Getting bored? Get on board! Come join us for a BOARD GAME SESSION once a month. We will play fun board games while developing your English skills and enhanching your vocabulary. Each session will feature a new board game such as Matter of Fact Trivia Challenge, Scrabble or You`ve Been Sentenced - board a game that has received 20 national awards in the United States.  Are you bored? We have the solution for you ”

Ac2Shelby at the American Corner at the Board Game Session

CIEE Alumni – Sophia’s return to Budapest

Sophia participated in the CIEE Budapest program in fall 2013 - and all of a sudden she appeared in the CIEE office last week making a huge surprise! She actually convinced her college that there is no better place to train than Budapest.  She organized the entire trip for 50 members - men and women – of the rugby team of Vassar College. We organized a special Hungarian culture class for the team and they enjoyed learning more about the Hungarian language and culture.

Please read Sophia’s thoughts on her return:

„When I lived in Budapest in Fall 2013, I played for the Budapest Ladies Exiles RFC. Ever since coming back to the States, I have dreamed of being able to bring my two teams together. In August, I started planning Rugby Tour to Budapest, and a week ago my dream came true. This tour has been an incredible week, and I am so grateful to be part of not one but two amazing teams.

Budapest, I'll be back within in the next two years. Count on it.” /Sophia Fall 2013 CIEE Alumni/

Vassar Women actually won in Budapest, please read more here:

1511147_10203709662843804_6199449081661339084_nVassar College’s rugby team in Budapest


Cultural program

We took our students to enjoy a special dance performance in the Palace of Arts in Budapest.

It was the “Song of the Stag”, a dance performance by the Hungarian National Folk Dance Ensemble. It is a modern interpretation of using folk music and dance elements. This is what a student’s impression was after the event:

„I loved how the traditional costumes and movements were put alongside music with seemingly modern rhythms and a modern set. The dancers managed to convey a lot of emotion while remaining technically amazing. I was very impressed!” /Abigail, Spring 2015/

20150325_184001Palace of Arts in Budapest
20150325_184201Rio, Bryanne, Emily, Rachel, Dylan, Zsófi and Abigail are excited to see Song of the Stag dance performance

Danube Bend Excursion

On our very first group excursion we visited two beautiful and historically significant cities, Esztergom and Visegrád. First, we travelled to Esztergom, which is the birthplace of Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen and a former medieval capital of Hungary, and also the seat of the Hungarian Catholic Church. Esztergom basilica the country’s first, Europe's third largest church, and the 18th biggest church in the world. The altarpiece is the largest painting in the world painted on a single piece of canvas, depicting the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Michelangelo Grigoletti.

The historical town, Visegrád is located in the Danube bend region. The city has always had an important strategic role in the Hungarian history. It used to be Hungary’s capital and an important diplomatic center: The first royal summit of the central European countries was held here in the 14th century, and a new Visegrád Treaty was signed here again in 1990.  


On our way to the Basilica of Esztergom, Hungary’s largest church

1Spring 2015 Students enjoying the view on top of the Fortress in Visegrád (Fellegvár)

20150327_145551Abigail on top of the Fortress in Visegrád with the Danube Bend in the background

Best regards,

Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director

Judit Fekete, Resident Coordinator