My name is Klaryssa Pangilinan and this summer I had the opportunity to travel to Hungary and live in the beautiful city of Budapest on a Global Community Development Programme internship for 6 whole weeks through AIESEC UBC. I chose to do an internship through AIESEC UBC because my boyfriend was Team Leader of Africa and Europe at his university last semester and introduced me to AIESEC. After seeing how much he loved the program I was inspired to go on an internship. With the combined help both from him and UBC, it was an easy and enjoyable process.
I had been to Europe before and had already experienced and fallen in love with the beauty of European lifestyle and culture, yet somehow, I didn’t expect Budapest to be such an interesting and beautiful city. Upon arriving in Budapest in the middle of July on a Friday night, I was left alone by my trainee buddy for the whole weekend, not knowing where exactly I was, or knowing anyone else in the city. Budapest, as a less visited and touristy city did not have many English translations around the city (including in their public trams, metro and buses) and few people were able to speak or even understand English; it proved to be a very difficult and lonely weekend. As I had arrived just at the start of the new internships, not many interns had arrived yet and therefore there was a lack of communication from the local committee who had yet to prepare for this new wave of students. I wasn’t going to let this get in my way and ended up messaging my buddy to ask for access to the list of interns and their arrival days, found some on Facebook and invited them to meet up at Starbucks on Monday. I spent my first weekend wandering and exploring this beautiful city by myself and familiarizing myself with my neighbourhood. Luckily I was able to meet up with my boyfriend’s friend from school who was also doing an AIESEC internship in Budapest and even better…was of Hungarian nationality and was fluent in the language! He assisted me in getting Hungarian forints (currency) and getting a phone plan. Monday morning, my buddy was supposed to meet me to bring me to the kindergarten, but late Sunday night, she messaged me to inform me that she was sick and asked if I could find the school alone. So, come Monday morning, I set out to find the kindergarten alone.
The place I had my internship at was called Zϋm-Zϋm International Kindergarten and I worked as an assistant teacher. The address that I had been given was not the correct address. Confused and not sure what to do, I used my new phone plan’s data to look up the kindergarten to get the phone number. I was told that the address had been changed 2 years ago. I then got directions to the new place, which was thankfully just down the street. I made my way to the kindergarten and was introduced to the three teachers and a few of the kids. This would be my workplace for the next 6 weeks.
Over the course of the 6 weeks, I grew close with the three teachers. These three ladies were kind and welcoming, and the children simply adored them. The number of kids varied from day to day and ranged from 11 to 18. At first, it was difficult to communicate with the children without being able to speak or understand their language. I was expecting the children to be around the age of 5 or 6, (which is the age Americans enter kindergarten) but I learned that Europeans refer to kindergarten as daycare and therefore the kids were between 15 months and 4 years old. I love playing and working with children so I did my best to communicate with them through the games or activities that they were doing. By the end of the 2nd week, the kids were able to pronounce my name and I was able to understand common phrases. Throughout those 6 weeks, I learned to get to know those kids, know their reactions to certain situations and learned to love them. They would come up to me, yelling my name just to show me a worm they found while playing outside, or they would randomly sit on my lap. One girl, named Janka who only arrived the 3rd week I was there, immediately took me as her best friend and would walk around the kindergarten just singing my name or saying it non-stop. (Much to the annoyance of the teachers who thought she was a crazy, loud kid!) At first she said “Klarista” and then she learned to say “Kla-ree-sa”. Each kid was different and some took longer to get close to, but by the end of those 6 weeks, each of the kids were comfortable with me and got used to having me around every day.
After meeting my friends at Starbucks that Monday of the first work week, AIESEC Budapest had an “International Integration” Day where all the interns met up and were able to get to know another. My closest friends during my stay there were the ones I had independently met at Starbucks. Two were from New York, one from Portugal and one from Brazil, who I had actually been in contact with through Facebook since April. We met up almost every day and they were the ones who I turned to in times of trouble. We remain in contact through our group message on Facebook and I know that, should I ever find myself in Portugal, Brazil or New York, I will have forever have friends to visit.
I love Budapest. It is now one of my favourite cities in Europe and I will definitely go back there to visit. When you hear about Europe, you mainly hear about cities such as Rome, London or Paris but never Budapest. I think Budapest truly is a hidden gem within Europe and that more people should experience this beautiful city. Before leaving for my internship, I took a self-taught introductory course to learn the Hungarian Language. This was extremely helpful during my first few days and even weeks in Budapest as simple words such as “Szia!” (hello/goodbye) or “köszönöm szépen” (thank you very much) were not strange to me and didn’t leave me dumbfounded when hearing those words on the streets. Introducing myself to the language prior to starting my internship was also a good idea as many of the Hungarians I met appreciated my effort to get to know their culture and language. Throughout my internship, I visited all the tourist places as well as the local neighbourhood in which I lived. Fortunately, I was only about a 20 minute tram ride to the city centre but near the end of my internship, when my metro pass expired, I walked to the city centre from my dorm in about 45 minutes. Despite the unattractive and tasteless food that was provided to me, the lonely first weekend, and the unexpected cold and rainy weather at the end of August, my time in Budapest was one I truly enjoyed and will always remember. I will never forget those little kids and will smile every time I look through my pictures or videos of them and hear their voices and see their cute faces. It wasn’t a perfect internship and it wasn’t even what I had expected the internship to be, but it was an experience I will never forget and gave me memories I will always cherish. I learned so much about Hungarian culture, lifestyle and people and fell in love with a city that I had barely thought twice about before. Thank you AIESEC UBC for providing me with this opportunity to learn more about the world around me!