Chain Bridge, Budapest

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In The Beginning...

Hello from San Antonio, Texas. This post marks the start of my travel blog for my study abroad in Budapest, Hungary for the Spring 2010 semester. I figure now is a good time to begin blogging since my imminent departure for Eastern Europe just became very evident, and also increasingly more interesting to read about. Yesterday, my passport returned from the Hungarian Consulate in New York City. Inside was my Hungarian student visa/residence permit stamp. One big bureaucratic hurdle has been overcome, but there are more to follow once I get to Budapest. First, however, let me enlighten everyone with the background to my upcoming semester abroad.

I'm a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. I'm pursuing two separate degrees: a B.S. in Pure Mathematics and a B.A. in English. Thanks to my AP tests and dual credit classes at Health Career's High School in San Antonio, I'm only a few courses away from finishing both degrees. I have no clue what field or career I want to enter into once I finish school, but right now I'm planning to go to graduate school for mathematics, though I don't know if I want to pursue a master's degree or a Ph.D or even switch to statistics altogether. Enter the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics Program ( Its a program for American and Canadian undergraduate math majors to study pure math in Budapest under quality Hungarian professors in English. It started in the 1980's and has made a name for itself in the math community.

I first heard about it from my freshman linear algebra professor, Bart Goddard, when I asked him about extra math stuff I could do outside of class. He said that for freshman undergraduates without a Ph.D it was slim pickens, but that I should look into studying math in Hungary. I was a freshman at the time and had been seriously considering changing my major to something in liberal arts, so the idea to learing math in Eastern Europe with a bunch of over-committed math people didn't appeal to me. Of course, three years later I have since become one of these math people, and have made several math major friends who do happen to enjoy natural sunlight. So in the nick of time before graduation, I applied for and was accepted to the Budapest Semester Math program and look forward to meeting more math people overseas.

Great! Now for the details. There are over 70 students attending the program this semester, which is the most there has ever been for a Spring semester. The university where I'll be learning is the Technical University of Budapest, which is somewhere in the city. There aren't any dorms available for us, so we have the option of living in an apartment in the city or with a host family in the suburbs. I requested an apartment, though nothing is guaranteed. I'll be paired up with 2-3 roommates who are also in the program. I find out about my living situation and roommates upon arrival in Budapest. I'm arriving in Budapest on January 15, a few days before an optional two-week intensive Hungarian language course begins. The math classes are taught in English, and I've heard many people in Budapest speak English, but it won't hurt to learn as much Hungarian as possible. The actual math classes start in early February and finish at the end of May. I'm planning to travel a bit around Europe in June before I come home to Texas.

The anticipation for the trip has been temporarily overshadowed, however, by the also very exciting upcoming winter break adventure. My university's football team, the Texas Longhorns, will be playing for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena, California on January 7th. Last week, I was able to buy a ticket off of a fraternity brother, so the trip of a lifetime will soon be underway. I'm planning to drive to Pasadena with some fellow brothers of my fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi. I also promised myself a month ago that before I left America I would climb Mount Guadelupe, the highest point in Texas. Mount Guadelupe is on the way to California, so hopefully I'll be able to incorporate it into my trip to the championship game.

That's the backstory in a nutshell. Sorry if it made for boring reading. Hopefully future posts will be more exciting. California and Budapest should provide interesting material. Adios.