My Balassi Experience in 2007-8
By Sharon Toldy
Szia! (Hello in Hungarian.) My name is Sharon Toldy and I was delighted to receive a ten-month scholarship at the Balassi Institute in Budapest, Hungary. I attended this school from September 2007- June 2008 and learned the Hungarian language. At the beginning of the program I had to write a language assessment exam in order to assess the level my Hungarian was at and surprisingly was placed with the advanced class. My parents, along with my older brother, were all born in Hungary and therefore we all spoke Hungarian at home but, not always as I was stubborn a lot of the time and spoke English instead. I was able to read the language (because of the fact that I belonged to the Csardas Hungarian Dancers of Edmonton and we had to learn the words to numerous songs) and write at an intermediate level (I kind of taught myself with a little bit of help from my mother) at the beginning of my scholarship. I also had the advantage that I had taken an intermediate level Hungarian language course at the University of Alberta. I was placed in the advanced class with students from all over the world. Most of my classmates were from the USA and therefore in the beginning we spoke English in between classes and when socializing in the evenings. This definitely was a drawback, as it was easier to just speak English to one another. I’m sure our teachers were frustrated when they heard us refrain from speaking Hungarian on our spare time! But, at the end of my scholarship term, I was speaking, writing, and reading in Hungarian fluently. I passed the European Consortium Language exam at the advanced level with good grades. I was so proud of myself for accomplishing such a hard task.
My scholarship at Balassi was the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life thus far! I met people from all over the world, from countries such as Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Spain, Holland, Australia, Venezuela, Uruguay, the USA and of course some fellow Canadians. I became such good friends with so many people. I was able to travel with the school for 4 days to parts of Hungary I had never seen before, as well as a magnificent 10-day trip to Romania. My classmates and I made unreal memories that will never be forgotten. The first picture I have included here is of my friends and I
(from L to R, Fanni from Ottawa, Bea from Caracas, Venezuela, myself, and Alyssa from Hamilton), on our trip in Romania at a beautiful castle and the second is of us
(from L to R, Larissa from Los Angeles, myself, Alyssa and Fanni) when we were hiking in the mountains of Romania. The third picture is of us girls
(from L to R, Bea, myself, Larissa, and Alyssa) out for dinner in Budapest.
I made such amazing friends whom I still keep in touch with and miss very much. We have talked about possibly planning a reunion together and meeting somewhere that is relatively close for all of us girls.
During my scholarship, we lived right on campus on the Buda side of the capital city of Hungary. We lived in a very beautiful, safe and great area up on Gellert Mountain. The view from my dormitory bedroom was unreal, as I saw the famous Mattyas Church and Buda Castle. Each of us had one or two roommates and our room consisted of a desk, bed, bookshelf, lots of storage/closet space, and bathroom with shower. We had access to a laundry room, cafeteria (which had really yummy food and always a different menu each day) and library. My program consisted of courses taught in Hungarian which included language, art history, geography, history, theatre, ethnography, literature, etc. The more advanced level group was offered option classes, along with the required courses that had to be taken throughout the 10-months. The beginner and intermediate level programs did not have so many classes to take, as Hungarian is a very difficult language to learn.
All in all, my time at Balassi Institute was outstanding and has changed me in many ways. I have met so many kinds of people from all sorts of countries, I have lived in my parents’ and brother’s home country and experienced what is it like to live and think like a Hungarian and I have travelled to many countries in Europe. I would recommend this program for anyone and everyone and I can guarantee they will have no regrets!