What to do on a rainy Wednesday afternoon? Just get together with your friends for coffee in Csendes and talk about life, especially if your friends are new in Budapest and come from another culture. Daniel Marx and Sarah Schäfer are Erasmus students from Germany studying at ELTE for six months. What are they up to during this time period? That’s what we wanted to know.
How old are you?
Sarah: We are 22.
What do you study?
Daniel: In Germany, it’s called Media and Cultural Studies.
Sarah: And we both have minors. Daniel’s is economics, mine is psychology.
What other courses do you do besides cultural blogging?
Daniel: We’ve got a Hungarian language course, and we also have a pretty interesting Journalism course, led by an important Hungarian Journalist.
Sarah: I have those three as well, but I also attend Film Analysis and Adaptation and Intermediality.
In which sections of the blog can readers find your articles?
Daniel: In the ‘Secret spots’-section.
Sarah: Mine is ‘What can you do with 1000 forints?’
Are there any differences between the two universities?
Daniel: In Cologne, the classes are really crowded. There are generally 50 or 70 people at seminars so we don’t have to participate so much. It’s nice that we have smaller groups here.
Sarah: Yes, and it’s really hard to get feedback there.
Daniel: And university buildings are more beautiful here. In Cologne, everything looks the same, they are all made out of concrete.
Why did you choose Hungary?
Daniel: I didn’t know much about Eastern Europe so I found it interesting. The city is said to the Paris of the East, very beautiful, and I think that’s why. I want to discover the city and learn as much about the culture as possible.
Sarah: I’ve been here before. Two or three years ago I did an internship at a German-speaking newspaper. I really liked the city so I wanted to come back.
What have you heard about Hungarians?
Sarah: Other Erasmus students told me that Hungarian people are really unfriendly and would never come and talk to you but I don’t share that experience. I knew some Hungarian people before and they were all really nice and caring.
What can you say so far in Hungarian?
Daniel: I can say szia, köszönöm, sör, bor…
Sarah: Also jó reggelt, jó napot, jó estét… I think finom is tasty.
So the most important words.
Daniel: Yeah, but the pronunciation is a bit difficult.
Would you like to learn the language?
Sarah: Yes, we would love to learn the basics like asking for coffee or the right direction. Luckily, the language course starts next week. It’s going to be 1.5 hours per week.
Daniel: I’m excited how much we will learn. Many people say that the language course doesn’t give you too much, but I hope we’ll learn a little bit more than just repeating phrases because it would be stupid if, for example, we couldn’t even order something in a restaurant in Hungarian by the end of the semester.
You can also learn a lot of things from local people. What are your experiences concerning that? How many people have you met who can speak English or German?
Sarah: I think the older people speak German, almost every one of them. Bus drivers and people selling you tickets know the basic words, but can’t really speak English.
Daniel: I think it’s a little bit of a problem that as an Erasmus student you meet mostly international people and not many Hungarians. The only Hungarian I know is my mentor.
And now us. Do you both have a mentor?
Sarah: Yes, we do. But we were surprised as everyone we knew had a mentor, and we thought the system works well but then we heard that no one else had mentors.
Daniel: In the beginning it’s really good. They can pick you up at the airport and help you with the basics.
Do you think it is possible to do something about the fact that Erasmus students only get to know each other and don’t really get in touch with local people?
Daniel: I think it’s normal, because we are in the same situation. I don’t know if people from Hungary are interested in getting to know us…
Sarah: And our lifestyles are very different, I mean that they have to study more than us. And it is also true for sightseeing, you already know everything.
What kinds of places have you seen so far in Budapest, tourist attractions or more alternative places?
Daniel: I haven’t seen much yet, I have been to the other side of the river, Buda, but the places I really want to see are the Heroes Square, Margit Island and Gellért hill. But I’ve seen quite much of the Jewish quarter.
That’s where the ruin pubs are! Do the Erasmus coordinators organize parties for you? Is Kazinczy street the hotspot? Which one’s your favourite ruin pub?
Daniel: Yes, they do. I like Szimpla very much, but it’s very touristy, there are better and cheaper places. We’ve been to Fogasház as well.
Sarah: I really don’t know the names, but I like Szimpla too, all the old furniture. You can do a lot off stuff there: you can drink, eat, or there’s this huge screen so you can also watch movies. I’ve been to Instant, I liked it too, but it was very crowded.
Daniel: We don’t have so many alternative places in our city.
Sarah: We have one which looks like a flat, it’s very nice but it’s always crowded.
Is Cologne a student city?
Daniel: There are many students in the city, there’s like one street near the university with many bars, usually filled up with students, but elsewhere in the city it’s totally mixed.
How do you have fun in Cologne, what do you do when you go out with your friends?
Daniel: Usually we meet at some place, for example at a friend’s place and go out then. I also like going to concerts, as almost every artist on tour stops in Cologne.
Sarah: I think the difference is that here we want to try out as many places as possible and in Cologne we meet at a friend’s place and then we go to a club. We know only like 10 places in Cologne, and we always go there.
Do you plan to do sports, or pursue your hobbies here in Budapest?
Sarah: When I was here before I used to jog on Margit Island and it was very nice, but I’ll have to wait until the weather turns better.
Daniel: I’m a bigger fan of soccer, and I heard there’ll be a derby Ferencváros vs. Újpest next weekend, I’d like to visit it.
Will you visit the countryside? Have the organizers planned any excursions for you?
Daniel: We went to Gödöllő, and we want to do other trips as well. It is also cheaper if you organize it for yourselves.
Sarah: Yes, in the summer we’d like to go and check out Lake Balaton. We also plan a weekend trip to Slovenia, and I really want to visit Vienna as well.
When did you arrive and when are you planning on leaving?
Sarah: We arrived 3 weeks ago, and I think I’m going to leave at the end of June, or maybe in the middle of July.
Daniel: After the semester I’d like to do an internship for a German newspaper and then leave around the end of August.
Thank you very much for the interview, it was really interesting!
by Zsuzsa Varga and Zsuzsanna Linka