When I came to Budapest for my Erasmus semester, I didn´t know much about the political situation in Hungary. I knew that the government was national-conservative, but I had no exact idea about what was politically going on in Hungary, especially about how the politics affect the Hungarian student life.
Now as I am here I got to know more about this of course. As I am an exchange student, I meet a lot of people from other countries, so I was glad to get in touch with Hungarian students who could tell me about the situation, as of course you don´t learn about this when you are just with exchange students. So I was told about the difficult situation in Hungrarian Universities – especially at ELTE university, where just recently budgets had been cut by 25 per cent so that a lot of people had to lose their jobs.
What I found most astonishing was the change of a law which forces students to stay in Hungary after graduation for double the time of their studies if they have received money by the government to finance their studies. In my country, this is simply unimaginable – especially as this stands in contrast to the policies of the EU. Also other aspects astonished me: the recent disempowerment of the constitutional court, the big popularity of the extremist and antisemitic party, Jobbik and the change of the media law which makes it easier for the government to control and direct media (which is also one of the reasons why Hungary was voted number 56 in this year´s ranking of press freedom).
I think this is incredible and I wonder how it could come to this. Nevertheless, when I thought about all this, it showed me the special status you have as an Erasmus student: It is possible to enjoy the positive aspects of the country, the city and the stay – but even if politics for people in the country are getting worse – it doesn´t affect you. In fact, being an exchange student in Hungary feels like being ´invisible´: You don´t have to worry about serious issues like politics as they don´t affect you. On the other hand, I think this is the same for any other exchange student in any other country.
Most Hungarian students I talked to told me that they would not like to stay in Hungary after finishing their studies, either because of the politics or because it is easier to earn more money in other countries. Also, one of my teachers told me that in the last three years about 500,000 young, mostly well-educated people left the country to work somewhere else. Considering what I got to know about the politics in Hungary, I can understand this. On the other hand, I was told this is making the situation even worse as the people that leave are mostly the people that could change something about the situation.
It can feel strange sometimes just enjoying the time in a place where others might be worrying about politics and rather use their free time to take place in demonstrations for better education policy. Nevertheless, I don´t think that everybody is unsatisfied, because most people I talked to agreed in one aspect: namely that in European – and especially German – media reports about Hungary are very one-sided; students told me that positive aspects about Hungarian politics or any other positive changes in Hungary are never mentioned, but negative aspects are very emphasized. Although this would mean an unprofessional reporting of German media – I hope what these students say is right.
by Daniel Marx