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April 4, 2013

Second host family makes Hungary feel like home

By Grace Heneghan
Cooperstown Crier

---- — I have been living in Hungary for nearly seven months. It’s hard to believe that I will soon be a “rebound,” for this year was a blur. I feel that I’m ready to start the transition for preparing to come home. I love Hungary, but I’ve started to come to terms with inevitable. I have learned so much this year and am so grateful to my parents and Rotary for giving me this opportunity.

I mentioned in my last article, that I will have to change families and schools again in the beginning of April. Since then I’ve learned that I will have to also have to move towns. I will be living about 45 minuets outside of Budapest in a town called Budaörs. I have mixed feelings about this. For one thing, I will miss my current host family terribly. They are still as loving as when I first met them and if anything, even more affectionate. I think my host parents consider me as their real daughter. I feel that changing schools isn’t such a bad thing, just annoying. I will have to go through the whole process of being the new kid again and make friends. I know I will be fine, but I get tired thinking about it. I am excited to meet new people and explore my new surroundings though.

I now feel ready to talk about my first host family and the huge impact they had on my exchange.

In my last home, I was uncomfortable, lonely, unhappy, and felt alienated. I tried to reach out to my counselor, but I feel as if that just made things worse. School was my safe haven, filled with friends and teachers who embraced the differences in our cultures instead of treating them as flaws.

I still get upset when ever I think about the first few months of my life in Hungary. I still flinch when I remember trying to have conversations with my host father, mostly awkward and usually ending in him offending me in some way. I still have episodes, though not often now, of where I feel as if I’m being crushed, when I have no self-esteem. I will admit that I have made some mistakes while with my last hosts and they were going through a difficult time, but I think that’s why it took me so long to realize how miserable I really was.

I can’t help but compare my current host family to my old one and how different the atmospheres are. My host mom tells me every week that she is glad she has a daughter now. I can talk about politics and Hungarian history with my host dad and have a great time. My host brother and I get along, and he helps me when I need it. My host parents defend me when my counselor brings up things my last family complained about. 

Even though I’ve made mistakes with them, I feel that they trust me and they know I trust them. When ever I slipped up or forgot to do something, my last family would shut me out. They wouldn’t tell me what exactly I did wrong even when I asked them about it; they just acted like I should know. Sometimes my host father would say things about the United States or about me that I found offensive. At one point, and I think I mentioned this in one of my past articles, I told my host father and explained how certain things he said hurts my feelings. He apologized and said that wasn’t his intention, and all was good for about two weeks. Then the jokes came back. Honestly I could rant on about this for hours, but it gets depressing thinking about it.

I do think it was good for me to have experienced what I went through with my first family. What it was like to be surrounded 24/7 by people who didn’t like me. I know that it sounds weird, but I learned so much about myself and how to heal. I learned to fully love who I am, inside and out, no matter what others thought. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. I do feel stronger.

This Saturday some of my family is coming to visit and I’m very excited! I can’t wait to see them. Now if only they could bring our dog.

Hungarian is one of the hardest languages in the world. Seriously, Google “hardest languages to learn” and Hungarian is always in the top 10 next to Arabic and Japanese. Even the locals I’ve talked to tell me not to even bother to try; it’s a “waste of time.” My host brother said it would be a miracle if anyone could Hungarian fluently in five years, much less one year. So what I’m trying to say is that I’m not fluent, not even close. I have learned much though; more that I would have in a classroom setting. I know basic things and can have a short conversation, so I’m doing all right. My teacher tells me that I’ve improved a lot since I started, so I’m content. I still practice every day and attempt speaking with anyone who will listen. I am a little embarrassed that I will be going home and not be fluent in another language though.

All in all I’m very happy now. The snow is going away and spring is coming. I’m ready for whatever happens next.

Grace Heneghan is a Cooperstown Rotary exchange student who traveled to Hungry. To read more about her adventures, visit her blog at