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October 25, 2012

Local Voice From Around the Globe: Transition into new culture is getting better

By Grace Heneghan
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Sziasztok Magyarországról! (Hello from Hungary!)

Last month I talked about my transition into Hungarian life and other aspects of being an exchange student. This month I am pleased to report that I feel much more at ease in my host country than before. 

After the shine of a new country, people and language faded away I felt very unusual. There were things about myself that I began to question. I felt like I was losing my identity. In truth, I was a little. I do feel changed even after only two months, but I realized the best part of this whole difficult transition is finding yourself again. 

I am making real friends and learning the lay of the land. I am proud to say I no longer feel nervous on local transportation and actually know how to navigate it. I have traveled into the city a few times either with friends or to meet and have lunch with fellow exchange students. The language is still difficult, but I try to soak it in as much as possible. School, I will be honest, is boring. A little less so now that I have friends, but I always remember to bring a book to class. 

Life is better, mostly because I am getting along with my host family more. I hit a cultural wall with my family about my fifth week in Hungary. Mistakes that I considered little things, like forgetting to wear socks in the house or not drying my hair in the morning started to cause tension. It got to the point where I just didn’t feel comfortable or happy at all with my family. I decided that it was time that we all had a sit down and talk everything out. As we talked, we both expressed our feelings and explained our point of views.

I am starting to love my host family now that I developed a better understanding of who they are. By far, it was one of the best decisions that I’ve made on exchange. 

The fact I am starting to have a social life helps too. I joined an English club and we are going to perform the play “Toc Toc.” It is a comedy about people with mental disorders seeking help. I play White, a germaphobe. This lets me hangout with kids outside of school, which is nice. I also found a pool near by to swim a few times a week. I really think that is helping me clear my head. A tip to future exchange students — keep busy, seriously.   

When preparing for my year abroad, I realize now that I never really knew the benefits of doing exchange. I always focused on the fact that I would become bilingual, which is most certainly a plus. The reason for this I think is because I hadn’t actually experienced being an exchange student yet. The language portion of it was obvious and easier to understand the appeal. Being placed in a country with a language that is only spoken by 15 million people worldwide, was not exactly what I was expecting. Being an exchange student is learning about people and their culture. Rotary has told us all this, drilled into our brains and yet, it still was a revelation. I can never un-meet the people that I’ve met, which makes me know how painful it will be to leave. 

I have been learning so much more about myself as a person throughout these weeks than I would have thought possible. 

Grace Heneghan is a Cooperstown student who traveled to Hungry.

exchange. To read more about her adventures, visit her blog at