Old World is the way of life in Hungary: small hamlets, rustic churches, soaring castles, and small cafés. The countryside is out of a storybook, and its national heroes are poets and writers. The food, culture, and lifestyle are as much shaped by Western Europe as Eastern Europe. Budapest, the country’s capitol, is often called the “Paris of Eastern Europe” because of its broad avenues and graceful architecture.
AFS students in Hungary live with host families and are usually attend gimnazium, a 4 year university prep school. Some students may attend szakkozepiskola, a school in which students specialise in careers such as economics, mechanics, or commerce. Students in Hungary take their studies seriously and work hard toward their fourth-year final exams, which are important for college admissions.
Magyar, also known as Hungarian, is the official language of Hungary.
Hungarian language lessons will be offered during the early months of your stay. The weekly classes will be led by AFS volunteers in your host community and will be an opportunity for you to fill in any blanks in your vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.
You do not need to speak Hungarian in order to be accepted into the program, yet we suggest that you prepare yourself by learning as much as possible prior to departure.
Host Family & Community
Students are placed with host families throughout Hungary. 60% of Hungarians live in urban environments, but it’s also possible that you’ll be placed in a rural setting.
Public transportation is good in Hungary and will probably be your primary mode of transportation. A monthly transit pass will be provided to you.
Host families in Hungary, like all AFS host families worldwide, are not paid. They open their homes to students in order to share their community and culture as well as to enrich their own family lives.
The country has some of the finest folk traditions in Europe, and artisans produce excellent embroidery, pottery, and carvings. Its musical contributions are just as rich, and range from rhapsodies to operas to Gypsy and folk music. Traditional Hungarian dances are energetic and fun.
Hungarians are very independent and value human rights. However, families are traditional in their ways and maintain a rather patriarchal family structure. Everyone shares in the housework, and families enjoy spending time together on the weekends.
Hungarian students take their studies seriously and work hard toward their fourth-year final exams, which are important for college admissions. School or community organisations offer activities such as sports (soccer, basketball and volleyball are popular), drama, folk dance and music clubs. Like teenagers everywhere, Hungarian youth enjoy spending their weekends going to movies, parties or to someone’s house to have a chat.
Parents are usually protective of their children. Teenagers are expected to inform their parents when they are going out and where they are going.
It is said that the Hungarian kitchen is the third best after the French and the Chinese. Typical Hungarian dishes tend to be hearty, but culinary habits are changing now, so the food is lighter than in the past but without losing its great flavours. A traditional favourite is goulash, a soup with meat, potatoes, onions and paprika; another is pörkölt, a stew. Paprika and other spices and sauces are used in many dishes.
AFS students attend public schools with classmates their own age. You will be able to take the courses your school offers to you, but Hungarian and foreign language courses are required.
The school year runs from the beginning of September to early June and is divided into two semesters. Classes are held Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Schools can provide some extra activities such as school trips, sport and games, choir, arts or theatre. Uniforms are usually not worn.
Orientations & Activities
In addition to the orientations that you will participate in domestically, you and your fellow AFSers will have several orientations while abroad.
These required orientations are intended to help you maximise your AFS experience, prevent culture shock and to gain knowledge, skills and a global understanding.
In addition to the orientations, many local chapters organise activities for students and host families throughout the year. These will vary from chapter to chapter but may include get-togethers or excursions to other cities or regions in Hungary. For example, around the Christmas holidays, AFSers get together for enjoyment and relaxation at a party called Santa Claus Evening. Unlike the orientations, these activities are optional and are not included in tuition.