I have always wanted to apply to the AIESEC Global Internship Program, and my graduation from U.P. last April presented the perfect time to do just that. I applied to the program and after a few months of searching, I finally got matched to an internship in Hungary.
I was initially excited to go on this internship… to go to a totally new place, to meet new people, and to experience new things. But as the date of my departure for Hungary fast approached, I started feeling more and more hesitant… more and more scared. Hungary is so far away from the Philippines and I was quite uncertain about how I could handle being away from everyone I loved. I was unsure about leaving the life I was used to.
I arrived in Budapest, Hungary on September 11. The city was beautiful with the golden lights shining from the majestic bridges. This was a magical moment for me. I met my co-intern, Jeanette Ma, a girl from New Zealand. We walked around the city the day after…. visiting various structures and seeing the best of the city.
As picture perfect as things were on our first night, it was difficult living in totally new country during the first few weeks. We couldn’t speak Hungarian, the people did not seem to be very friendly and optimistic, and being obvious foreigners, we got ripped off all of the time. These things made our transition a bit more difficult. And a lot of times, we felt like we had to fend for ourselves.
But as we transitioned into the country, got more and more familiar with the territory, got more and more used to our new routine of living… more and more, we started to experience some of the best things the country had to offer. We tried various Hungarian foods, from Palacsinta to Goulash to Langos, Yum!
We toured Budapest and were enchanted by the different sights we saw… the Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, Heroes Square and Park, the Freedom Statue, to name a few. We explored the different towns of Hungary… Eger, Pannonhalma, and Pécs .
We attended AIESEC events and we met trainees from different parts of the world. There were weekly activities that helped both the trainees and the locals get to know each other more… afternoons spent touring the city, nights spent partying in a club or watching a movie together at one of our flats. We even traveled to different places together, going as far as Prague and Vienna. Pretty soon from the unfamiliar group of trainees that we first met, friendships started to form. And the different cultures that we came from made the trainees group an even more interesting mix.
And as for our internship, Jeanette and I each went to seven different schools in five different towns around Hungary to teach English to children from the 1st grade of Primary School to the last year of Secondary School. I had to teach such a diverse population of students that I had to learn how to be flexible and creative in my methods.
Not all students were ideal. I felt that some of them totally shut me off and I frustratingly tried to think of new ways to reach out to them. But fortunately, most of the children were extremely welcoming and friendly… enthusiastically raising their hands to ask questions about the Philippines… happily waving “Hello Maria!” to greet me in the hallways. It was always heartwarming to see how their faces would light up when I entered the room, and how they tried to listen intently as I spoke in front of the room. It was inspiring to see how some of the children made an effort to speak to me even if they simply blurted out single English words or moved their hands to act what they were trying to say.
It was all these little things added together that have made this experience truly worth it. Despite my hesitance at the beginning, all these other experiences that made me fall in love with Hungary more and more each day.
This is the exciting thing about life. You will never know where it can take you next. You just have to be willing to take each opportunity that comes and you actually have to open yourself to opportunities. You have to be willing to take the plunge and remember that a lot of times, the scary plunges into the unpredictable turn out to be the most rewarding experiences. And in my case, taking the AIESEC GIP plunge turned out to be the most rewarding and the greatest adventure of my life by far.