Advice for Budapest Semesters in Mathematics

Posted on May 28th, 2007 by

Back at the start of the semester, I linked to Betsy in Budapest, a blog maintained by one of our students while studying in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics (a very well-reputed program). I hope you took my advice and followed that blog. If not, I hope you’ll catch up on it now. But in case even that is too much trouble for you, I’ll quote here Betsy’s closing advice for students heading to Budapest in the future:

  • Take the classes that work for you. The course work here is very difficult, and I saw many students become miserable as they tried to keep up with a schedule that was too demanding. Part of the learning is becoming acclimated to a completely different environment. If it means taking one less math course but spending more time seeing plays or dining out, so be it. You will have learned more in the end.
  • Take the class called Elementary Problem Solving. The title of it scared a lot of people off because it seemed so trivial, but in reality, it was an opportunity for me to be exposed to so many interesting subjects. For example, before that class, I had it firmly fixed in my head that I hated game theory because it was only for computer scientists. Now, I realized I actually really enjoy it, thanks to Elementary Problem Solving.
  • Take the intensive language course prior to the math classes. It does cost extra, but it gives you a chance to form immediate bonds with your fellow students, which will become increasingly important as the semester goes on. You also learn survival Hungarian: things like numbers, “hello”, “goodbye”, and “where is the bathroom.”
  • Take a lot of pictures right away. Things will have not lost their ambiance, and you will also be okay with appearing as a tourist. Right now I’d rather crawl into a hole than look like a tourist since I’ve been here for so long. I rarely take pictures of Budapest any more.
  • Bring peanut butter with you. I know you can buy it at certain places, like Tesco or some organic markets, but it took me a long time to discover these places, and right at the beginning of your time here, you might need something familiar, and a peanut butter sandwich is one of the best remedies for this homesickness.

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