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It seems insane to think that I’m already half-way through my two-year stint in Hungary – where did the time go!? It really hit me the other day as I was hopping a bus to work and I realized that I was navigating through a Central European city with a population of 1.8 million people totally on autopilot. Sensations like that are how I know that I’ve fully settled into life here in Budapest. When I see tourists wandering around with their maps pulled out, wandering aimlessly trying to find a landmark or figure out the public transit system, I am reminded of how natural it now is for me to do these things.

My year in Budapest has been filled with ups and downs and a ton of traveling. I have struggled and come out victorious, learning more about myself and my community here in Budapest along the way.

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is that I determine my own value and that sometimes I have to push be treated as such. The historical and cultural paradigm in Hungary is so different from anything I’ve ever known, but it’s teaching me so much. This lesson of value is something that I had a hard time with in the spring. I had been feeling a little down in Budapest through March and April, and then in may I went to Scotland and was instantly surrounded by westerners who intuitively got me in a way that Hungarians often times do not. Being thrust back into a western culture really made me miss home and the type of group dynamics that are so prevalent in western society. In Hungary, things take much more time – people are hesitant to open up and their way of communicating is more guarded than what I’m used to. I arrived in Scotland and was reminded of the lifestyle that I left behind in the states and it hit me hard, especially when I then had to return to Budapest a week later.

Coming back from that first trip to Scotland, however, has marked a new phase in my life here in Hungary. I returned back to Central Europe with a new mindset, no longer in the honeymoon stage of moving abroad. I am now able to see both the good and the bad here in Budapest, but not let myself get dragged down by it. The second half of my year here has thus been more authentic and meaningful to me. I’m no longer trying to assimilate to life in Hungary or impress the Hungarians with how well I fit in; I’ve realized that I was not meant to fit in here and that’s totally okay.

I spent the first half of my year in Hungary learning as much about the Hungarian way of life as I could and then I spent the second half of my time here tossing what I didn’t like out the window and keeping all the good stuff. Now that I’ve been here for 12 months (OMG), this balance of living an authentic life for me through balancing Hungarian traditions and my American tendencies finally feels normal.

I’m in such a good place here as I enter into my second year of service in Budapest: I feel confident and comfortable in my city, my time and talents are being fully utilized at my service placements, I have a core group of friends and an amazing support network, and I’m enthusiastically saying “yes!” to all the opportunities that come my way. I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring!