I’m part of a Hungarian community in Fairfield County USA called Magyar Studies of America and taking classes for the last few years. I grew up in Brazil as a son of Hungarian immigrants who left Europe after the Second World War. We always spoke the language at home and of course, I am pretty much familiar with the culture but I wanted to get more knowledge about “Magyar nyelv“ and Hungary as a country.
One of my colleagues at the community told me about the Hungarian classes in Debrecen and I was very excited but at the same time somehow skeptical whether this would be a good experience or not. I decided to take the 4-week classes in the summer and it was an amazing life happening.
I had always been disappointed because of my reading and writing skills, even though the community and our amazing teacher Kinga helped so much and are still doing so. But I really needed something else. The day I filled out the registration I could not stop thinking about my future experience in Debrecen.
I arrived in Amsterdam and traveled for a couple weeks before getting to the University. The building itself is a huge and magnificent old construction. I entered my room and soon after I asked the young and friendly students about the laundry room since I have been traveling for awhile. They gave me the keys and explained to me where the laundry room was. One hour later I returned and told them that I needed some help because I washed my clothes but could not start the dryer. I thought that they would die laughing. It turns out that generally there are no dryers in Hungary and what I thought was one was, in fact, some different kind of washer. That was the start of the fun.
I was probably one of the few students who spoke the language fluently but was so poor in reading and writing, but they were able to place me in an amazing class. I had a total of 4 professors during the stay and they were all great and teaching with absolute passion. By the third week I could already notice a great improvement in my skills.
We were more than 200 students from all over the world, but mainly from Europe. Lots of them had Hungarian backgrounds like me and others were just linguistic students who have a great love for the language. I felt very glad to meet them because I could learn so much and the mentality of this new generation made me have more hope for this very turbulent world in which we live.
There were also all kinds of night and weekend activities, including dancing, singing, cuisine (including pálinka of course) and excursions to some very interesting places where it was possible to interact with the local people and their culture.
My stay in Debrecen made my eyes watery sometimes because it reminded me so much my childhood and parents. Probably the most emotional part was when I left the University and realized that I have a huge connection with Hungary; these memories from Debrecen will last forever.
Estevao Arato, son of Hungarian immigrant parents, was born in São Paolo where he was a journalist. He came to the US in 1996 and now works in the hospitality/restaurant business. He attends the Hungarian School sponsored by Magyar Studies of America in Fairfield, CT.