Anh is meeting her 20-year-old Vietnamese boyfriend round the corner opposite to Budapest’s City Park (Városliget), just off the stop of the old-fashioned electric bus that still patrols the old and sometimes cobbled streets of Budapest’s 13th and 7th districts. The areas are now boasting soaring real estate prices but looking around the local supermarkets, where the unemployed still find their daily supply of bottled spirits, one would say that nothing has changed since the 90’s, the original rough era of post-communism.

Penh is from Vietnam, and she is studying food engineering in her second year at university in Hungary. She likes her student life here and enjoys what the city has to offer, with her friends. Still, when her exams and in-course assessments are taking place, it is hard to move around – a lot of these studies can be very demanding for the students living abroad and studying in English, a foreign language to most of them. Furthermore, in a country where the requirements can be a lot more fact-based and less practical and less student friendly. Current international traditions of teaching tend to put more emphasis on case-studies and problem-solving, whereas, in Central Europe they typically need students to know more facts and information out of context. The teaching and lecturing methods are changing though not the least because overseas students in Budapest are highly lucrative for universities.

Money comes only as one of the benefits foreign students bring to the capital – they diversify student life here and provide a potential professional work force.

Anh is only one of the thousands of foreign students in various courses living here. They are typically studying medicine and engineering in English, and plan to take their degrees on to their new country of destination or back to Asia or Africa. As a result, not many make considerable efforts to learn the otherwise rather strange Hungarian language. This is very often a hindrance to them. Getting to know the local culture and integrating more fully in student culture here, according to Don, who originally came from Uganda to study in Hungary in the early 2000’s, and now lives in London and working in hotel management there, earning over 25K a year. He was previously fully integrated into Budapest’s student and social life though. His Hungarian is fluent and enjoys speaking it. He considers language the main reason why foreign students do not fully integrate. He agrees that Budapest has now become a very appealing capital city and student destination with lots to offer to anyone moving here.

The move is not overly smooth though, no matter how appealing. Fees for foreign students are over £5000 a year, not including accommodation and other expenses. Luckily, families do not need to come up with more than one year’s fees at a time and even the first year’s fees can be paid upon arrival. Proof of funds, however, is necessary before relocation as well as evidence of money for one’s sustenance. This is no small sum in most places outside Europe but ‘’there are ways around it’’ says Patricia in a Civil Engineering course from East Africa. ‘’You can just make the funds available for a couple of weeks’’ she says.

The requirements in the UK are much stricter she adds; ‘’over there they lock your account, which means you must commit this money towards your stay’’.

What this means is that family and friends can create proof of savings for Hungary which are large enough for the authorities to grant the study visa but the money can be moved on or returned to a generous uncle or cuisine soon afterwards. The motivation to make ends meet and finish one’s degree is enormous though – once they graduate, excellent jobs are open throughout Europe or outside.

Not everyone is in need of saving up though… ‘’Some very prosperous families find Hungary cheap’’ continues Don remembering some of his earlier flat-shares in Budapest. His two former room-mates from Nigeria, for example, paid their rent for a whole year in advance. For them and their families living in Budapest seems to be ridiculously cheap compared to Paris or London. This lack of financial strain does, of course, reflect in their lavish lifestyles of driving BMW’s and taking first class girls to selected points of entertainment.

Mostly though, students here are very modest and do little more than revise for courses in their flat shares and Whatsapp their friends through the landlord’s wifi as life here – believe me – is expensive!

We might think that it is typically the 3rd world student that settles for Budapest for a year or two.

The city, however, is more than attractive to many making long-term plans. Tudomány Converzum Nyelvi Közösségi Tér, for example, offers courses in Hungarian as a Foreign Language to many living here, and only about half of them have roots outside Europe. The other half comes from Russia or Ukraine and aim to make a permanent move to here. Knowledge of the language is another prerequisite to Hungarian, i.e. EU citizenship, for many a settled life in Hungary fits perfectly into a long-term plan, not the least because the courses are subsidised.

Anh, also now 20, may, therefore, think twice before committing to anything long-term with her Asian boyfriend. A future husband with an EU passport may fit the bill better.

As we wrote before, Jamil has been living in Budapest for more than a year, and he says it all. This article reports on an interview with Jamil, a 24-year-old American gentleman from Indiana, the U.S. who is currently living and studying in Budapest. Read more HERE!

Also, we wrote before, among foreign students, the University of Debrecen is the most popular institution. Most of the international students are studying medicine in the one-tier program, but veterinary training is also accessible. Last fall, almost 29 thousand foreign students enrolled in Hungarian universities. Read more HERE!

Source: Miklós Földes (guest author)

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