“Hungary is a country I want to come back to!”

A year after starting a new semester at the BME the Brazilian students have a clear impression about Hungary. They said that could be a country where they can imagine leading their lives.

“I have always wanted to study abroad and Hungary seemed to be similar to Brazil in the weather and beautiful landscapes. And at the same time it is a very different country regarding the language and the history of the country. After arriving and starting to get to know this country, we realized that it would be something different, something new and something marvellous” – said three of the Brazilian students of the “Science without Borders” student exchange programme between Hungary and Brazil. Natália Luchiari, Paula Chiachia Pasta and Giovanni Razera have spent a semester at the Faculty of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology at BME.

This year there are foreign students at the Budapest University of the Technology and Economics (in Hungarian BME) from 61 different countries. There are 550 students who are participants of the “Science without Borders” student exchange programme from Brazil organized by the CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior).

This scholarship programme founded by the Brazilian government enables 100 000 Brazilian BSc and PhD students to study abroad in the scientific fields of natural, health, applied, computer and creative sciences, furthermore engineering and technology. The government wants to raise the number of graduated engineers in Brazil with the help of the programme.

Hungary is the first central European country that joined the programme: in this semester 15 Hungarian institutions of higher education are offering places for Brazilian students.

One reason why all the three of our interviewees wanted to study abroad was to improve their language skills, especially English. There are several opportunities in Brazil for exchange programmes and of course, there are countries that most of the students apply for. The favourite destinations are France, Australia and Canada for biochemical engineering. “These countries are common destinations of students, due to the reputation in research and good educational quality at universities, but I wanted something special. A country, which only a few Brazilians have experiences about” – Giovanni said about the reasons, and added that “after my application it turned out that one of my friends had been there, and she said that I would fall in love with Budapest. Now I can say that she was right”.

Besides educational issues, there are several other aspects which influence the choice. “When you make plans for a long term like a year, the climate is also a very important issue. Firstly I was thinking about Canada but the weather was totally different from the weather we had back in Brazil. Snowing of seven months is not to my taste. Moreover, Hungary is in the middle of Europe and it is the best starting point for visiting other cultures and countries in Europe” – Natalia said. “I have heard about Hungary before my registration: I knew that the country had a lot of Nobel Laureates in science. This aroused my interest and I started to look for some information about Hungary” – said Paula, who delivered a speech as the delegate of the Brazilian students at the opening ceremony of the university in October.

In a new country people always need time for the cultural adaptation. “Firstly I was shocked when I arrived in Hungary. I could not imagine how I would get on” –Giovanni said about his first days in the new country. “Fortunately, we got a lot of help from the Brazilian students who were already here for the English course and we got to know them and the city within a short time.” There is a special Hungarian team at the university which supports foreign students. All foreign students have their own coaches who can help them not only in studying but in private issues like flat renting as well. “Hungarian people are not as friendly as Brazilians; firstly they looked a bit cold. But it is only the first impression. After some personal talks they became friendlier” – Paula recalled her first experiences.

Public transport system was one of the greatest surprises for Giovanni: “for me, it is a great experience. The public transport in Brazil is not so organized. Let me say a personal story about this. At Christmas time my parents visited me in Budapest. We had a walk in the city centre and we wanted to go home by the underground at night. Unfortunately, we missed the train and had to wait 8 minutes for next one. I was angry with that and my mother was very surprised about my reactions. She reminded me the situation at home and said that I would have to get used to it when I get back” – Giovanni said laughing at his personal experience. “One of the best things in Budapest is the richness of cultural and free-time activities. If you decide to go somewhere at 9:00 pm, it is never a problem. You can easily find a concert, a pub or even a museum where you can go without being worried about your safety and about public transport opportunities” – Natália said about the advantages of Budapest. “The only challenging thing is the language” – laughed Paula, who already knows a few Hungarian words and expressions. “It is a beautiful but very complex language, which is not easy to learn. My favourite thing in Hungarian is that you have one word with several meanings. Comparing with my mother tongue it is a new experience for me, because there are very different sounds and grammatical rules in Hungarian.”

The Brazilian students can compare the higher education and academic life of the two countries with this year behind them. “The studying system is different from the one in Brazil. Of course, the foreign students have slightly different schedule from the local students, and I experience that we have a bit more flexible but a very rich programme” – as Giovanni expressed his opinion about the order of the exchange programme. “Our university professors at BME are outstanding specialists. They speak English very well and they can also help us improve by their interesting and interactive courses” – Paula said. She also mentioned that the laboratories of the university are well-prepared, where it is a pleasure to work.

“Fortunately, our government has sufficient resources to organize exchange programmes for students like ours. During this year abroad we realized that scientists in the Hungarian university are able to think about the experiments in a bit different way than scientists at home. When we compare the academic life between Brazil and Hungary there seems to be a difference how they manage an experiment. In a superficial way, I see that the focus addressed in a research is a bit different. In Hungary I could see that the “cost” factor is stronger than the “check” factor at all the practice possibilities. I think that changing the focus in "cost" or "check" have advantages and disadvantages and it depends on each study situation. If we are able to manage what the focus is in the experiment and how the benefit cost interferes with the studies, we just need to identify what is really important, work hard in it and the results will be amazing. We have to learn a lot about these small differences between each other” – Natália explained, who wants to come back to Hungary in order to continue her studies in a Master or PhD program.

The guest students are going back home this summer and spend a year in Brazil as the programme requires. After that our interviewees will see the current opportunities for further studies, but they are sure that once they want to come back at least for a short visit. “I am sure I will come back to Hungary. Such all Brazilians here, I got more Brazilian friends and also friends from different nationalities. Of course, I got Hungarian friends, too and it makes Hungary a sweet home for me, like Brazil. I have two countries in my heart that I love in the same way by different reasons, but I will just remember that it divided my heart in a football match” - Natália said laughing.