Mary Stevens
2013-14 Outbound to Hungary

Hometown: Altamonte Springs, Florida
School: Lyman High School
Sponsor: District 6980, Florida
Host: The Rotary Club of Kozarmisleny

Mary's Bio

Hi! My name is Mary Stevens. I'm currently a junior at Lyman High School, but was lucky enough to be chosen to go to Hungary for my senior year. All of my friends keep asking me why I would want to go for my senior year and miss prom and everything. I want to know why they would give up a chance to spend a year in another country for prom. My family is pretty awesome. When I was eight my parents got divorced and my dad got back together with his high school sweetheart, her name is Mary too. She has three kids of her own, and added to my three brothers, I grew up with a huge family. I'm so involved in school and other activities I barely have time to relax. In school I play lacrosse, I'm secretary in a club called Best Buddies for kids with physical and intellectual disabilities, I play saxophone in our marching band, I'm also a member of Young Democrats, and I'm in Tri-M Music Honors Society. Outside of school, I'm a mentor from two different Girl Scout troops, I ride horses, and I babysit one or two times a week. And I sleep on occasion depending on how much homework I have. I've wanted to be an exchange student since my freshman year, the first time I met Scott when he came to give a presentation at my school. I wanted it then, but even more the next year when I became good friends with two exchange students who came to my school. We talked all the time about exchange and I decided that I was going to do it one way or another. Also, when I get older I want to study International Relations in college, and what's a better way to relate to another country than to have experienced what it's like to have lived in a completely different one. I’m thrilled to be able to see Europe. But, I have to say, I've never been more excited for anything in my entire life than going to Hungary. Plus, I hear the food is fantastic!

Mary's Journals

Sziasztok! I have been in Hungary for almost three weeks now and they have been the most amazing three weeks EVER! My first two weeks here consisted of language camp which, I didn't realize at the time, was very helpful. But no matter how helpful it was it was also slightly comedic... There were 45 of us including our teachers and we were at a little camp type thing where we slept ~8 girls to a room and there was NO air conditioning! Of course you probably think "wow that sucks I don't want to go to Hungary if there isn't a/c" but we made it work! One night we went and got plastic lawn chairs and our blankets and we slept outside. It was so nice! But of course the next morning people had taken pictures of all of us passed out and put them on Facebook. I don't care though, it was completely worth it! At the camp there was also a huge swimming pool so whenever we weren't in classes, eating, or sleeping we were in that pool! Especially at night, that was where all of us would come together! It really was amazing! I learned how to dance and some Portuguese and had a blast! In Hungary we have 8 countries represented: Finland, Brazil, Mexico, USA, Argentina, Australia, Taiwan, and Canada. It's the funniest mix of people and we all get along so well. However, the amount of Portuguese and Spanish flying around sometimes made it difficult to tell what language was which! I've learned that Latin Americans are great friends and can also be very pushy (shout out to Sol Mendez I love you girl) but they will always try and help you if they can!

But anyway back to Hungary... I got to my host family on Saturday the 17th, the same day they dropped their daughter at the airport for her exchange to Mexico. I love my family here and they are amazing people and so nice you couldn't imagine! They speak some English and have helped me with my Hungarian. It took me four days to figure out that my host dad was asking me every morning if I slept well... Learning a new language like Hungarian is such a daunting task especially if you've tried in school and you didn't meet success. I have always loved learning things in different languages and Spanish was fun for me. But now I only use it for snapchats and confusing languages. You have no idea how many times I'll try and say something in Hungarian and end up starting in Hungarian and ending in Spanish or the other way around. It gets so confusing but I know it will come in time especially once school starts because then I will be able to make Hungarian fr iends and hear Hungarian all day rather than English.

Hungarians are ridiculously nice people and always want to know if you're hungry. My host dad loves to ask me "are you hungry?" and I'll say no and he will say, "Yes but you are in Hungary" it's funny. Tele vagyok (I am full) has become like one of the main things I'm glad I learned as well as nagyon finom (Very delicious). Nagyon finom has like become my catch phrase because everything here truly is! The sandwiches are so much better here. I don't know what I'm going to do when I go back home and there isn't zsemle (rolls only they're better here). Soup is like a real thing here. I have yet to go a day without it. And it's Summer!

Pécs is the name of the city where I am living now and where I will go to school which starts with September. Actually that's a lie my first host family lives outside of Pécs in a kinda suburb called Kozármisleny. But whatever... Pécs is gorgeous! I think it might even be prettier than Budapest! But I'm sure that's debatable to some people... The architecture here is amazing! The stone work on every building is just incredible! I was staring up at it yesterday and actually walked right into someone... it was kinda embarrassing.... oh well. The hills in the city and like everywhere around here are kinda crazy though! I walked uphill to go downhill while walking to my friends house.

My host family is amazing my host mom decorated my room with my favorite color and put my name on the door and everything! My host dad is even taking me to start riding lessons. And everyone here is like... not health conscious... but they really don't like when you're sick. My cold is like a horror to my host mom and she hates that I'm not over it after a week. It's very sweet. We also went on vacation two days after I got home and it was to this place where they had like a petting zoo and stuff like that. I was the bunny queen. It was fantastic!

Hungary definitely plays by a different set of rules though. There are so many things you should do or shouldn't do that sometimes I find myself being a little more awkward than normal. The thing that struck we the most about the social order is the muggles (gypsies). You CANNOT say the word gypsy in front of a muggle unless you want to like die. Maybe that was a wee bit extreme but really don't do it. Hungarians also don't smile at strangers, especially if you're a girl and it's a 35 year old guy because he will take it as you want to... anyway... Also they drive like bats out of Hell here! It's crazy! I have feared for my life a few times... Seriously though you can't like walk out into the street unless it's at a cross walk and it says to walk. Also, there is a real fear for your personal belongings when like you're out shopping or just walking around and especially on the tram because people will steal your things. Like do n't put your phone in your back pocket if you plan on keeping it...

I have written a lot. Some good stuff and some not so good but I can also say the same for when I'm back in Florida. If you are reading this and you are considering becoming an exchange student DO IT. Apply. It was the best decision I have made because I would never have experienced this kind of beauty and encountered so many new things if I hadn't. It's crazy to think that the rest of my friends back home are going to school and having their senior year while I'm sitting in another country speaking (I use that term loosely because I only know some words) another language and playing basketball with people from three other countries and three whom went on exchange to two other countries.

Never could I say that if I was back home.

Never could I have bridged a language barrier through a third language.

Never could I have met such amazing people.

Never could I feel so grateful to an organization like Rotary who I hadn't heard of until I found out about this program.

But...

Always will I love Hungary.

Always will I thank Rotary for the best experience of my life.

Always will I remember this year.

Always will I keep these memories in my heart.

Magyarorszag szeretlek!

November 2, 2013

Okay so this one may not be up to par because unfortunately I accidently exited out of my first try just as soon as I finished writing...

Akkor... Sziasztok mindenkinek.

From the beginning of exchange with the application being handed over you are told that exchange is hard. You go through the first two orientations thinking "I'm not going to get homesick" and you think that all those things they warn about are like craziness: homesickness, gaining weight, losing friendships, growing up too fast. But everything they say is true. And you don't know half when you think it will be hard. Everyday for me is a day I learn new words and forget them and relearn them and forget them and write them down and surprise myself when I use them. Everyday is different than the last and everyday after holds another unknown adventure waiting to happen. Sometimes that adventure is spending a couple hours with your host grandmother who speaks absolutely no English. Sometimes it's exploring Budapest with a good friend eating gelato, hopping trams, and eating Kürtőskalács on the metro.

I know I mentioned eating a couple of times. It's because exchangers eat A LOT. Everyone feeds me. My hostfamily doesn't think I eat enough and I die a little because I think I eat too much. But hey, I can always go on a diet when I get back. There's so many things I eat here that I'm going to miss terribly when I get home: Kürtőskalács, Langos, Gulyas leves, and so many more. But there's also things I won't particularly miss like the organ soup that one of my host grandmothers made. It was good, if you didn't eat the organs. Those were disgusting, but I didn't let my disdain show because that's another thing everyone gets to remember, manners. I don't remember who said it but the whole time I was eating those livers and what not I kept thinking the words "Eat it now and you can always throw up later." But I didn't throw up :).

School. School is widely despised by millions of kids across America. But if you think it's boring when you understand imagine what it's like when the teacher is speaking a completely different language and no I don't mean math. The best part about school is that it's a good place to make friends. School is really different between America and Hungary. In America, we all have our own schedules and move rooms whereas our teachers stay in one place. this isn't the way they do things in Hungary. Instead. the class pretty much stays as a group and both teachers and students and teachers move rooms, and no two days are the same.

One of the funniest times I've had in a while was when I went to Budapest for a few hours with my host family and I met up with one of my friends and we climbed on statues in Heroes Square, got cheap gelato, ate Kürtőskalács on the metro, got lost, and spent way too much money in a candy store. The next time I go back to Budapest I want to go to the Terror museum which is a museum dedicated to the times when Hungary was occupied and all the terrible acts against humans. I took some really cool pictures of the roof of the building because it comes out over the sidewalk and says TERROR across it. You will also find that no matter where you go in the world on exchange you make friends so fast and they are friendships that are stronger than ones you spent years on back in the states. I made fast friends with other exchangers at the language camp we had when we first got here. But since then I have made a few Hungarian friends as well. It has been kind of hard fo r me to make friends in school because I have two other exchange students in my class and I don't want us to only have the same friends.

I have also found myself picking up the language progressively faster in the last week or so, which let me tell you is quite a relief! Hungarian presents so many challenges for me but learning it to fluency would be so amazing because not even Google Translate can really explain what anything means to a completely correct sentence. I will include a picture of what happened when I tried to Google translate what a Hungarian guy had posted on Facebook. And it's truly hilarious because I actually knew what it was trying to tell me and... I don't know you would have had to have been there... It's sad when you are actually able to translate what Google translated into making sense... Does that make sense? My English does soooo not make sense anymore and I find myself talking to people and then stopping myself because I realize that what I said makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Sometimes I will stare at a word questioning it's existence. I can't speak H ungarian, English, or Spanish anymore. I can't language. Oh well... I'm understood as far as I can tell.

I started a little homesick for football and seeing all of my friends back home going to senior night and Homecoming week was really hard for me. But then I realized that I am here, in Hungary, and I won't be here forever. A sad truth, as this has become my home. When I think of home when I'm out of my city visiting friends or whatever I see my three story house with a big red roof and a drive way so steep it's disastrously hard to walk down in heels. But I also think of my parents houses back in Florida. It's hard not having one definition of home anymore, but I wouldn't have it another way. It's going to be even weirder when I go to change host families in January. … I just realized I'm going to have to move houses in the snow and cold... There's a really steep hill going up to my next house... I will make sure I tell everyone how that goes, thankfully it isn't for another two months. Time is passing so fast. I feel like j ust the other day I got off the plane in Budapest's airport.

So earlier in this journal I talked about food. I'm going there again. McDonald's is like 1) really expensive here and 2) I feel like a total failure every time I eat it. I used to go there with my friends for a cheap meal on occasions like after school; I only go for their free bathrooms pretty much anymore. But seriously, McDonald's is like the only place with free bathrooms.

Halloween was sort of uneventful for me but I got to carve pumpkins when I went to visit my friends in Szeged a few days before. Very few people here do trick-or-treating here because many people think it's too American and they don't want to take part in it because they want to keep their traditions. I went with my family to the cemetery for All Soul's Day and it was really beautiful. I wish we had a tradition like this because it's truly beautiful. Everybody goes to their dead relatives graves and light candles and leave flowers or wreaths. All throughout the cemetery there were candles on almost every grave lighting up what would normally have been a slightly spooky place. There were also statues of Jesus and a WWI memorial that were lit up by hundreds of candles and decorated with flowers.

Everyone from home always asks: “what's the weather like there?” Well it's really kind of bipolar weather. Last night was really cold and this morning was warm. It's strange but I don't want to wish too much for the cold because I know it's going to be a huge shocker. Snow. I have seen snow but I have never had to deal with it for more than 5 days at a time. It should be interesting.

Hungary is a landlocked country but we have a gigantic lake a little Northwest of where I live called Balaton. My family took me there for a few days and it was absolutely beautiful. There were mountains right up to the water in some places and sailboats everywhere. I wish my camera hadn't died because I only got to take a few pictures. But no matter how good the quality no picture could do it justice.

December 15, 2013

Sziasztok mindenki! Hogy vagy? Jól vagyok de itt Magyarországon nagyon hideg volt! A hétvéget nagyon vicces volt! Győrbe Rotary cserediákok gyűlés volt Mikulástnak. Annnnd

That's all the Hungarian I got right about now... Like I know more but it surely isn't coming to me. Rotary weekends are so amazing. It makes you look at all the amazingness that is your life now. And one of the best things I experience is those moments where you're living your life and then all of a sudden you look up or order food or eat gelato in the middle of winter or you sit and have a glass of forrált bor with your friends who are chattering next to you and you only catch words here and there because you're too bust staring up at the Christmas lights and the markets and you think “woah, I'm in Hungary.” Like, yeah, OBVIOUSLY I'm in Hungary but those moments are when you realize how great this whole exchange is. To think that I have not seen my parents, home, animals, and friends and family in four months is sad, but to think I only have 6 and a half months left is just depressing. Leaving here will be so much harder than leaving home I think. Because sure, I lived in Florida in basically the same area my whole life, but I love it here and Pécs is home. Itthon vagyok. Coming back from this weekend all I could think was how nice it will be to come home to my bed and my family and that family wasn't the one I'm related to.

So much has changed over the last four months. I feel like I have changed so much from the person I was when I left and man does exchange do that to you. I feel like I have developed parts of myself that I never even knew were there. The song “Wake Me Up” is such an exchange song and I feel like I can't help but relate. My favorite part that I can identify with the most is “All this time I was finding myself and I didn't know I was lost.” I feel like I have found myself in this country and most definitely I have changed. Exchange has brought out confidence that I could only have wished for and man do I make friends. I go out sometimes and if I am waiting for my friends to get there I talk to people. Sometimes it's intimidating because my Hungarian is trash but my friend Emily says she's jealous about how easy it is for me to make friends. I have met so many people that I run into random people I know on the street and say szia to and what not. I think my friends think I'm kinda weird and have the time the only excuse I can think of for my weirdness is “Cserediák vagyok” I'm an exchange student.

I change host families on the 5th of January and I am both looking forward to it and not. I like my family now and I have really settled into my room here. Like so much that I have absolutely no idea how in the world I'm going to be cleaning out my desk because there's so many bus tickets, papers, notebooks, postcards, and nonsense piling up in it. I think that I have more random slips of paper with random words on them than it is possible for me to ever remember. But I'm very excited because all of the exchange students in my city switch our families so I have met my next host family several times and I absolutely adore my future host mom and the rest of my family. It will be very different from this family because here I have little siblings and there it will be just me and a host brother who goes to University in Budapest and is only in town every few weekends. But my next host mom said she's going to teach me how to make pogacsa and other foods and you have no idea how excited I am for that. They also don't speak a lot of English, except Bence my host brother, so I will probably pick Hungarian up a lot faster. It's so hard to think in another language but it feels really good to be able to communicate in Hungarian. When they say Hungarian is one of the hardest languages in the world they are sooo not even kidding. I still don't even understand if there's like a present progressive tense or like I don't even know... But I feel like if I can get the point across then I'm good. I'm going to squirrel back to Christmas for a second. And if you don't understand the squirrel reference please watch the movie “Up”.

Christmas here is different from home as far as I have seen so far. There's Christmas markets here that are so nice and beautiful and I wish we had them in the States. It's kinda like a farmer's market but all day and instead of fruits and veggies it's more like trinkets and nick-knacks. They also don't put up Christmas trees until the day before Christmas, which is weird. My Christmas tree was probably up on like Thanksgiving, or at least I know my sister's was. Prom is also much more of a big deal here. Each class does a class dance that they come up with themselves and there is also a waltz that each class has representatives that dance. Proms have also been going on for about a month now and I know my prom is in January. It's weird that my first prom will be Hungarian. But I'm also incredibly excited for it! I feel bad I can't write much more but I undoubtedly will journal again after prom so that's all of a month away :) Akkor jó éjszakát!

February 10, 2014

So two days ago was my birthday and the ending of our second language camp here in Hungary. But before that we had the Rotary ball. Me and the other kids in my city missed out on a few days of camp because of the ball. It was so icy I almost couldn't get to the ball. I had to slide down my street on a cardboard box. It was easily the most hilarious thing that has happened this year, as in 2014. The ball was good. I had to sell raffle tickets and a lot of the Rotarians and host dads made me go dance with them. I'm pretty sure about 5 overall made me dance. We ended up getting iced in until Monday when we left for camp. I have to say the it was a really good day up until the very end. Language camp in general was nice because we all got to see each other. Having all the exchange students in one place is so many things: fun, annoying, loud, crazy, and always slightly unorganized. But it's so great to see everyone mixing together with people from completely different countries. I shared a room with two Brazilians and a Mexican. It was never quiet! Friday after dinner some of my really good friends brought out a cake for me and a card signed by everyone. It was the sweetest thing ever and I got happy birthday sang to me in six different languages. On Saturday, my birthday, we had our final test and then a party that night. It was so funny to see all the Brazilians doing their dances and everything. It was a really good night. My nephew was also born while I was at camp too which was super exciting! I should him to EVERYONE at camp... I absolutely love my new host family! They are super nice and since I was at language camp for my birthday they said I could have people over for a birthday party here. I just got to say February is turning out to be an interesting month. :)

April 4, 2014

Things are so strange. You think in the beginning that you have all the time in the world to figure out your language and see your country and so you don't think about going out with friends and doing stuff you think about home and about what you could be doing and what your friends are doing right now. But then you get to a point when you go Annyira hülye vagyok!! Basszameg, nem tudtam milyen gyorsan megy az idő. MIÉRT? MIÉRT? MIÉRT? Nem akarok haza menni. Nagyon szeretem a magyarországot és amikor otthon haha otthon az a baj... DE Amikor otthon vagyok kell menni az új iskolába és nem fogok tudni tanulni... Mert meg egyszer hülye vagyok... Hát! Mi az otthon? Az az a kérdés, mi? Augusztusban szerintetem Florida volt az otthon. De most nem tudom... Azt hiszem hogy én nem egyedül vagyok hanem többiek is így érzi mag&aacut e;t. Most ma volt a családi csere és nem akartam cserélni mert nagyon nagyon szeretem a Juhász család. De most vagyok a Heindl családnél. Ez az nagyon furcsa ahogy írok magyarul. De sokat gondolok magyarul. Amikor csinálok valamit gondolok magyarul. és most írok magyarul! Ez fura. De jó nekem. Hehehehehe mert semmit nem értesz! Okay most angolul! Biztos nem értesz semmit de nem baj. Okay it is so hard to continue in English but I suppose that I should because it isn't fair to only write in my poor grammar Hungarian. But one thing I said was that I changed families today and I really didn't want to. I loved my second family sooo much. They were the most amazing people ever. I know this family will be good and now I have a sister who's my age but still... I was almost in tears in front of both host families. But overall, things have been really really good for me. My Hungarian is getting so much better and my English is deteriorating rapidly and things are good. I am now living at the top of two hills and four flights of stairs which will be all sorts of fun considering the fact Hungary hasn't discovered air conditioning... I wish I had more to say but I do have a piece of advice to any future outbounds who may be reading this:

Don't count your days, but keep in mind that your days are numbered and make sure that you make them count up until the very last one. There's nothing worse than regret.