International Experience in Budapest, Hungary 2016

Coordinated by Professor John Fortner, Research Associate, Ray Ehrhard and Lecturer, Janie Brennan, the 9th International Experience class visited Budapest, Hungary in the summer of 2016.

A group of eleven Washington University engineering students traveled to Budapest, Hungary as part of the 2016 MAGEEP International Experience Program. Also, five students from the University of Queensland joined us during the two week program. Our MAGEEP host was the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME). Budapest University of Technology and Economics was founded in 1782, and is the first institute in Europe to train engineers at university level. We were fortunate to have our own Washington University MAGEEP Scholar, Andrea Balassy, with us during the trip. Andrea attended BME and assisted us in coordinating lectures and experiences of a true Hungarian. Professor John Fortner and Ray Ehrhard directed to students during this trip.

The goal of the MAGEEP Summer program is to gain an understanding in global issues engineers will be facing and engaging the students in engineering studies and research conducted at a MAGEEP partner university. The students attended lectures on a variety of Chemical and Environmental Engineering-related topics, including waste management, biomass conversion, atmospheric aerosol research, carbene chemistry, nuclear energy, polymer hydrogels, renewable energy, and material science. We also attended a renewable energy mini research workshop and were surprised during our break when a group of students called the “Chemical Singers” entertained us with a traditional and classical musical interlude. Our field trips took us to a wastewater plant, an ethanol plant, a coal mine and power plant, and a brewery. Visits to research labs presented the students an understanding of the focused research each university was pursuing and the common environmental and energy issues we face globally.

One of our first group activities for this program was a team building day to enhance our social relations and understanding of each other. A group facilitator was used to present group challenge exercises for the students to get to know each other and work together. This was followed with a Segway run through the forest and a group dinner. The facilitator observed that as engineers we need to work with each other using our unique strengths in solving problems. We ended this day excited for our time together. The Washington University and University of Queensland students were certainly one group throughout these two weeks.

While the primary purpose of this trip was to learn about engineering in Hungary, students had ample time to experience the culture of Hungary and visit the beautiful historic sites in Budapest. We learned about Hungarian food and the many simple methods of getting around in the city. Our transportation during this trip included; planes, trains, trams, buses, metro trains, bicycles, boats, walking, Segway, and a horse drawn wagon. Among the many sites we toured included; tour of Parliament, Liszt Academy, Castle Hill, Gellért Hill, Heroes' Square, Magnificent Margaret Island, exploring the Danube and its bridges, and of course the thermal baths. One of the most extraordinary visits we had was an overnight trip to the Lake Balaton are. During this trip we were greeted at our destination in vineyard by people dressed in traditional Hungarian clothes where we enjoyed a party filled with music, food, dancing and local entertainment. The students were able to enjoy a part of Hungary most tourists never see.

This trip allowed students to see and experience the beauty, history, and future of Hungary. Many international friendships were made and greater appreciations of global issues were realized by the students as they continue their education.