10:02 pm Central European Time
Arriving at Metro Airport early Saturday morning, something within me snapped into place: this was the last time I would be in the United States for an entire 5+ months. It was a concept that made my mind freeze for a moment, and in that instant I took in every last detail I could, so as not to forget what it felt like to be home. I choked back plenty of tears waving goodbye to my mom and stepped through security, gaining a little bit of confidence with each stride.
Luckily I wasn't alone for long; other program members had arrived as well, and we managed to find one another fairly easily. Waiting around in the airports in Detroit, D.C., and Frankfurt became a bonding experience, and the four of us definitely had a good time (although perhaps at the expense of perpetuating the loud, obnoxious American stereotype).
Eleven hours in the air, three and a half in-flight movies, and several danke schöns later (one of the Lufthansa flight attendants actually thought I was German because that was all I would say. Sorry Fraulein Zimmerman--I have no idea what you were saying to me, but you seemed really nice), we got on a minibus headed for our dorm. For a while, it was somewhat shocking at how similar the surroundings seemed; electronics billboards and clothing store advertisements and McDonald's and slightly dilapidated housing. Closer to the city rose the bleak cement high-rise apartments from the reign of communism, and it was only when we were nearly there that the change really made itself apparent. Old buildings mixed with new; architecture was more well preserved and intricate; and when the River Danube came into view, the realisation was complete: we all knew we weren't in Kansas anymore.
The minibus crossed one of the many bridges and climbed a hill and dropped us off at this older, very academic-looking building. After a brief encounter with our coordinator, we schlepped our luggage up three flights of stairs and unpacked. My fellow K student roommate and I have a lovely room with a view; high ceilings, low beds, and two huge windows that open to a uniquely European vista.
After unpacking, the three K boys went off on their own adventure while us four K girls received a quick tour of the immediate area from our coordinator. We walked around, keeping mental note of each turn we made to avoid becoming lost in the Móricz Zsigmond körtér maze. Our guide left us in an extremely modern mall so she could catch her train, and we bought a few necessary groceries and afterward returned to the dorm with ease.
Since getting back, my roomie and I have relaxed and recovered, alternately napping and lazing around. Tomorrow is a big day--orientation at the university, purchasing local phones, more exploration, and dinner & drinks with the other program participants--so we need as much rest as possible. But for a few minutes more we'll stay awake, taking in the not-so-distant lights of downtown while holding aloft our delightfully college student-indicative plastic cups of famous Egri Bikavér wine, making a resounding toast to our new city of Budapest.