Huntington, Ind.—A trip to Budapest in January piqued Kevin Keller’s interest in the Hungarian capital, but he says he didn’t think it was realistic to study there for a semester abroad. When he learned about a program offering the math class he needed, he signed up.
Keller, a senior mathematics major from Strasburg, Pa., is studying abroad through the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program at St. Olaf College. Keller is in an English-speaking math program along with 65 other American students.
At the beginning of the semester, Keller sat in on five different math classes to decide which one he wanted to take. He needs Abstract Algebra along with one independent study or elective math course to graduate.
View of Budapest from Buda Hill
“I am taking the minimum here so I can travel and experience the city and culture,” he said.
Classes are segmented into four-hour blocks, with one of the hours designated as office hours because the professors are brought in from several miles away to teach. Keller said BSM is unique for two reasons: It is all math with all math students, and the professors speak English as their second language.
Keller took a two-week language course before the semester began to help with basic Hungarian speaking, and he is currently enrolled in two Hungarian language courses. He said he gets along rather well in Budapest, for example, when ordering at a restaurant, but he says language is the biggest barrier outside of Hungary.
And Keller does go outside of Hungary. Although he is enjoying his study of Abstract Algebra and Elementary Problem Solving, Keller says his most significant opportunities have been weekend trips. Keller has spent time in Vienna, Austria. He plans to venture to Romania, Prague, the Czech Republic and Germany soon. He also attended a Hungarian national soccer game and watched Hungary’s team beat Italy 3-1. Keller described it as the most amazing sporting even he has ever attended.
In addition to weekend trips, Keller said the students go out every night rather than hanging out in dorms to fill their down time.
“I also have been able to meet some Hungarians and get to know them,” he said. “It is very interesting when you can get to know people who have a very different lifestyle than you are used to.”
Dr. Francis Jones, Huntington University professor of mathematical sciences, noted that Keller is very focused and hard-working. In fact, Keller plans to graduate in three years, rather than the usual four, and he is on-track to achieve his goal. After graduation, Keller would like to be an actuary.
“Study abroad will certainly broaden his outlook on the world and on his major,” Jones said.
Studying abroad, Keller says, is one of the best decisions he has ever made, and he encourages other students to study abroad.
“I think everyone should study abroad for a semester,” he said. “It gets you out of the bubble and into a different lifestyle and different culture. This is the only time you may be able to do this, and it will be a lifelong memory.”
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