By Kate Delenick
The rumors are abundant and impossible to ignore: “Skipping classes are a rite of passage and a GPA boost is a guarantee.” But does a semester at McDaniel’s Budapest campus really live up to all the talk and expectations?
Studying abroad is a luxury that many students at McDaniel are lucky to experience. Lately there has been a large influx of students participating in the program, and McDaniel’s own campus in Budapest is a top choice.
Speaking with anyone who has studied in Budapest or is considering it, the academics is an aspect that cannot be ignored. And when it comes to McDaniel College Budapest, many believe the academic rigor is on the lighter side. The campus consists of one gated building and most of the classrooms are on one floor. If students are looking for an official library on campus, they won’t find one.
In researching the matter, however, the results are not as black and white as some might think. Senior Lindsey Harden, a McDaniel student who studied abroad during the fall 2007 semester, quickly found out that what she had heard about Budapest’s easy classes and the reality of the academics were two different things.
“I heard it was going to be the easiest thing in the world,” Harden said. She was told that students never had to attend class but soon realized that most of her professors had fairly strict attendance policies and classes were rarely cancelled. “I heard I would never have work, but I almost always did,” she said.
Though many students agreed with Harden, some who studied in Budapest only had class three days a week. Sophomore Fernando Gomes said he has been lucky enough to travel to places like Paris on the weekends because of the flexibility of his class schedule, which allowed him to have Mondays and Fridays off.
In terms of actual grades received in Budapest, 9 out of 10 students agreed that their GPA increased either during or by the end of the semester. Many found that even a slight increase required “much less work” than they would have put in at McDaniel. Other students, like senior Kristen McDaniel, said they had received their highest GPA since entering college.
“It was just very strange all the sudden getting 90% and 100% on everything I turned in,” she said. McDaniel believes that getting better grades abroad in Budapest has pushed her to get better grades at McDaniel. “I never used to care about grades,” she said, “but after I realized I could get high grades, I actually want them and try to get them now.”
Due to time constraints, Director of International and Off-campus Study Rose Falkner was unable to provide concrete statistics about the average GPA achieved by McDaniel College Budapest students, nor was the Registrar’s Office or Brian Ault of Academic Affairs.
With or without statistics, students who have studied in Budapest have provided raw accounts of their time spent there. Junior Hillary Keating, who also studied abroad in the fall of 2007 said, “I will probably tell the next group [that studies in Budapest] that it was easy.”
Senior, bio-chemistry major, Kevin Flanagan, who studied abroad in the 2007 fall semester, believed that while his GPA increased it wasn’t “indicative of the level of difficulty within the classes.”
Senior Mollie Van Lieu, who studied there in spring of 2007, said the classes were not necessarily simple, “but the grading was easier.” She recalled a day where she was in a rush to get to class and had to quickly print out a paper that. She did not realize until she got the paper returned that two of its pages were missing.
“I still got an A,” Van Lieu remembered.
This leads many students to ask whether professors even read material handed into them, or whether something like that would happen at McDaniel’s main campus.
For many students, studying in Budapest isn’t always about education in the classroom, but about the knowledge attained by traveling to other countries and experiencing different cultures.
Junior Amanda Gushard-Edwards said she believed the faculty wanted the American students to come to class and learn but that many professors were open to her missing a class or two for other opportunities. “Traveling was encouraged,” she said.
Junior Christina Hinkle, who is currently studying abroad in Budapest, feels strongly about the value of the overall experience rather than the actual classes taken. “You can sit in a classroom and read anywhere, but [most people] only have the chance to live in another country like this once,” she said.
With the number of students studying in Budapest on the rise, many agree with Hinkle’s view. So while there might be truth to the reports of higher GPA’s and easier classes, there is much more to it than that. The Budapest program is not only about getting a higher GPA, it’s about receiving a college education while also having the experience of a lifetime.