Unfamiliar faces, foreign languages, and unexplored traditions — stepping into the unknown is where true growth begins. September 2022, I embarked on a journey to Hungary, the land of the glorious Túró rudi and spectacular thermal baths. Driven by passion for cross-cultural education, my mission was to travel the length and breadth of the country to give presentations on intercultural learning in different Hungarian high schools. The reason I chose to be part of this European Solidarity Corps (ESC) project was my desire to be a cultural ambassador for my country, providing Hungarians with an opportunity to meet an individual from a profoundly distinct background.
During this transformative period, I had the privilege of visiting 65 high schools across 22 captivating Hungarian cities. With enthusiasm and dedication, I delivered 250 presentations on intercultural learning and diversity, aiming to bridge the gaps between cultures and foster mutual understanding. It was a remarkable opportunity to share the richness of my own Moroccan culture while embracing the diversity that surrounded me.
My first few weeks in Hungary were filled with a mix of excitement, curiosity, and a touch of apprehension. As I started giving presentations on Moroccan culture, diversity and inclusion, I quickly began to realize the profound impact that intercultural learning could have. In these classrooms, I witnessed the power of open dialogue and the breaking down of barriers. Despite their lack of knowledge about my cultural background, Hungarian students were inquisitive and eager to learn and listen. The presentations I conducted at various high schools provided me with eye opening encounters, allowing me to foster dialogue and understanding among diverse groups of students. However, I couldn’t have navigated this journey alone. The support and guidance provided by my program coordinator, the AFS office, and all the volunteers were invaluable. They helped me adjust to the new culture, offered insights into Hungarian customs, and encouraged me to become more confident in delivering my presentations.
During my time in Budapest, I embraced the excitement of living alone, immersing myself in the vibrant pulse of the city. However, it was when I visited other Hungarian cities that I truly experienced the magic of intercultural connections. The opportunity to stay with host families during my travels brought a profound sense of warmth and belonging to my ESC adventure. To every single host family, I express my deepest gratitude for opening your doors and hearts to me. Your kindness and warmth made my journey even more memorable and meaningful. You have shown me the essence of Hungarian hospitality.
Beyond Hungary’s borders, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to various European countries, broadening my horizons and deepening my understanding of different cultures. Living in an international university dormitory also played a significant role in my journey. Surrounded by a diverse group of friends, mostly students, I discovered the beauty of cultural exchange and forged connections that will last a lifetime.
Now, as I prepare to bid farewell to this chapter of my life, I feel an unyielding sense of gratitude and accomplishment. The fact that I have touched the lives of thousands and thousands of students fills me with immense pride. But my journey doesn’t end here, the possibilities are endless, and I’m eager to embark on the next adventure, to continue fostering intercultural connections, and to champion the power of diversity.
To those who have been a part of my journey, whether as colleagues, friends, or supporters, I extend my deepest gratitude. Thank you, Hungary, for the unforgettable experiences. Thank you, AFS and the European Solidarity Corps Program, for granting me this remarkable opportunity. Let us continue to embrace intercultural learning and diversity, for it is in our collective efforts that we shape a brighter future for all.
– Badr Macbahi
Note by AFS Hungary: We appreciate the dedication and the kindness of Badr, as well as the resources provided by the European Commission. This project had a positive impact on hundreds of Hungarian students.