Tucked away in Central Europe, eating a spicy beef stew you’ll find Woodlawn’s own Terin Patel-Wilson ’11, now a junior at Yale University, doing a study abroad program in Budapest, Hungary. “We eat a lot of meat and potatoes,” laughs Terin. “I like meat, so it sort of works out for me!”
It’s a seemingly obscure place to land for study abroad but as Terin explains, “Budapest is sort of the hub for science and math. They have this theory that if you can do well in math and science, you will do well in life. And so they’ve put a major focus on that in Eastern Europe.”
A computer science major at Yale, Terin says he first developed his love of math/science at Woodlawn. “A lot of kids hate math in high school,” says Terin. “But some of my fondest memories involve the crazy projects we did in math.” Like the MacGyver movie, no doubt, which still makes a regular showing in Dr. Stutzman’s classes today. “Yeah, that isn’t going to be shown here is it?” laughs Terin. “I don’t want people basing their entire opinion of me on that one movie.”
Terin made the transition from math to computer science early while at Yale – his first comp sci course sealed the deal. “I was always interested in computers,” says Terin. “It’s funny because while we didn’t actually have a formal computer science class at Woodlawn, nearly everything we did had some technology piece tied to it. We became very tech savvy at a very early age and it has always piqued my interest. I mean, if you look at just my graduating class, there are three of us (out of 13) majoring in computer science: Darius, Sawyer, and myself. That’s pretty impressive.”
Terin attends classes Tuesday-Thursday and then is able to explore the city and surrounding areas over the extended weekend. “We went to Prague last weekend,” says Terin. “We just hopped on this random train and spent the day touring the city and then spent the night at a really cool hostel run by 25 year-olds. We arrived back in Budapest at 8:00 Tuesday morning just in time for my first class!” He hopes to add Slovakia and some of the Croatia beaches (once it gets warmer) to his travel destinations. “I’m planning my spring break somewhere near a Mediterranean beach,” says Terin.
He admits he’s felt quite safe. “I literally see the Ministry of Defense right out my apartment window,” he says reassuringly. “I’ve never felt unsafe.” While most of the “under 30” crowd speak English, he says the “older folks” will have nothing to do with it. “The only time I would feel nervous is if I got lost outside of the city and did not know how to get back. I’m not sure I would be able to speak Hungarian well enough.”
A requirement of his study aboard program is to take Hungarian language, which he welcomed, having always been fond of languages since his Spanish days at Woodlawn. “Hungarian is a little unusual and not like anything I’ve ever studied before,” he admits. “There’s lots of prefixes and suffixes and the numbers “one” and “four” are very similar. I’ve often gotten four of something when I actually only ordered one!”
Coolest thing so far? “That’s hard to say,” Terin contemplates. “Can I get back to you on that?” And then he quickly launches into experiences most of us only dream of. “There’s the time I almost got run over… ok, that’s not the coolest thing!” (He says the traffic lights switch quickly!) He then rattles off all sorts of things like: the architecture (“it’s pretty crazy!”), the professors (“I met the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube—he signs them for his students!”), the food (“it’s super cheap! I get mad if I pay $3.50 for a meal!”). He quickly digresses for a moment as he gets lost in his explanation of “csoki”. “It’s a chocolate pastry you can get for 20 cents. Everyone needs to try it!”
Terin admits his love for travel began at Woodlawn. “I always loved the trips we took,” he says. “Some of my best memories were of the times I traveled with my (Woodlawn) friends.” Terin encourages all students to study abroad. “Absolutely do it!” he says. “When else in your life can you live somewhere else for six months, go to classes, and explore? You grow in ways you could not imagine.”
As the interview draws to an end (it’s evening there and Terin is being pestered to begin planning his roommate’s 21st birthday party), I can’t help but ask one final question, “What’s the legal drinking age in Hungary?” He’s quick to point out that drinking isn’t really that big of a deal there. “No one gets carded, but I think it’s 18.” So what do a group of American college students do, then, to celebrate someone’s 21st birthday? “We’re planning on exploring the caves in Budapest this weekend. It should be pretty cool if you’re not claustrophobic!”
We’ll be updating Terin’s location pin yet again on the alumni map this May as he returns to the United States and heads to Seattle, WA for an internship at Amazon.com. He’ll be working with the Elastic Computing Team for the summer before finishing up his senior year at Yale.