Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Stint in Budapest

Christopher Vandemark, an undergraduate student here at the University of Florida, as well as our ardent coordinator at the American Hungarian Educators Association conference this past May, was awarded a Summer travel grant from the Center to assist with his thesis research in Budapest, Hungary. He reports to us his experiences below:
Thanks to the travel grant afforded me by the Center for European Studies, I had the opportunity to research for my undergraduate thesis on nineteenth-century Hungarian history in Budapest. The academics and young people that I met with on the trip were instrumental in helping me crystallize a topic that suited my scholarly interests. In addition, meeting with historians who share my fascination with Hungarian aesthetics equipped me with invaluable resources that would not have otherwise been available to me in the States.  
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of my trip to Hungary was the opportunity to meet with Simonovics Ildik√≥, curator of the Kicselli Museum in Budapest, and a prominent Hungarian fashion historian. With her guidance, I was able to locate an abundance of primary source material, including issues of Pesti Divatlap, a famous fashion publication from the middle of the nineteenth century. Working through the publications with which I was provided, primarily by Dr. Simonovics, I have chosen to write my thesis on Hungarian fashion as an instrument of passive resistance against the Habsburgs in the middle portion of the nineteenth century. The failed revolution of 1848 proffered an opportunity for subjugated populations of Hungarian society, namely women, to participate in the movement against Austrian supremacy. Using these publications as a guide, I hope to compose a paper which highlights the intersections between nationalism and aesthetics as a means of feminine empowerment.      
While the bulk of my trip was spent researching and meeting with various academics, I made time to enjoy the youth culture of Budapest in an effort to, not only have a good time abroad, but to improve my Hungarian language skills. I met so many fascinating, friendly individuals at the plethora of ruin pubs, bars, and clubs that line Budapest’s party district. As a college student, the connections I made in these clubs were probably the most memorable part of my visit. Meeting people from across the globe, and swapping stories about our experiences abroad was unforgettable.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to the visit the city that I have read so much about over the course of my studies; in a sense, it was like putting a face to the name of pen pal you’ve been communicating with back and forth for years. Without a doubt, my thesis will be of a much higher quality because of this journey, due to the primary sources I collected, as well as the people, both my peers and academic superiors, with whom I was able to spend time with.

*CES travel grants are open to all UF graduate students regardless of discipline as long as the subject of the research or talk is related to contemporary Europe (i.e. it is not sufficient that the trip takes place in Europe, it must be about contemporary Europe, broadly defined). Follow the link here for more information: