Alumni Spotlight: Kathleen Karika

Kathleen attends Texas A&M University, and although she misses it dearly, she is excited to be experiencing a new life abroad. So far she has been busy traveling throughout Europe, tasting wine, and challenging herself to learn Hungarian. You can read more about Kathleen and her adventures in Hungary on her blog at

Why did you want to study abroad and how did you pick Hungary?

Kathleen Karika, API alumni in Budapest, Hungary

Kathleen: I am blessed to be a quarter Hungarian and growing up I have been able to travel back to Hungary every summer to visit family. Studying abroad was always in the plan for college, and I had promised my family that I would spend an entire school year in Hungary to finally master the language. That year is finally upon us.

How did you find your program?

Kathleen: Texas A&M’s study abroad office has a database where you enter basic criteria for the type of study abroad program you’re interested in and out pops a list of possible opportunities. I typed in Hungary and selected Academic Programs International (API). A number of my friends study abroad through them and loved it. I have to agree with them; I definitely chose the best program in Budapest.

From what I understand, A&M has never sent a student on this program before. When I return home my plan is to try and spark some interest in study abroad opportunities in Hungary. API arranged our housing, class schedules, excursions in and outside of Hungary, Hungarian language partners, and gave us an amazing Residence Director. We are the smallest group of Americans (6 students) and it’s been nice having a group this size.

How have you overcome the challenges of adapting to a new life in Hungary?

Kathleen Karika, API alumni in Budapest, Hungary

Kathleen: Since I've regularly traveled to Hungary, I knew pretty much what to expect. I know the basic history and some of the language so I was not thrown into a completely foreign situation like a lot of other students. The hardest part for me hasn’t been so much the cultural differences, but the physical distance of living in Europe for a year. There are so many ways to talk to your family and friends while abroad, but nothing can replace physical contact. I’m thrilled to be here for a year, but it’s going to be a long haul. Luckily I regularly see my Hungarian family, and great grandmother cooking and kisses certainly makes the distance a lot easier.

To help combat the challenges of living in Hungary, I think every student should take a Hungarian or Central/Eastern Europe history class. It’s very easy to gush about how advanced and easy life is in Western Europe compared to the slightly simpler life in Eastern Europe. There’s a reason the two regions of Europe are so different. Understanding why allows student to gain new perspectives, and makes it easier to embrace the differences.

How do you see this experience impacting your future goals?

Kathleen: This trip to Hungary has already impacted my life in a major way. Before this trip, I always thought I would dabble in the wine industry as a hobby but still have a “real job”. I’ve since realized there’s no reason it has to be hobby if it’s something I really like. This summer I’m going to really try and get into the wine industry and explore this new direction in life. It’s scary, but also very exciting!