Biocamp is a cultural and scientific exchange between EEB1, Brussels, and Petőfi Sándor Evangélikus Gimnázium in Bonyhád, Hungary. Organised by Dr Krisztina Krausz and Dr János Papai, both science teachers at EEB1, Biocamp 2018–2019 involved 23 students from S4 at EEB1 and 23 students between the ages of 14 and 17 from Petőfi Sándor Evangélikus Gimnázium in Bonyhád, a small town in South-West Hungary.
Towards the end of September 2018, participants and parents were invited to a meeting at EEB1 during which Dr Krausz outlined the exchange programme and revealed the list of Hungarian exchange students. All participants were excited to see who they had been paired with and the non-Hungarians had great fun trying to pronounce our exchange students’ names before looking them up on Facebook! The countdown had begun!
On 21 October, at the crack of dawn, Drs Krausz and Papai and 23 EEB1 students from the English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Spanish sections boarded Wizz Air flight 2282 from Charleroi to Budapest.
On Day 1, upon landing in Budapest, we headed to the village of Solymár where experienced speleologists took us on a tour of Devil’s Hole Cave. Though the name sounded ominous, the tour was fun and challenging in equal measure. From there we headed South to Bonyhád where we met our Hungarian host families outside the school.
On Day 2, we met at the school and played some games to get to know the students from Petőfi Sándor Evangélikus Gimnázium. We then walked in the magnificent Mecsek valley, where we did some instructive and enjoyable plant and animal species observation exercises with our exchange students. We got the bus back to the school where we had some tasty snacks made by the host families. Later that evening we gathered around a bonfire and were challenged by Dr Krausz to put on a show with our group. We had great fun!
Day 3 was “family day”. Some of us visited a zoo, more of us went to beautiful Lake Balaton and more again went paintballing! Family day was fun day where we got to know our exchange family better and discovered more about Hungarian culture and history.
Day 4 was spent at Petőfi Sándor Evangélikus Gimnázium and we attended class with our Hungarian exchange students. While most of us are unable to speak Hungarian, it was still very interesting to experience the Hungarian education system first hand. Our exchange students appeared to be very diligent and motivated and education standards at the school would seem to be high. We then visited the PannonPharma pharmaceutical company in the nearby town of Pécsvárad. We learned much from our informative guides and it was interesting to think that for some of us budding scientists PannonPharma might even be a future place of work. We then visited the castle and beautiful city of Pécs (2010 Cultural Capital of culture). We especially enjoyed its digital planetarium. Here, we were fascinated to learn about how the universe we live in works. We wondered what will happen to humans if space technology continues to advance at its current pace and what lies beyond our Milky Way. We then had 1 hour to visit/shop our scientific hearts out in Pécs city centre, which was great.
On Day 5, we had to wake up very early to be at school at 7.45 and leave on time for Budapest. We were all extremely sad to leave the wonderful people we had met 5 days earlier and with whom we had really “bonded” (chemistry pun intended). Upon arrival in Budapest we walked to the Parliament from where we had a chance to wander around the city centre, which was beautiful and captivating.
Wizz air flight 2283 took us safely home. We were exhausted but delighted to have seen and learned so much and to have made so many new friends in EEB1 and in Bonyhád.
Biocamp was an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. We were extremely impressed by the Hungarian students’ command of English and knowledge of biology and were blown away by the warmth of their welcome to their country and to their school. They have set the bar very high for us but we look forward very much to seeing them in the spring and showing them around beautiful Belgium.
Thank you to Dr Krausz for organising this scientifically and culturally enriching project which has benefitted everyone participating in it.
Caitlín O’Connor Breathnach