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The Biocamp is a five-day academic and cultural exchange program focusing on biology and chemistry; the exchange takes place every year between the EEBI and a secondary school in another EU member state—this year the exchange was with Petőfi Sándor Evangélikus Gimnázium in Bonyhád, a town in south western Hungary. The itinerary of Biocamp included diverse programs to suit everyone’s preferences. Although Biocamp is primarily an educational experience, there were many opportunities for us to explore Hungary guided by our hosts, who in turn experienced life in Brussels first-hand thanks to us.
In October, the program took thirty S4 and S5 students from the French, Italian, Spanish, English, German, Polish, Danish and Hungarian sections at EEBI to Bonyhád. On the first day we were taken along with our host students to the Mecsek mountains, where we got to know each other and familiarized ourselves with the local vegetation during a forest walk. Later, we visited Pécs and in particular the University of Pécs Medical School where we heard lectures on a variety of topics (e.g. cancerous cells). We spent a day in the host school’s labs working in teams to conduct difficult chemistry experiments—not always successfully! There was also a chance to attend lessons at the school; some were in Hungarian and could not be savored to their fullest extent by our mixed ensemble.
Our time was also filled with fun, including an exhilarating afternoon in the adventure park Mecsextrem and a wet afternoon canoeing on an offshoot of the Duna (the Danube) followed by an evening visiting local wine cellars (where we received a “dry” lecture on wine). We were also treated to a traditional evening bonfire where we had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing the European anthem in all our languages. One day was a so-called Family Day and was spent in the company of our host families, who were free to organize programs of their own choice. Some of us wandered the streets of the local town to soak up the atmosphere; while a few spent a peaceful afternoon at home; others visited Pécs or the celebrated summer resort Lake Balaton. The last day was spent sightseeing in the country’s well-known capital: Budapest.
In February, our fifteen host students from Bonyhád came to Belgium. The first day was spent visiting the most well-known sights of Brussels namely the Atomium and the Grand Place, and naturally the Manneken Pis. Later we visited the Parliamentarium as well as the EU Parliament, where we were given a tour by a Hungarian MEP. During their 5-day stay we also visited Bruges and Blankenberge. Many of our guests were disappointed by the blood chilling temperatures of the North Sea—only a few dared to dip their feet. The trip to Blankenberge also had educational value as we visited the local aquarium, Sea Life Blankenberge. There we enjoyed the seal show and viewed a variety of local fish species. We spent one afternoon performing scientific experiments, extracting DNA from Belgian strawberries and using paper chromatography to separate pigment matters.
We found the Biocamp to be a memorable experience. The program was valuable in the sense that we not only got to know students from a different culture and context but also saw ourselves in a different light. The Hungarian students were strong in the sciences and impressed us with their enthusiasm and knowledge. On the other hand, EEBI students had a more extensive knowledge of the world, languages and different cultures that we could share with our new friends...
Anna Charlotte Máthé s4en