(First published on We Love Budapest, 19 February 2015)
Plenty of universities
Budapest has many quality universities to choose from, and depending on your area of study or interest you can usually find one with a specialty in your area. Many of the qualifications are recognised in the European Union and elsewhere. Medicine, dentistry, pharmaceuticals, veterinary programs, and engineering are among the most popular fields for foreigners to undertake in Budapest. But there's also the whole range of other options from marketing and business to international studies and creative arts.
The most popular universities in Budapest for foreigners include: Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Central European University (CEU), Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME), Corvinus University of Budapest, Semmelweis University and the University of Applied Sciences (BKF).
There is also the Budapest Business School, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, theInternational Business School and McDaniel College. Another popular option for those interested in Hungarian studies is The Balassi Institute. For those who excel in areas like performing arts and design there is the Liszt Academy , the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design and the University of Theatre and Film Arts, for example.
A range of study options
Many universities in Budapest offer courses in English (and sometimes other languages like German) specifically for foreigners, and there are various available pathways.
For those already studying in Europe, the ERASMUS program can offer a chance to study at a university in Budapest for one or two semesters. For those from outside the EU who want to find an exchange program at a university in Budapest it's best to first ask your home university whether they are in an institutional bilateral agreement or a university network partnership with a university in Budapest. Aside from the typical exchange programs or ERASMUS programs, there are other more niche options like:
- the CEEPUS (Central European Exchange Program University Studies)
- Ciência sem fronteiras ("Science Without Borders" if you are a student from Brazil)
- CEMS (the Global Alliance in Management Education) for the world's leading business schools
- PIM (Partnership in International Management) a consortium of top business schools
At some universities, for example at CEU, it’s even possible to study one or more individual courses (subjects) as part of a non-degree program. Some universities, like CEU, also offer Summer University programs, while The Balassi Institute offers 2-4 week or one year courses in Hungarian language or Hungarian studies.
And of course it's worth seeing if there are any scholarships on offer for foreign students, sometimes these will help with course fees, textbooks, or even living and accommodation costs. Some universities such as CEU and The Balassi Institute offer scholarships to some of their foreign students, while many of the others institutions also award some scholarships for academic excellence or other reasons. Perhaps you are eligible to apply for one of these grants or scholarships:
- EEA Grants and Norway Grants
- the Hungarian Scholarship Board
- the Visegrad Fund
- the Swiss Fund
- the INSPIRE scholarship (if you are a student from South Africa)
Relatively low cost of living
Hungary has a pretty reasonable cost of living, making it a great destination for students on a tight budget. A semester student public transport pass costs 16 200 HUF (about 50 euros), while an annual student pass costs 37 800 HUF (about 120 euros). A good solid lunch costs about 1 000 - 1 500 forints (about three to five euros), and a cheap beer costs about 300 forints (less than one euro). Living the student lifestyle, you can get by with about 600 euros a month, rent included. You can find out more about how much Budapest costs here. For those on a super tight budget, read our article on cheap meals for under 1 000 HUF here to see what about three euros will get you.
Great student life
Budapest's student life is well-known. During the day you can find students filling libraries, cafes and eateries, or having an afternoon beer, while at night Budapest really comes to life - the number of student-haunts is staggering. There is a huge selection of ruin pubs, bars, clubs and live-music venues - particularly in the inner-city District VII and the Palace District. It's very easy to meet people and it seems almost impossible to feel lonely in Budapest. Making friends at uni or at popular places like Szimpla Kert, Instant and Fogas Ház is a given. On warm days you'll find plenty of young people gathering for picnics or a sun-baking session at Margaret Island and City Park.
There's also an immense amount of festivals and events - check out this 2015 events calendar - you'll find dozens of things on around Budapest and Hungary.
Plenty of support networks
Thousands of students come to Budapest each year to study and so it's a well-worn path with plenty of help when you need it. It's also a very international city, so you can meet people from all over the world - as well as, most likely, people from your own country or city. Almost all universities have a student union or a student life office with orientation sessions, a local "buddy system," special intranet websites, and group e-mail systems to answer questions.
Of course (!!) We Love Budapest is always here to help you with tips about life in the city. There are also plenty of Facebook groups like this one, this one and this one where you can post questions and be sure to get quick answers from those foreign students and expats already living here.
Easy to find accommodation
Accommodation in Budapest, even in the most central areas near metro and tram stops, is relatively well priced so you won't need to live far from uni and the main party places. Better still, it’s not hard to find student accommodation or share-apartments with other students. Depending on your budget you can share a room, get your own room, or even rent a whole apartment. Some universities offer a “buddy system” or an e-mail network to help students find flatmates.
Both short- and long-term rental accommodation is available in Budapest and to check out what's available there are Facebook groups to help. You can browse what's on offer or post a comment with what you're looking for and wait for some tips. Try: Budapest Flats for Rent, Budapest, Hungary Apartment Rentals,Apartments/roommates in Budapest or Flats for Erasmus in Budapest.
Explore the region
There's plenty to see in the whole region so if you have a spare weekend or want to venture into regional Hungary there are limitless options. As we wrote above, there are loads of festivals to check out across Hungary, while in summer definitely head to Lake Balaton. For more inspiration, check out our top 5 ideas for day trips or weekends-away here.
If you don't want to leave Budapest, but want to chill in nature, there are a range of walking trails in the Buda Hills or you could head caving instead.
Budapest is also a great stepping-stone to the rest of central and eastern Europe. There's great rail networks heading to neighbouring and nearby countries like Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia and Romania.
“I studied in Budapest”
Budapest is small enough that it can feel familiar to newcomers within a short period of time, while also being big enough to continually provide new experiences and learning opportunities. We've made a list of the top 10 things to do in Budapest... iconic sights include the Buda Castle, the Hungarian Parliament, St. Stephen's Basilica, Heroes' Square, famous thermal baths, and the winding streets of the Jewish District. The city's cultural life is thriving with the opera, theatre, festivals, craft markets, traditional events and ceremonies for national holidays regularly taking place. The city's history is remarkable and visible daily in the city with everything from medieval stone walls to Baroque palaces to bullet holes remaining from the 1956 Revolution and WWII. Even just walking the streets will always be interesting.
Budapest is an increasingly popular destination with students, backpackers and others, and it seems there's nothing cooler than saying "I studied in Budapest."
The experience of a lifetime
You'll meet incredible people, you'll work hard and party hard, you'll try new things, see great things, maybe even fall in love, or have your heart broken. But one thing's for sure: a semester or two in Budapest is the experience of a lifetime and something you'll never forget. It's not for nothing that Budapest has numerous World Heritage Listed sites and that Hungarian hospitality and food are legendary.