5 Things I learned as a Hungarian Student when I came to Gardner-Webb University

by Adél Kiss

1. People don’t give kisses to each other as a greeting

My very first moment when I first landed in the States was really embarrassing. What I would normally do if I meet someone is giving two kisses on both sides of the cheek. So my future teammate came and picked me up at the baggage claim at the airport, and the awkward moment happened. I was hoping that I can spend at least few hours without being weird after I step into the land of America, but I gave up this hope really quickly… Following my European habit, I was reaching at her face with my lips, she immediately gave me the weirdest “What are you doing?” face, and awkwardly tried to transform my kiss into a hug. I learned my lesson right there, no kisses, just hugs!

2. You think you have good English, but then you realize that it’s not actually that good

In Hungary you usually learn two foreign languages. You start the first one in Middle School (for me it was English), the other one in High School (german). So I was pretty confident about my English, because I was good in the classroom, I was good in the few-minutes real-life conversations with other foreign people, and I could ask for a burger in a different country, I thought that’s all I need. With this confidence behind me, I thought I’ll be using English just like a pro. I had this false idea in my mind exactly until my first hour in America. My Coach (and the teammate that probably thought that I wanted to make out with her when I tried to kiss her on the cheek) picked me up from the airport, It’s important to know, that he is probably the most hyperactive person I’ve ever met. His regular day includes at least 5-6 mugs of coffee, but usually more. So obviously when I got in his car at midnight, after a 30 hours trip (my flight got delayed) I literally could not understand any words he said. I was hoping that was just because I was tired, but I spent 2-3 months without understanding what was going on around me.

Just like my first day at the Caf, when a kid asked me if I like to cook, and i said “yes, if I have a RECEIPT, than I can do anything”. He started laughing like crazy, than he corrected me, he figured the world I wanted to say was “recipe”. People still talk about that…

3. Strangers are extremely nice to you

At home it’s not really common to start conversations or to say hi to strangers (unless they are retired, old people, cause they would tell you their whole life, even if you don’t want to hear it). I’m really social in general, but it was interesting to see, that everyone wanted to ask how my day was. Later I realized, that most of the people don’t necessarily care about your day, so you don’t always have to tell them the story of your life, but it is still nice that you have an opportunity to start a conversation with anyone. Also, everyone just seems incredibly nice. My favorite thing is probably when someone walks by and smiles at me; that just puts me in a good mood even if that smile is not really honest.

4. Your British English doesn’t always work in America

In Europe people learn British English, which makes sense, but it sometimes it gets really funny, when you try to say something, and it sounds completely wrong for Americans, like; looking for a car-park (parking lot), eating chips (french fries), eating biscuits (cookies), living in a flat (apartment), or using the underground (subway).

5. Everyone is there to help you

The beginning is never easy, and you would probably be lost without the right people. But Gardner-Webb is a community where you feel like you belong to a big family, and everyone is ready to help you no matter what. I couldn’t be thankful enough for the teachers, who spent extra hours from their free time to help me out if I didn’t understand something. Also my advisors have been doing a great job with leading me to the right pathway. Maybe you have no idea about your future, you don’t know what you want to major in, but they will find a way to help you figure out what’s the best for you. If you are a member of an athletic team, your coaches and teammates will support you to be a great athlete, and an excellent student as well. We have many organizations and clubs around campus, that give you an opportunity to find something you like, and to be a part of a group of people who share the same interest.


Adél Kiss: Junior. GWU Women's Swim Team. Communications Major.