Don’t move abroad during a pandemic - Lessons from an intern

I’m leaving Budapest in less than a month, and I have to admit I’m very excited. You probably should not move abroad during a pandemic, and if you do, it’s probably best not to leave before the pandemic is over so you see very little besides your own living room. In short, don’t do what I did.

Last August, I remember having a sense of not knowing how things were going to unfold but also a feeling that good and interesting things would happen. After a winter of mostly bad and boring things, I must say it was pretty naïve of me. I remember thinking “I got this” during a few months of meeting new people, taking day trips on the weekends and learning new things at work. But before long, I realized I didn’t “get it” at all. Infection rates increased fast, we started working from home, and soon the second lockdown was imposed.

Before I came here, people recommended me to do and see a lot of their favourite things in Budapest and Hungary. I barely did any of that stuff. Even now, when it is technically possible to go to the baths or cultural events again, I can’t because I’m not vaccinated yet.

It was not all bad, though. At best, this year has been almost normal: even during the lockdown life was, at times, a little mundane but good. Like cycling with a friend on a sunny day or getting a great cup of coffee or having a nice dog come to greet you in a park. 

On the other hand, at worst it has been googling “panic attack symptoms'' two months into a lockdown, in the middle of the winter, in a foreign country when your grandpa passes away, so, you know, there have been some highs and some pretty low lows.

The bright side is that I arrived between the first and second wave, so I had time to make some friends before the new lockdown, and I cannot stress enough how important that ended up being. All the best memories I have of Hungary were made with them, whether it was taking a day trip to Esztergom or going on a hike in the Buda hills, or simply chatting over a cup of (take away) hot wine outside in the freezing December evening, before rushing home before the curfew.

All that being said, I don’t regret coming here. Had I not come, I would have always wondered how it would have turned out, and I do feel like I made the right choice with the information I had at that point in time. Besides, it’s too soon to really have any perspective on what this all means in my life – if anything. I do feel like I might have a better sense of my priorities now, and I did get a lot of work experience that might lead me to something interesting someday. Only time will tell.

And while I can’t necessarily recommend moving abroad at a time like this, I still think Budapest is a great city to live in and FinnAgora a great place to work at, probably just more so in the normal times. I hope I get to see that side of both one day – my Hungary bucket list is very long and mostly not done.

But for now, I will focus on my bucket list for Finland, which is equally long. First up: seeing my loved ones and getting vaccinated as soon as possible. I really hope there is more “mundane but good” type of normalcy in store for the rest of 2021. 


Salla Hiltunen