View of Bupdaest from Aurnov Chattopadhyay SEAS 21

Hudson to Danube: New Rivers, New Views

Aurnov Chattopadhyay SEAS'21

As we strive to engineer for humanity, we must remember that technologies we build don’t exist in vacuums. They have an outsized impact on users often out of sight and often out of mind. An empathy of people both from and beyond our lived experiences is a necessity in our increasingly interconnected world. Sometimes, all it takes is a new river to start seeing things with a new view.

After a summer in the Bay Area, year and half in NYC, and growing up in sunny Southern California suburbia, I craved an experience outside the high-tech bubbles my perspective felt limited to. When I found a study abroad program that would afford me the opportunity to both continue my technical growth and immerse myself into a world far from my own, I was ready for a new adventure: Budapest.

Instead of a dorm in Morningside Heights, I lived in an apartment in Erzsébetváros. Instead of pizza, I turned to Lángos – a Hungarian staple of fried dough, sour cream, and fresh cheese – for my savory cravings. Soon enough, I found myself picking up fresh pastries at local bakeries, relaxing in thermal baths, and cheering ‘Egeshegedre’ over Unicum shots at ruin bars. Budapest started feeling like home with the picturesque Danube offering me the same serenity of Riverside Park along the Hudson.

With new rivers, came new views. Budapest embraces antiquity with modernity, shaped by the Austro-Hungarian empire, Soviet Invasion, and World Wars with the backdrop of Ottoman, Mongol, and Roman histories. Striving to immerse myself into the distinctive culture of Hungary gave me new perspective. I discovered an appreciation for the little things I often overlooked, and for a new lifestyle.

I learned to use Bolt instead of Uber, Wolt and NetPincer to order food, and WhatsApp to message. I said ‘Szia’ (pronounced like see ya) to say hello, and ‘hello’ for goodbye. With a little help, I got accustomed to a culture that upon arrival felt exceedingly foreign.

It’s hard to understand or acknowledge cultures we have never experienced, but they demand our attention. As we strive to engineer for humanity, we must remember that technologies we build don’t exist in vacuums. They have an outsized impact on users often out of sight and often out of mind. An empathy of people both from and beyond our lived experiences is a necessity in our increasingly interconnected world. Sometimes, all it takes is a new river to start seeing things with a new view.