A Year in Retrospect by Nouhaila Bouhout

July 24, 2020

by Nouhaila Bouhout , MA student in the School of Public Policy

When I received my admission offer to study at CEU I was very excited, since it was my first time traveling abroad as a result of the scholarship for my master's program. I could not have imagined that this would be as memorable of an experience as it has become owing to the pandemic-related challenges and constraints.

As I look back on this past year and as graduation is only days away, I cannot believe that this challenging, yet invaluable year is coming to an end. Finally being back home, I have the chance to catch my breath and contemplate the whirlwind of exceptional experiences I’ve had; all packed into this one magnificent year. I completed a master’s degree, lived in three different countries, moved from one apartment to five, met 100+ people with unique and diverse backgrounds, became adept in another foreign language, and survived a global pandemic. While I am still processing everything that has happened this year, I am reveling in the achievements of personal growth my academic journey has brought me.   

I am originally from Morocco and have been living in Europe for the past four years. I am currently a one-year master’s student at the School of Public Policy, specializing in security. Before classes started at CEU in early September, I already knew it was going to be a phenomenal year ahead knowing that several departments had to split the academic year between the Budapest and Vienna campuses. In fact, having the opportunity to live in two absolutely beautiful cities has added depth and culture to my character, and taught me more about myself and the world than I thought possible. Granted, this move became considerably challenging when I decided to take a course in Budapest, as this course is only offered as an on-campus option, which meant that I had to travel from Vienna to Budapest every fortnight. Despite logistical difficulties, I enjoyed this experience as I was very passionate about the course: Security in the Global South: Latin America as a Case Study. I feel that this course epitomized the core elements of my specialization and I was very motivated to make sacrifices to take it. Eventually, alternating between two countries for a course became part of my lifestyle and routine.   

Bouncing between two different countries so frequently was naturally rather chaotic and there were countless snags that arose along the way. Looking back, I would not have wanted it any other way. The constant movement and problem-solving imbued me with a fresh sense of purpose. Beyond that, there was a sense of adventure in the commute itself, as all of my senses felt electrified with the ever-changing scenery, food, and people. Both countries left their mark on me, empowering me and sharpening my wits in their own ways. The whole experience reminds me of a playful, yet meaningful Dr. Seuss quote that resonates with me, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own.  And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy/girl/person who’ll decide where to go.”