Budapest Semester in Mathematics

Basic information

  • Location: Budapest, Hungary | Map
  • Dates: Fall, Spring or Summer
  • Class requirement: Sophomore
  • Cost: To be announced

Spend part of your junior or senior year in Budapest, Hungary through the (non-Calvin) Budapest Semesters in Mathematics (BSM) program. Learn mathematics from leading Hungarian scholars through one of the most prestigious and essential study-abroad programs for undergraduate students of mathematics.

Hungary has a long tradition of excellence in mathematics education. However, because of the language barrier, students have not been able to take advantage of the skill and dedication of the mathematics faculties of Hungarian universities. BSM provides a unique opportunity for North American undergraduates. Through this program, mathematics and computer science majors in their junior/senior years may spend the fall, spring or summer semester in Budapest and study under the tutelage of eminent Hungarian scholar-teachers. The instructors of BSM are members of Eötvös University, the Mathematical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and Budapest University of Technology and Economics, the three institutions known for having educated more than half of Hungary's highly acclaimed mathematicians. Most instructors have had teaching experience in North America and are familiar with the cultural differences. For further information on the Budapest Semester in Mathematics, visit their website.


Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, a city of two million, is situated on both sides of the river Duna (Danube). Eight graceful bridges link the charming hills of Buda on the river's west bank to cosmopolitan Pest on the east. The construction of the Royal Palace on Buda's Castle Hill was begun over 700 years ago. Actually, the history of this district dates even earlier; a thousand years before the Hungarian kings, Roman warriors maintained a military settlement there to guard the "limes" of the Empire. Buda and Pest were united in 1872 and the union grew into the friendly metropolis we see now in modern Budapest with its elegant boulevards, coffeehouses, and concert halls. The architecture of Budapest displays the influence of many other cultures—from Turkish baths reminiscent of the country's 150 years of struggle with the Ottoman Empire, to the modern Hyatt Hotel on Roosevelt square which in turn faces the 140-year-old edifice of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The city dominates the cultural, economic, and political life of the nation. Budapest hosts eleven universities, two opera and ballet theaters, scores of theaters, museums, art collections, parks, many cinemas, discos and sports arenas. Learning English has been quite fashionable in the country for many years. In the University virtually all faculty speak English, as do many students, to a reasonable degree. The visitor will have no difficulty finding helpful people speaking English all around Budapest. Another foreign language spoken by many Hungarians is German.

Two million


Students normally take three to four mathematics courses and one or two intercultural courses each semester. The BSM program offers beginning and advanced Hungarian language, central European history and a Hungarian culture course each semester. About twenty additional non-mathematics courses are available to BSM students through other American programs taught at the College International.


Budapest Semesters in Mathematics courses comprise 14 weeks of teaching plus one week of exams. Each course usually meets three to four times per week for a total of 56 contact hours per semester. The summer program is eight weeks long, meets two hours per day, four days a week with the expectation that students will take two full-credit courses. Normally, one BSM course transfers either as 3 or 4 semester hours depending on an evaluation of course material done by Calvin. Classes are taught in English by eminent Hungarian professors, most of whom have had teaching experience in North American universities. In keeping with Hungarian tradition, teachers closely monitor each individual student's progress. Considerable time is devoted to problem solving and encouraging student creativity. Emphasis is on depth of understanding rather than on the quantity of material. Courses may be taken Audit or Graded. Students may take as many or as few courses as they feel comfortable with, but the "normal" course load is four classes for fall or spring semester and two classes for the summer program.

The imprint of the Hungarian tradition is particularly prominent in some of the courses.

"Combinatorics" concentrates on combinatorial structures and algorithms, a stronghold of Hungarian mathematics. The courses, along with "Theory of Computing", are a valuable introduction to Theoretical Computer Science.

"Conjecture and Proof", even more than other courses, introduces the student to the excitement of mathematical discovery. Concepts, methods, ideas, and paradoxes that have startled or puzzled mathematicians for centuries will be reinvented and examined under the guidance of enthusiastic and experienced instructors. The topics covered range from ancient problems of geometry and arithmetic to 20th century measure theory and mathematical logic.


Students will live either in a rented, furnished apartment shared with other BSM participants or with a Hungarian family. Opting for an apartment offers most of the comfort to which students are accustomed. Living with a family provides substantially less privacy, however, it could be the most rewarding choice by enhancing the cross-cultural experience. All homes will be within easy reach of the university using the frequent and inexpensive public transportation. Program administrators in Budapest will help students with housing and any problems that arise.


To be eligible, students must normally have at least sophomore status, be in good academic standing, have completed one semester of advanced calculus or abstract algebra by the start of the program and be motivated to study mathematics.


The tuition for 2014-2015 is $10,195 for one semester. Lodging, meals, transportation, travel around Europe and textbooks are not included in the tuition.

Estimated costs of living in Budapest for five months:

  • Rent (including utilities) - $2,600
  • Meals (eating out liberally) - $3,150
  • Local transportation - $270
  • Entertainment, miscellaneous - $550
  • Textbooks - $150-350

NOTE: Because the Budapest Semester in Mathematics is a non-Calvin study abroad program, the amount of Calvin financial aid support will vary. If you are interested in the BSM, you are encouraged to stop by the Off-Campus Programs Office for information on how to apply for Calvin's financial support.


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