MSU art history senior Kinga Krisztian, spent the first nine years of her life comfortably living in Budapest, Hungary. When her mother Ildiko, and father Laszlo, made the life-changing decision to transport their lives across the world, Kinga Krisztian was thrown into an unfamiliar world where she barely spoke the language and was expected to attend elementary school with children and teachers that treated her like an outsider.
Below is a more in depth Q & A that was cut from the audio piece due to space constraints.
Q: Why did your family choose to move to America?
A: My grandmother already had moved to the States and she really wanted us to follow her there.
Q: What were your feelings about the move?
A: I think I was too young to understand. I thought it was kind of cool. I didn’t really have best friends then because I was so young so it didn’t really affect me as much as it would have if I was like, 16.
Q: What was it like attending school your first year?
A: It was hard because no one wanted to be my friend. I was in ESL (English as a Second Language) so I learned even more English — even though I did already know a little bit, but it was hard. All the little kids like to play together and I was never included.
Q: Were the students or teachers different toward you?
A: Yea, absolutely. Not that they were mean, but they kind of treated me like I was dumb, or like not worthy of being in the classroom like the rest (of the kids) were. I don’t really know, that’s just how I felt.
Q: What type of lifestyle did your family have during the first few years?
A: We’re still very in touch with our culture. We’re very Hungarian, and we definitely didn’t transform magically into Americans, but it was easier because my parents both got jobs right when we came from people we knew. We didn’t really have that hard transition into America like a lot of the immigrants do.
Q: What did your family do to help ease the transition from Hungary to America?
A: We do have a lot of close family friends that are Hungarian who we met through my grandma that already lived here. And my aunt and uncle actually also lived here as well, so we met a lot of people through them. On the weekends we would go to their houses as much as possible so we could be around people that we related to.
Q: What do you miss most about Hungary?
A: The ice cream. I don’t know I still have a lot of family members there. I still really like going back but if I had the choice I probably wouldn’t go back. I know my parents definitely would because I know that they really miss it.
Q: What do you remember about the day that the twin tower collapsed after the terrorist attacks?
A: I was in 6th grade. I live in Queens so technically that is part of New York City and you can see the skyline from the roof of my apartment building. It was kind of weird because (the principle) came over the loud speaker and said, “We’re very sorry for what happened this morning with the twin tower.” We were all really confused because we were super young and our teachers were all in the hallways speaking to each other. Everyone slowly started getting picked up. I remember one of my best friend’s dad at the time, actually worked in the World Trade Center, and she was freaking out and didn’t really know what was going on. She was one of the last ones to be picked up along with me because my parents both worked in Manhattan and they had to walk across the 59th Street Bridge, so I got picked up by someone else. I think if I was older it would have affected me way more. I didn’t really understand that it was a terrorist attack. I though it was kind of an accident at first, but then when my parents explained it to me I understood. We went on my roof and the city was just smoke. You could even smell it from where I lived which is a good 15 minutes away from the World Trade Center.
Q: Do you think the attacks scared your parents since your family had just moved there?
A: Oh my gosh, totally. My mom still thinks that something bad is going to happen all the time, even with little things. There was a storm, like a big hurricane that was coming to New York and my mom freaked out. That’s just the kind of person she is. Even when she’s riding the subway and someone has a big package she’ll say something about it, and say, “Oh I wonder what’s in there. I hope it’s not a bomb.” She’s really weird.
Q: What about your father?
A: My dad, I feel like he’s just like any other dad. He doesn’t really think it’s going to happen again or is too concerned about it, or at least he doesn’t show it if he is.
Q: Do you think it ever crossed your parents’ minds to move back after the attacks had happened?
A: If it did, we couldn’t have moved back, because at that point me and my mom had a green card, but my dad hadn’t gotten one yet. My parents never legally got married in Hungary so when we came here me and my mom got green cards and I got one automatically because I was under 18 and I was her daughter. My dad didn’t get one because they weren’t legally married yet so they had to sign a bunch of papers and get married in America. He eventually got his green card but that wasn’t until I was 17. We could have (gone back), but my dad would have never been allowed back in the country and we had already started a new life here.