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Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in Eastern Europe Anymore
gabor gurbacs 10 contributing writer
November 11, 2009

Whenever anybody asks me about my personal background, “first” impressions, or daily life at Deerfield Academy, I usually answer with two simple words: magnificent and complicated.

It is magnificent because everything is simply perfect here. The rural beauty, the clean air, and morning birdcalls remind me of the little village where I grew up. Socially, I appreciate the friendly, intellectual, and artsy community. Unlike those at my previous high school, students, faculty and physical plant employees are open-minded, inquisitive, and ambitious. The surrounding warmth and completely different education methods encourage me.

Comparing the school system here to the “core” Eastern-European curricula, I recognize major differences. Back in Hungary, we take 12 to 15 subjects per year; we can’t choose our classes, and lessons are not focused on personal opinion. These educational characteristics are typical of most young, post-communist democracies. These democracies involuntarily oppress underprivileged minorities such as the Romany, the largest in Europe, to which I belong.

Around twelve million Romany live in Europe, including the 1.5 million who reside in Hungary. In the past, less than seventeen percent of them finish elementary school, around six percent complete high school and far less than one percent enter university. And yet, education still plays an important role in our lives.

Four years ago, I stood up for the cause and wrote proposals to the Hungarian government, planned integration projects, and pushed myself in order to acquire a good education under the strong belief that one day everything would be better. In 2008, after a Harvard interview, I recognized that I should spend an extra year at a boarding school before attending college. Deerfield Academy offered the wonderful opportunity for a transition year in order to acclimate myself to the US education system, meet unique people, and further pursue dreams.

Now that I am here, it’s not easy at all. Every day I study fervently, manage two small companies, deal with national development projects, struggle with personal health issues, and worry about my father’s physical condition. In this multiple-identity game called life, sometimes I can’t decide whether I am the luckiest or the most miserable person.

But one thing is sure—I am not alone in this game anymore. Every day there is a student, a faculty member, or a physical plant worker who encourages me to push further, exceed my limits and make my dreams come true. I try to be worthy of both my heritage and my future objectives.

Thank you very much, Deerfield Academy. Thank You All.

Gabor Gurbacs ’10 is a post-graduate from Hungary. He recently gave a presentation to the Economics Department at Harvard University.