Hungarian instructor exchanges classroom, country Teaches history at high school

September 20, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Robert Marcz and James Nemeth truly are walking a mile in each other's shoes, swapping jobs, apartments and even countries for a year.

Mr. Marcz, a 26-year-old native of Pecs, Hungary, is teaching Mr. Nemeth's world history classes at Archbishop Martin Spalding High School in Severn.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nemeth is teaching world history to Mr. Marcz's classes at the Apaczai Dual Language Grammar School in Hungary.

The exchange was made possible through the Fulbright Exchange Program. It was helped along because social studies classes at the Hungarian high school are taught in English as part of an experimental program, making it easier for Mr. Nemeth to take over his counterpart's job.

As for the apartment exchange, it "just seemed the most economical way," said Mr. Marcz, who arrived in the United States on Aug. 1 and is living in Annapolis.

He's been teaching for three weeks and already has established a typical American routine: he's up early to be at school, works late to coach soccer, rushes home to "nuke dinner" in the microwave and stays up late to plan lessons.

American and Hungarian teens are pretty similar, he says, except that the Americans speak out more freely in discussions, and some seem to be somewhat spoiled.

"Here, they have cars to drive from the age of 16, and they're driving cars I could never have afforded. My family has never had a car," Mr. Marcz says.

But he doesn't want you to think that Hungary is some under developed third world country, either.

"At home we have food stores and a banking system. I wouldn't say life was hard. It's not like I'm a Russian coming here and seeing things I've never seen in my life," Mr. Marcz said.

In fact, he says, Annapolis is about the same size as his home town and has much of the same atmosphere.

"My city is quite old, about 2,000 years old. "It's a medieval city and at this time of year, the weather is quite nice, and you can go for walks," Mr. Marcz said, somewhat wistfully. "It's a little like Annapolis, which is old and has smaller houses, and streets with little traffic. At home there are no highways or beltways."

There's also not as much crime in Hungary, he said.

He was alarmed one night to hear the sirens of police cars near his apartment. Back in Hungary, he said, he would walk from his school downtown to his grandmother's home on the edge of town at 3 a.m. and not worry about being mugged.

But Hungary isn't crime-free, he added. Since the political upheaval in Eastern Europe and the collapse of Communism, "there is more of a criminal influence, drugs are transported and cars are stolen."

Since he has been in Maryland, he has explored the area by car, because the price of gasoline "is half as much as it is in Hungary, and I can drive farther," Mr. Marcz said.

And he's thrilled with the availability of services.

"When I want to read a book or get information of any kind, it's readily available," he said.

Mr. Marcz has been practically devouring textbooks and plans to take as many home with him as possible.

In Hungary, there are no teachers' versions of textbooks that supply questions, answers and suggested teaching activities, so he has to consult several texts to develop a lesson plan. Despite the aids he has now, Mr. Marcz said it takes him longer to plan lessons here than it did in Hungary.

"I mainly teach freshman and they wouldn't really be ready for lecture, which I usually do at home," he said. "But I was told it was not acceptable to lecture here, so I try to ask questions and get them to ask questions so they can figure it out for themselves."

The change, he says, gives him new perspectives that will be useful next year at home.

The only real drawback, so far, is that he misses his friends. He talks to them, and Mr. Nemeth, on the phone, and longs for letters to fill his mailbox.

When he does talk to his parents and friends, he doesn't tell them much about his life in America.

"I'd rather ask them what they're doing. At home they just harvested the grapes, and I think they're going to get a thousand liters of wine," Mr. Marcz said.

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