When Miles Davis packed his bags for Budapest, he knew that immersing himself in a new, unfamiliar culture would come with obstacles. He did not predict, however, his greatest challenge of all: finding something to eat.
His food allergies presented a major problem in Hungary, a “country steeped in dairy, pork and beef,” said Davis, a senior mathematics major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Once he grew more accustomed to the area, he was able to discern which restaurants could best suit his needs—and focus his attention on the challenging courses of the Budapest Semester in Mathematics (BSM) program.
Davis, a native of Shreveport, Louisiana, spent five months on his adventure in Budapest. BSM is a 15-week program that spans one semester. Students must take two courses taught in English by Hungarian professors. The program emphasizes developing students’ problem-solving skills, creativity and a deep, rather than broad, understanding of the course material.
The BSM courses, such as advanced mathematical problem solving, discrete and convex geometry, and combinatorics, furthered Davis’s passion for mathematics because they allowed him to explore the world of mathematics from a new perspective.
The courses also revealed the rigor of what graduate school could look like.
It was a challenge such as this that made Davis’s experience in Budapest worthwhile. Davis described his experience as one that “transformed me into a new person by the time I returned home.”
Surrounded by new faces in an unfamiliar country, all alone, is an eye-opening experience. Davis said this time abroad presented him new opportunities, and his experience with BSM made him realize that taking a gap year after graduation would allow him to pursue other passions before enrolling in graduate school.
“I’d say that my study abroad experience has made me unsure about my career goals, which I think is good, since maybe I was never too sure to begin with,” Davis said.
Davis didn’t always dream of a life dedicated to the study of mathematics. In high school, he and his dad watched a lot of science documentaries about cosmology and quantum physics.
“These ideas truly amazed me, and then I slowly developed the idea that an exploration of the universe was the only course of study I wanted (to) take,” Davis said.
It was only after taking physics courses at UC Berkeley that Davis discovered his passion for math. He quickly found himself regularly lost in thought, pondering mathematical concepts and their meaning. He knew that his passion had shifted away from physics.
His recent BSM courses allowed Davis to explore the world of mathematics from a new perspective he’d never seen before, and the experience furthered his love for the subject.
The application process for BSM consists of an online application with several essay prompts outlining academic challenges and reasons the student wishes to be a part of the program, along with two written letters of recommendation from mathematics faculty.
For anyone considering applying for BSM, Davis suggests they apply as soon as they can.
“If anything, by applying early, if they're not accepted, they'll know in which ways they could make their application more competitive for the next year,” Davis said.
- Tori Pedersen, UNL student writer, CSMCE