Fulbright Scholarships: boosting Hungarian-American relations at SZE

One of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, the Fulbright has already helped several students and lecturers from Széchenyi István University to attend courses at American universities, and several lecturers from the United States have also come to the Győr-based institution. As a new step in the cooperation, two staff members of Indiana University and the Executive Director of Fulbright Hungary visited Széchenyi István University to discuss the possibility of hosting American students.

The Fulbright scholarship programme operates in more than 160 countries around the world, including Hungary. It was established by US Senator J. William Fulbright with the support of the US Department of State, partner governments and the private sector. Its basic aim is to promote mutual understanding between countries and to provide opportunities for academic research and the exchange of ideas.

The student community at Széchenyi István University is now made up of young people from 65 nations, thanks to the institution's successful internationalisation efforts, and this academic year alone the number of international students has increased by 30 per cent to nearly 800. Almost 40 English-taught programmes offer international students the opportunity to acquire up-to-date knowledge

One important element of the University's extensive international relations is the Fulbright programme, which has seen a number of students and lecturers study in the USA, and there are currently several lecturers from overseas who have come to Győr on scholarships

The relationship was further strengthened at an event held at Széchenyi István University, attended by two members of staff of Indiana University, Stephanie Leslie and Paul Fogleman, as well as Dr Károly Jókay, Executive Director of the Fulbright Hungarian-American Educational Exchange Program Committee. The Director said that most of their visits to universities are about how Hungarian students can participate in the program, but this time they were looking at the opportunities for American students and teaching staff to participate in Hungarian education.

"The American colleagues whose job it is to prepare their students for mobility are here to learn more about Széchenyi István University, the opportunities and the range of programmes on offer, from a few weeks to a semester to full Bachelors and Masters degree programmes," said the Director, explaining the aim of the meeting.

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Stephanie Leslie and Paul Fogleman of Indiana University with Dr Károly Jókay, Executive Director of the Fulbright Hungarian-American Educational Exchange Program Committee (Photo: Csaba József Májer)


"Széchenyi István University has an excellent dual education system, which in many places in America is only just beginning to be introduced. It is a great opportunity for students to find a job while they are studying, and they can immediately apply the knowledge they have acquired in practice. The Győr institution has very strong industrial links, so it is a model in this field," said Dr Károly Jókay when asked what the main attraction of the institution could be. He added that the English-taught academic programmes, a global vision, learning about another culture and new ways of looking at things can all be attractive for American students. As he said, this is already working well at the teaching level, and as in the last academic year, Széchenyi István University will receive lecturers from the United States in the next academic year.

The programme also included an extraordinary alumni meeting, where former Fulbright scholars from Széchenyi István University shared their experiences of studying in the US. Dr Attila Borsos, Associate Professor and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Transport Sciences, applied for the scholarship in 2010, which was six times oversubscribed, and was successfully awarded. "It was a great opportunity for me, as US higher education provided very good research conditions. I had been overseas during my doctoral studies and the six-month stay gave me an impetus that led to an extra chapter in my doctoral thesis," said the Vice Dean.

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A group of participants at the SZE event (Photo: Csaba József Májer)

He added that after his return home, he maintained a professional relationship with the American professor who helped him in his work, and their scientific cooperation is still alive today.

"So this fellowship is an excellent opportunity to enter the international research bloodstream, to make international acquaintances that will lead to significant, long-term human and professional relationships," Dr Borsos stressed.

He concluded by saying that the Fulbright scholarship is a great opportunity for US students and researchers, and that the institution can be an attractive destination for them with its foreign language-taught programmes and extensive industrial contacts.

"This is illustrated by the example of Professor Richard Ray, who came to us as a scholar some fifteen years ago, but ended up staying here and choosing Győr and Széchenyi István University for the long term," said the lecturer.

Historical dimensions

The Fulbright scholarship can also open up historical dimensions, since the director of the Fulbright Hungarian-American Committee visiting Széchenyi University is a descendant of the Jókai family, the great-great-nephew of Mór Jókai, while Bence Széchenyi, a member of the Széchenyi family, came to Hungary last year as a Fulbright scholar and visited the campus of the university named after his famous ancestor, the "greatest Hungarian".

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