Interview: Studying in Hungary – Through an Foreign Student’s Eyes

Today we are going to interview a foreign student from China, Jack. He has been a student for the past four years who has lived and studied in two different universities from two cities in Hungary. Throughout these times, he has made numerous friends and is happy to say coming to Hungary was one of the best decisions he has made since it has not only extended his horizon but also has opened new opportunities for his future. He is going to share his experiences regarding the application process, the preparation before arriving to Hungary, and his stay in Szombathely and Budapest.

You have been living in Hungary for four years now, studied one year of Hungarian in Szombathely first and later transferred to ELTE (Budapest) majoring in English.  What was your main goal coming to study in Hungary?

I wanted to study abroad and see the world different from my own.

Where did you look for information about Hungary before coming here?

Mostly from Baidu and Tieba (popular Chinese search and knowledge sharing sites). There are also many agencies advertising themselves on the internet but large amount of the information (including university ranking statistics) they provide are fake. Also, there is not much information to be found about the university fees or they are usually outdated.

What added values do you see or have already gained by receiving education in Hungary and getting a diploma thru the Hungarian education system?

Quite a lot. The school is very international friendly, the teachers are prepared and the system is well constructed. What I mean by that is you can only pass the exam if you actually know the material, there is no escape from learning it properly. This prepares students to be able to solve problems in real life, instead of focusing on just being able to beat tests.

What is the biggest challenge while studying in Hungary? What about every day challenges? How did you solve these challenges?

Being able to communicate is very important. It was difficult to communicate in everyday life when I lived in Szombathely, in Budapest however is very different, the majority of people can speak English. I would recommend everyone to attend Hungarian courses for a semester. It would make your stay much easier in the long run. Secondly, at the Hungarian university we learnt a lot of literatures related topics, for instance, that we did not cover in Chinese high school. In order to catch up with that and being able to learn the new material as well, I spent studying more than 3 hours a day after class. Thirdly, I had some problem with my landlords which was the result of lack of communication between us and also to my roommates who regularly delayed paying the rent. I had to move twice, but in the end,  I am really satisfied with my current landlord.

How did you find the housing?

I found it through Facebook.

Were you homesick throughout your stay in Budapest?

No, it wasn’t difficult for me. With the help of smart phones and the internet, it was easy to keep in touch with my parents and friends. Besides, I visited China twice a year for two months, so it felt more like extended travelling for me all the time.

What were your expectations before coming to Hungary?

My goal was to to become a fluent Hungarian speaker, to finish my degree, to gain some work experiences. Luckily everything mentioned above came true for me. I am now able to have an everyday conversation with native Hungarians. I am finishing my degree next year and got some work experiences from having a part time job at a local restaurant.

What are some of the things you are glad that you had done prior to coming to Hungary?

Language courses. There were courses that I took which taught me how to adopt to the western education system, how to write an essay, and how to prepare for a presentation. I found these very useful and it was a huge help when I had to write essays in English.

Are there specific things that you had help from external source?

Yes, I applied to my first university through an agency which is necessary for the first round. They assisted me on what documents I needed to prepare, how to prepare my insurance, the deposit and how to apply for visa. These information were hard to figure out on you own when you don’t have experiences.

What are the things you wish you had help from an external source but you did not?

Before leaving China, I didn’t think I needed any services from an external source but after I had arrived in Hungary there were things I wasn’t prepared for. For instance, having someone coming to the immigration office with me sorting the resident permit out would have been a tremendous help. Without any help, getting everything done took me half a year. It was the result of being unclear about what documents I needed exactly. Also, looking for a rental place alone was not easy. Having a local, who is more experienced in relation to what aspects I had to be careful about when choosing a house, to visit houses together with me would have made a big difference. Furthermore, it was a shame I didn’t have any acquaintances showing me around the neighborhood, introducing the location of shopping centers, libraries, and other places that students usually would visit.

How did you choose which school you wanted to come to?

My first school was not my choice. The agency informed me they do not have the opportunity to take me anywhere else apart from Savaria Egyetemi Központ. They promised me once I was in Hungary, they have the ability to change my school, however when I called them from Hungary, it proved to be not the case so I had to do the research and the application part on my own. It was fairly time consuming as ELTE took its time, sometimes it took two weeks from them to reply to my emails. I would find an agency who is able to help with speeding up the process useful.

What would have been another school you’d wanted to go to?

University of Szeged, because they also offered the course I wanted to take. Corvinus University of Budapest was also appealing but they did not offer English studies as a major.

Where else would you have gone to if you didn’t come to Hungary?

England was my first choice which I haven’t given up yet. I would like to apply to do my master’s degree there.

Are there any advantages coming to study Hungary over other Western countries? If yes, what are there?

The main advantage is that the tuition is much cheaper in comparison to England, Canada, US or Australia and the quality of education is still good. Also, in most cases in order to get accepted to a western university, students must take the IELTS or the TOEFL exams which are not easy. In Hungary though you can apply for an English language course for one year and after passing the English exam level B2, you can easily get accepted to the major you choose to take. This way BA diploma changes from a 3-year to a 4-year program.

Why do you think students are interested in coming to Hungary for their high education?

In Hungary the college entrance exam is easier because you can apply to the university which provides language courses. Therefore, the English level of a student does not necessarily have to be perfect from the very beginning.

Do you think students would want to stay in Hungary after finishing their studies? Why? Why not?

Some students want to have more international experience, so they decide to stay longer in Hungary or go to another foreign countries. In case of staying, students having related degree will be able to find jobs at Bank of China branch, etc. There are also students of course who decide to go back and build a career there.