The Hungarian Youth Association is a student-led company that aims to provide a platform where young people can share their experiences and connect with peers of similar backgrounds. Their vision is to create a community where all talented young Hungarians can find their home away from home. They aim to achieve that by organising gatherings as well as providing information and assistance for students at all stages of their educational and professional journeys. We talked with the two of HYA’s ambitious founders, Soma Benedek Pirityi and Bálint Karagich, who gave us an insight into the valuable work they do for Hungarian students who dare to dream big.
You have both attended some of the most prestigious UK universities, including the University of Cambridge and the King’s College London. Can you describe your study abroad experiences in a few words?
One of the most striking differences between the UK and Hungarian student life is that while in Hungary you have to spend 80% of your time revising for your exams, in the UK, studying takes up around 60% of one’s life. In the meantime, the educational system allows you to figure out your true interest and the professional path you want to embark on. At first, it was challenging to manage all that time on our hands productively, but it gave us a good opportunity to conceive the idea of HYA. In addition, Hungarian universities strictly follow the curriculum, while in the UK, for instance, more focus is placed on strategic thinking and the practice of acquiring specific skills. We believe these said skills would come in particularly handy in the domestic market and
Hungarian students can benefit local businesses by bringing a valuable, fresh perspective to the table when they return home after their studies.
What inspired you to conceive the idea of HYA?
It goes without saying that studying abroad is not always roses and butterflies. At first, it might be an intimating and isolated experience for freshman students who suddenly find themselves in a completely foreign environment without the help of their friends and family. Finding accommodation, knowing which courses to apply to or how to make ends meet can be tricky at times. We have first-hand experience of these challenges and this inspired us to come up with the concept of the Hungarian Youth Association to take some burden off students’ minds who are planning or have already started this new exciting chapter of their lives. HYA first started out in the UK but during the two years of its operation, we have expanded to 11 countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, France and many more.
HYA stands by the idea that the knowledge Hungarian students acquire abroad should also benefit the Hungarian economy/workforce. However, many students stay abroad after graduation. What could be the solution to this phenomenon?
Looking at statistics, 60% of Hungarian students actually intend to return home after their studies, however, there are many factors that hold them back. They may not be familiar with the job opportunities in the domestic market or struggle to get on with the application processes since those might be different from what they got used to abroad. One of the main goals of the Hungarian Youth Association is to bridge this information gap and give graduates a better insight into the Hungarian job market. With our help, fresh graduates will get a better understanding of which sectors they should target or which companies are hiring people with their qualifications.
Our aim is to demonstrate that there is indeed a high demand for professionals who earned their degrees abroad in the Hungarian job market.
How does your association help Hungarian students abroad?
Our organisation has a multi-level structure addressing students’ needs at different stages of their educational or professional journeys. We set up a mentor programme that aims to educate high school students about study abroad and scholarship opportunities and help them navigate through the application processes. We want to break down this widespread misconception that only the lucky few have the chance to make it abroad and be admitted to a foreign university. We also support those who are already pursuing their studies abroad by bringing the Hungarian communities together, providing information and advice on various issues and subjects related to the study abroad experience as well as organising interactive educational and recreational programs for students. Besides, as we have mentioned earlier, we help graduates connect with hiring businesses, for the purpose of finding a job or an internship program. We collaborate with a network of Hungary-based enterprises that are eager to hire Hungarian professionals with international know-how.
Tell us about some of your ambitious goals you set for the future. What are you the most excited about this year?
We are already in deep preparation for our upcoming Outland festival which will take place between 28-31 July, in Cser-tó Alsópetény
It is going to be a unique, outstanding event that will incorporate a job fair, networking activities, concerts and presentations, while students who are interested in studying abroad can attend mentor and workshop programmes to learn about educational opportunities as well as tips and tricks to make living abroad easier. Visitors will have the chance to listen to the stories of fellow students or professionals who pursued their studies abroad. Whereas, one of our major long-term projects includes the setup of an application that would provide a platform for job seekers and Hungarian hiring companies to connect. It would benefit both parties since it would give a push to fresh graduates to take the leap of relocating home, while it would provide businesses with a valuable database of skilled professionals.