“The most transformative summer of my life” – 2023 Széll Kálmán Fellows Wrap Up a Life-Changing Summer

by | Aug 9, 2023 | News, Széll Kálmán Fellowship

Márton Nagy, Barna Péterfi, and Annamária Wettstein wrapped up their 8 intense weeks as Széll Kálmán Fellows participating in The Fund for American Studies’ DC Internship Program. They had the opportunity to intern at a host institution of their choice, study at George Mason University, build their professional network in Washington DC and be immersed in American culture this summer.

2023 Széll Kálmán Fellows Márton Nagy, Barna Péterfi and Annamária Wettstein


Márton Nagy spent his two months as a tax and fiscal policy intern at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). At ALEC, he worked on the 15th edition of Rich States, Poor States, the flagship publication of the organization with Arthur B. Laffer. Aside his research on economic and fiscal issues, he also had the chance to help organize ALEC’s 50th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. Almost 1,500 people, consisting of state legislators and private sector members, attended the conference. In Orlando, Márton had the chance to make valuable connections with many of the attendees, and also had an opportunity to meet Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida.

My time at ALEC gave me first-hand experience on how the 50 states come together to form the federal system. In addition, my time left me with invaluable impressions on Ameri- can work culture. It was fascinating to see how people are always determined but humble – values I hope to follow through my future career as well.

The TFAS site briefings at the Department of State and at the Congressional Budget Office gave Márton valuable inputs on the inside workings of the U.S. government. He also participated in small-group industry exploration seminars at the office of Senator Tim Scott and at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, where he could ask any question on the day-to-day operations of public service institutions.

I developed an immense respect towards the American people this summer, as well as the determination to employ what I have learnt in the U.S. to make change for the better in my home communities – be it my college for advanced studies, my university, or even my nation. I am grateful for this opportunity to the Hungary Foundation. I believe this summer does not end here – this was just the beginning of a way bigger journey.

Apart from the internship and and his classes, Márton engaged in many extracurricular activities. The guest lectures organized for the Public Policy and Economics program tracks highlighted some key issue areas of current American politics, including unfunded Social Security liabilities and the right to free speech. During the program’s Braver Angels student debate, Márton took part in lengthy discussion with other TFAS students about the death penalty. Márton also capitalized on his TFAS opportunities through getting involved in Free the Facts’ – a guest lecturer organization’s – summer event series. There, he attended a dinner with Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, and one with Francis Haughin, a former Facebook data scientist and whistleblower.


Barna Péterfi landed an internship with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) as their Governmental Affairs Intern for the summer. ASLRRA represents and promotes the interest of the American railroad industry on Capitol Hill with lawmakers and regulators working to eliminate unfair taxes and promote common-sense regulation. Throughout his time at ASLRRA, Barna had to opportunity to contribute to the trade association’s success by shaping issues that can help or hurt the association’s members across the country. He was able to take an industry deep dive into advocacy  by working on critical issues concerning the US railroad industry, attending, and reporting on Transportation & Infrastructure Committee hearings and participating in the educational process of policymakers and elected officials in countless meetings with congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

Besides his intellectually challenging internship program Barna also participated in TFAS’ mentor program to match his practical experiences with in-depth theoretical knowledge on congressional advocacy from an industry professional advocating for responsible energy solutions throughout the United States.

The reason why my experience was whole and complete during these two months is because I not only managed to be involved with the grassroots representation side of governmental affairs, but I also got to experience all aspects of the executive level as well by actively meeting and connecting with leading industry representatives from some of Washington’s most respected public affairs firms.

To fully capitalize on students’ stay in Washington, the program’s participants were offered classes at George Mason University. Barna attended economics and public policy lectures taught by Anne Bradely, former economic analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Terrorism Analysis and current Vice President of Academic Affairs at TFAS along with Karen Czarnecki, former senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Labor Department and current Vice President of Outreach at the Mercatus Center.

I am confident that the profound knowledge and professional experience acquired throughout these incredible two months will play an unquestionable role in my academic journey and future endeavours. I’m looking forward to taking this knowledge back to Hungary with the hope of further strengthening the relations of Hungarian businesses and the government along with introducing the Hungarian community to the American way of thinking.

Annamaria Wettstein spent herinternship at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) which helped to deepen her understanding of U.S. public policy and the inner workings of a prestigious DC think tank. During her internship, she had the privilege of interning for Mr. James Pethokoukis, a distinguished scholar and publicist at AEI, whose expertise lies in Economic and Tech Policy. Mr. Pethokoukis is renowned for hosting two weekly podcasts where he delves into groundbreaking technology, innovation, and American public policy, engaging with the sharpest minds in contemporary research. Annamária was actively involved in the podcast production process, beginning with researching a spectrum of topics ranging from AI regulation, genome editing, and education policy to longevity, economic stagnation, and space exploration. She contributed to valuable policy discussions by drafting background materials and formulating questions. As a hub of intellectual rigor, the AEI is instrumental in hosting discussions that shape the world’s future, consequently impacting Hungary as well. Annamária had the unique privilege of participating in this dialogue during her internship at AEI interacting with esteemed scholars like James Capretta, Charles Murray, and Michael Strain, as well as political figures such as presidential candidate Nikki Haley. 

Among the array of programs offered by TFAS, the most memorable one for her was the visit to Congress and meeting Congressman David Rouzer. Congressman Rouzer gave students a speech on the Floor of the House of Representatives, and after the speech, Annamaria had the opportunity to ask him a question about Hungary and the Central and Eastern Europe region.

This experience of learning about the American perspective on Hungary from one of the country’s most influential figures will stay with me forever.

Annamaria also took the initiative to connect with organizations and individuals possessing critical insights that could enhance her understanding of American-Hungarian relations and American foreign policy. This led to a series of enriching one-on-one discussions with professionals from the State Department, a lunch meeting with a Senior Fellow from the Atlantic Council, dialogues with experts from AEI, and at the Hungarian Embassy. 

Beyond the concrete skills and knowledge, it was the subtle ‘soft’ wisdom I absorbed in the U.S. that I cherish. I aspire to incorporate and disseminate this optimistic, hardworking, and entrepreneurial spirit within the cultural fabric of Hungary. My aspiration extends beyond merely contributing to diplomatic ties between the United States and Hungary. I aim to foster a cultural bridge as well, one that cultivates innovation and prosperity within Hungary while recognizing our unique identity and rich cultural heritage.

The Fellows’  excursion to the State Department introduced them to counterterrorism experts Dexter Ingram, Acting Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The conversation was so inspiring that it led to a second meeting, a visit to the Spy Museum. Here, Dexter doubled as the fellow’s tour guide, recounting captivating tales of espionage and historic events that completely reshaped our perspectives and introduced us to little-known aspects of history.



During their time in Washington the Fellows also had a chance to connect with Hungarian diplomats and Hungarian professionals working at the IMF, World Bank, Hungarian American organizations and the State Department. We are grateful for Dániel Palotai, Luca Mórocz, Lilla Fördős and, as always, Enikő Basa for their time and efforts to make the fellow’s Washington experience a truly memorable one.


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