Our Alumni Interview Series continues with Noémi Pálfalvi, Széll Kálmán Public Policy Fellow of 2019. Since her fellowship program, Noémi took big steps in her studies and in her career as well. After becoming an HF Alumna for some time, she is now back in our circles in a new role. As program coordinator of the Budapest Fellowship Program, we are delighted to work closely with her on a weekly basis. She brings her American experience, Hungarian hospitality and characteristic cheerful professionalism to BFP. In this interview, we’re catching up on Noémi’s personal and professional journey since her time in the US.
Where are you on your career path now?
I am currently working as a senior international relations coordinator at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium. Meanwhile finishing up my master’s in East Asian Studies at Pázmány Péter Catholic University and the Corvinus University of Budapest. My work is very diverse, I am involved in a lot of different types of projects, like organizing international conferences, but my favorite activities are focusing on the preparation and management of international fellowships. Before joining MCC I was working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary.
Which achievement/s have you been most proud of since we met?
I enjoy my work because it always pushes me out of my comfort zone, so I am proud of the small accomplishments that I achieve on the daily basis, like the first time I moderated a panel discussion or the first time I gave a television interview. I am also proud of some of the successful events that I helped organize, such as the MCC Budapest Summit on the Values We Teach Our Children and the MCC Fest.
On a more personal level, I have recently started rock climbing and bouldering and both sports quickly became my passion. I take this as a big achievement because I had an unfortunate ski accident and for ages, I used that injury as an excuse not to do any sports and live a way more comfortable life. This has changed in the past year, and now I cannot imagine my week without going to the climbing gym and challenging myself on climbing advanced routes.
How did your experience with HF in the US help you reach your goals?
I would not be at MCC if it wasn’t for HF and especially Anna.
“I am honored to be affiliated with the Hungary Foundation not only as an alumna but as the program coordinator of the Budapest Fellowship Program. When coordinating the elements of the programs I always think back on my time as a fellow and try to involve the best practices in my current work.” – Noémi Pálfalvi
I also think I have become more understanding of different perspectives and different ways of communicating. I work with a lot of US partners, my time in Washington D.C. helped me a lot on how to handle the cultural differences and how to understand each other better.
What struggles/challenges did you have to overcome to reach/move closer to your goals?
I find it very challenging to decide what specific area I want to focus on in my career. I enjoy reading about, working on quite a lot of things. I am currently working on deciding what topic should I take on. I don’t feel like I am late with this, but this is something that’s always at the back of my mind.
If I want to answer this question more specifically, I don’t think my next response comes to anyone as a surprise, but I do need to mention the pandemic. I was supposed to spend a whole year in Beijing, China, but because of the COVID situation, I shortened my stay. With this move, I was not able to reach a level of Chinese knowledge that I have originally anticipated. It all worked out in the end because there was an opening at the Protocol Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which I always wanted to work for, but I needed to make huge decisions in a very short time.
What impact did your US experience have on your overall journey?
My experience in Washington D.C. had a huge impact on every field of my life.
“Career-wise it gave me a lot of possibilities, academically I learned most of my knowledge on economics in the classes I took at George Mason University, personally, I learned a lot about how to handle the work-life balance with so many activities. I also want to mention the network and great friends I have met from the HF Alumni Community.” – Noémi Pálfalvi
What are your plans for the future?
I always love to learn about new things, so I definitely want to expand my knowledge with an academic approach, that’s why I am currently looking at programs, possibly a Ph.D. that could best fit me. I do not yet know what will the future bring to me, but one thing is for sure. I want to serve Hungary, and want to continue sharing my culture with foreigners, that’s why I am most certain that I will be working for my country in the future.
What words of advice do you have for future recruits?
While you are in the US don’t be afraid to approach people and ask questions. Always be prepared when attending meetings, seminars, and any events.
What books are currently on your reading list?
I am currently reading Dan Jones’s Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages. Recently I put on my bucket list some pieces that are relevant in the field of rock climbing. My other passion is feminism, so I plan to read the big feminist icons by the end of the year. I would definitely recommend Joanna Williams’s Women vs Feminism, to anyone interested in this topic.