An American Career in Budapest – Interview with Stephen Sholl, BFP Alumnus

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Featured Alumni, News

Stephen Sholl, 2021 Budapest Fellowship Program Alumnus


Back in 2020, Stephen discovered the Budapest Fellowship Program through events hosted by the Hungarian Embassy in D.C. He agreed that the program fit exceptionally well with his previous academic and professional experience. When asked for expectations, he stated

“It is my hope that this program will help me understand the Hungarian experience”

His goal was to serve as an advocate for a positive relationship between the United States and Hungary, one that is free of preconceived notions, biases, and antagonism. Although he was excited about every aspect of this program, Stephen was especially eager to learn the Hungarian language.

It’s been three years since Stephen has completed his Fellowship in Hungary. We caught up with him again, asking where his journey has taken him since.

Where are you on your career path now, Stephen?

I am now the head of International Communications for Mathias Corvinus Collegium, in Budapest.

Which achievements are you most proud of since we met?

I am very proud of having built a career and life in Hungary.  I feel that I have been able to have a unique experience as an American living in Budapest. I also am very happy that I have been able to build such strong relationships with the Hungarians that they keep allowing me to stay in the country.


Stephen Sholl, BFP Alumnus

How did your experience with HF in Hungary help you reach your goals?
The Hungary Foundation, through the Budapest Fellowship Program, gave me the opportunity to really experience and appreciate Hungary. It remains the foundational program for my time in Hungary and I really appreciate all of the resources, contacts, and help HF has given me during my time in Hungary. I cannot imagine myself in Hungary without the Budapest Fellowship Program.

What struggles/challenges did you have to overcome to move closer to your goals?
Living in Hungary is, of course, filled with challenges. There is obviously the language difference which I am working on overcoming, and there is the difficulty of being away from my family, but Hungary and Budapest have become a home away from home. Now, when I visit the United States, I miss Hungary and can’t wait to get back.

What impact did your Hungary experience have on your overall journey?
Living in Hungary has given me a unique perspective. Being an American, one lives in such a bubble. It is difficult to imagine what the rest of the world is like and living in Hungary has great lessons. Through my work, I am able to visit the countryside which gives one an insight into a life, which is very different from the United States. It is really refreshing to learn about how other people live.

What are your plans for the future?
Well if the 2020’s have taught me anything, it is that one cannot plan too far into the future. If you had asked me at the beginning of 2020 where I would be in 2024, I don’t think I could have guessed I would be in Hungary. My plans as of now, are to continue in Hungary and further develop the career, friendships, and life that I have built in Budapest.

What words of advice do you have for future recruits?
For Americans getting ready to visit Hungary, I think I would encourage them not to see what is different from the US, but to see what is similar. Hungary and the United States, while they are worlds apart, are a part of the same Western family. I think instead of emphasizing differences, we should emphasize similarity, and in that way, we realize how much alike the average Hungarian and American are.

What books are currently on your reading list?
For my reading list, I like to keep a mix of historical and fiction books. I am currently reading Douglas Southall Freeman’s biography of Robert E. Lee, which I highly recommend for any history lovers. On the other hand, I am also reading through the Dune novels which are interesting sci-fi books with a lot of interesting cultural and political commentary.

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