Featured Alumni

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

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.

András Cunningham

Program: HF Communications Intern

Year: 2024

Host Institution: Hungary Foundation

Quote: “I am grateful for this opportunity to help the Hungary Foundation by managing the social media platforms of the HuGo application. It offers me an insight into how to efficiently handle social media accounts and create appealing content.”

Read his introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

András Cunningham is a Hungarian American who grew up in Bucharest, Romania, and attended the Ady Endre Preschool. Currently, he is a high school senior enrolled in the Visual and Performing Arts Program at Albert Einstein High School, Kensington, MD. Additionally, he is a member of the National Honors Society and has studied digital and studio art throughout high school. Moreover, he will begin his studies at the University of Maryland in the College Park Scholars program his major in Immersive Media and Design.

András’ passion for the digital arts developed when he first opened Adobe Photoshop and began to experiment with the tools within the program.

András speaks Hungarian, English, and Spanish. He has been spending his summers in Central and Eastern Europe to visit family and friends.

In his spare time, he enjoys fishkeeping, fishing, and skateboarding. He is interested in developing a career in digital art and design.

The Hungary Foundation is a solely charitable 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Foundation pursues its mission and goals by supporting Hungarian-American organizations and by supporting programs that strengthen interaction and cooperation between Hungarian and American citizens and institutions. In particular, the Foundation is focused on supporting cultural, educational and scholarly activities. The Foundation does not participate in political activities, political or election campaigns.

Barna Péterfi

Program: Széll Kálmán Public Policy Fellowship

Year: 2023 Summer

Host Institution: American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association

Quote: “My primary objective over the summer is to not only experience behind-the-scenes work at a trade association that represents a major sector of the American economy but also further enhance my knowledge and skills on governmental affairs and advocacy issues and practices.”

Read his introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

Barna Péterfi experienced his first intercultural exchange in high school where he participated in the American Field Service (AFS) Intercultural Programs’ exchange year organized in Russia. Since then, he has been an advocate for the importance of understanding national and transnational cultural characteristics from both the Eastern and Western parts of the world. Finishing his high school in Hungary this has led Barna to apply to the University of Edinburgh where he is currently a 2nd-year student majoring in Russian Studies and Politics. For his third year, he will be participating in a university-led placement program where he will live and gain professional experience in the Baltic states.

Founded in 1913, ASLRRA proudly represents the entrepreneurial owners and operators of short line and regional railroads throughout North America. These approximately 600 small businesses play a vital role in the hub-and-spoke transportation network, often providing the first-mile/last-mile connection between farmers and manufacturers and the ultimate consumer.

Annamária Wettstein

Program: Széll Kálmán Public Policy Fellowship

Year: 2023 Summer

Host Institution: American Enterprise Institute

Quote: “I firmly believe that combining rigorous academic pursuits with real-world experiences is essential to effecting positive change. My internship at AEI allows me to work alongside esteemed scholars and delve into the complex realm of economic and public policy. I am excited to contribute to the mission of AEI and gain insights that will shape my future career.”

Read her introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

Prior to her internship at AEI, Annamária gained valuable experience at Case Solvers, a Forbes 30 under 30 startup. As a Student Ambassador, she played a pivotal role in enhancing problem-solving skills for students, contributing to a more innovative and entrepreneurial future for Hungary. Additionally, Annamária’s dedication to sustainable development led her to be selected for the prestigious Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Program, an initiative of the United Nations. As part of this program, she joined a network of young professionals who are passionate about shaping a sustainable future through global cooperation. Through her involvement in these initiatives, Annamária has shown her unwavering commitment to innovation and creating positive change in both the entrepreneurial and sustainable development realms.

She has a strong commitment to widening educational opportunities and supporting underprivileged talents. Her involvement as a Student Ambassador for Widening Participation at LSE showcases her dedication to enabling prospective students from diverse backgrounds to pursue their educational goals. She has been volunteering for various organizations in Hungary for the last three years to improve future prospects of children in impoverished communities.

The American Enterprise Institute is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world. The work of our scholars and staff advances ideas rooted in our belief in democracy, free enterprise, American strength and global leadership, solidarity with those at the periphery of our society, and a pluralistic, entrepreneurial culture.

Márton Nagy

Program: Széll Kálmán Public Policy Fellowship

Year: 2023 Summer

Host Institution: American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force 

Quote: “I have always admired how only a handful of determined pilgrims could lay the foundations of what we now call the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth. I embark on my D.C. jouney with like determination to uncover to intricacies of U.S. federalism – and in the meantime, grow both personally and professionally in the most challeging environment I have ever been in.”

Read his introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

Márton’s enthusiasm for European affairs and economic integration studies is also reflected in his academic activities. He is currently writing his thesis on the assessment of the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Funds after having finished his third year at the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest with a 4.0 GPA, majoring in International Business Economics. His other research interests are also related to the economics of the European Union, with a special focus on European budgetary issues.

Márton always strived for challenging himself in competitive international environments. He successfully completed a course on European affairs at the prestigious SciencesPo Paris Summer School last July. He has also actively participated in international conferences such as the Future European Leaders Forum in Prague or the ConSIMium program in Brussels. Therefore, he is well equipped with the toolset to achieve his goals in the politically most vibrant city in the world.

The ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force is dedicated to researching and promoting sound policy aimed at creating a pro-growth atmosphere in state economies. Policies that promote economic growth and increase state competitiveness are achieved by reducing excessive government spending and limiting the overall tax burden. The Task Force’s legislative members are at the forefront of developing sound, fiscally responsible, and free market tax and fiscal policies to address the needs that the states now face.

The Task force has pioneered policies that increase budget transparency, promote state spending limitations, require super-majorities for tax increases, implement dynamic revenue forecasting, and many more. The Task Force has several Subcommittees that examine specific policy areas in detail. These areas include fiscal policy reform, internet taxation, education finance, and public pensions.

The ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force is working to provide economically viable, fiscally responsible, and free market solutions to promote economic growth.

Rebecca Ajtai

Program: HF Communications Intern

Year: 2023

Host Institution: Hungary Foundation

Quote: “I am excited to be a part of Hungary Foundation, as it encompasses both my interests in international affairs and my Hungarian heritage. I hope to apply my knowledge and skills to Hungary Foundation initiatives and to learn more about transatlantic relations as their Spring Communications Intern.”

Read her introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

Rebecca Ajtai is a senior studying international relations with a focus on foreign policy and national security with the German language minor at American University. She has a great interest in EU policy, and immigration issues, and has conducted research on the democratic decline and other relevant topics over the course of her undergraduate education.

Growing up with strong ties to her Hungarian heritage, she was a member of the Hungarian Scouts in Buffalo, NY for many years, where she learned about Hungarian history and culture, going on to eventually teach younger troop members. She also travels to Hungary annually to visit family and friends.

The Hungary Foundation is a solely charitable 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Foundation pursues its mission and goals by supporting Hungarian-American organizations and by supporting programs that strengthen interaction and cooperation between Hungarian and American citizens and institutions. In particular, the Foundation is focused on supporting cultural, educational and scholarly activities. The Foundation does not participate in political activities, political or election campaigns.

Emily Gyetvai

Program: HF Communications Intern

Year: 2023

Host Institution: Hungary Foundation

Quote: “I am very thankful for this opportunity to be a part of the amazing team of the Hungary Foundation and to see the incredible job they do to improve Hungarian-American relations. I believe I can grow a lot both personally and professionally by being here.”

Read her introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

Emily Gyetvai is currently a student at Budapest Business School University of Applied Sciences, Hungary, where she is in her 4th semester of studying International Business Economics.

Emily comes from a small town high school in Salgótarján, where she had the chance to take part in everything from academic competitions to art projects and sports events. She tried herself out in every possible field until she found her interest in languages and then later in Economics. She has always been fascinated by different languages, nations, and cultures. Emily started studying several different foreign languages including English, German, Spanish, and Italian, and even took a short course in Hebrew and Esperanto. Her love for the English language resulted in her graduating from this subject two years earlier than usual.

Emily likes spending time with younger children. She always had this urge to help people and bring the best out of them.

The Hungary Foundation is a solely charitable 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Foundation pursues its mission and goals by supporting Hungarian-American organizations and by supporting programs that strengthen interaction and cooperation between Hungarian and American citizens and institutions. In particular, the Foundation is focused on supporting cultural, educational and scholarly activities. The Foundation does not participate in political activities, political or election campaigns.

Miklós Leszkó

Program: HF-Quinnipiac Hungarian American Business Leaders Scholarship

Year: 2022/23

Host Institution:  Quinnipiac University

Quote: With the theoretical background which I get from this program and hands–on work experience from American companies, I can improve my skillset and live up to the task to build a better world. I believe in delivering value in every possible way. The American culture of hard work and deep belief in the future can help us to deepen our nations connection both economically and culturally.

Read his introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

Miklos Leszko obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Obuda University in 2020. During his bachelor studies, he gained experience in development and project management roles at KnorrBremse Fékrendszerek Kft and Vincotech Hungára Kft. At the end of his bachelor studies he earned a Campus Mundi Erasmus Scholarship at Hochschule Esslingen University of Applied Sciences and spent a semester in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. After finishing his degree, he worked fulltime as a sales support engineer at Reynaers Aluminium Kft in Hungary. He started his Master’s studies as a fulltime Mechanical Engineering Modelling student at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics parallelly with his fulltime job. He obtained his degree in Mechanical Engineering Modelling in 2022.

His technical skillset and interest in business drove him to take a role as an Aftersales Zone Manager at Ford Motor Company where he worked till he joined the Hungarian American Business Leaders Scholarship Program.

Viktor Marsai

Program: Andrássy National Security Fellowship

Year: 2023

Host Institution: Center for Immigration Studies

Research Focus: Comparative analysis of the American and European migration policies and the role of gatekeeper countries to mitigate the flow of illegal mass migration

Quote: “My hypothesis is that because of historical reasons, Europe maintains much closer cooperation with its neighborhood which significantly helps reduce the number of illegal arrivals. It not only stems from its colonial past but also from the experiences of the last centuries when foreign invaders – Huns, Germans, Vikings, Hungarians, Mongols, Turks, Soviets – arrived from the outside world. The United States, if it wants to reduce the number of irregular arrivals, has to concentrate more on the collaboration with gatekeeper countries.”

Read his introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

Viktor obtained his first master’s degree in history and aesthetics in 2008 at the Faculty of Humanities of Eötvös Loránd University (ELU). Two years later, he earned his second degree in security and defense studies from the Miklós Zrínyi National Defense University. In the meantime, he started his Ph.D. studies at the ELU Doctoral School of Modern History, and defended his dissertation, which examined the Somali state building after decolonization, in 2014.

From 2010-2011, Viktor worked for the Hungarian Ministry of Defense. Since 2012, he has been working for the University of Public Service, first as a junior lecturer, later as an assistant professor, and now as an associate professor. In 2017, he won the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He also got a position at the Budapest-based Migration Research Institute (MRI) in 2017. He became the research director of MRI in 2019, and director in 2022. His main research areas focus on the migration trends of the African continent, African migration toward Europe, and the security aspects of migration. He is the author of three books and more than 160 book chapters and papers in academics, including Q-ranking journals.


The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, research organization. Since our founding in 1985 by Otis Graham Jr., they have pursued a single mission – providing immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States. Our staff has testified before Congress over 130 times.

They are the nation’s only think tank devoted exclusively to the research of U.S. immigration policy to inform policymakers and the public about immigration’s far-reaching impact. The Center is animated by a unique pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted.

Bálint Kovács

Program: Post-Graduate Visiting Research Fellowship

Year: 2022/23

Host Institution: American University Washington College of Law

Research Focus: Issues pertaining to access to investment arbitration of small and medium-sized enterprises

Quote: “At a time when the risk of geoeconomic fragmentation is increasing, the protection and control of foreign direct investment is becoming a more prominent topic. Growing competition between China and the US has already resulted in a number of new legal instruments affecting FDI. My Fellowship to the US will help me better understand the challenges posed by these instruments.”

Read his introduction here: hungaryfoundation.org

Bálint received his legal education in Romania and Hungary, obtaining his LL.B. diploma from Babeș-Bolyai University (Romania), and subsequently an M.A. in Private Law of the European Union from the same institution. He also graduated from the European and International Business Law LL.M. in a joint program of Debrecen University (Hungary) and Sapientia University (Romania), which then led to his enrollment into the University’s Ph.D. program.

During his bachelor’s degree, he was an active member of The European Law Students’ Association (ELSA), organizing local, national, and international moot court competitions, as well as competing in local and national ones. He gained essential experience working as an intern at a local law firm for nearly two years before graduating. This experience put him on a path to working in the field of business law after obtaining his bachelor’s degree.

Subsequent to starting his Ph.D. studies, he was invited to teach seminars on international economic law to fourth-year LL.B. students at Sapientia University (Romania) as a teaching assistant. Balint also teaches international commercial arbitration at the LL.M. program of Miskolc University as a visiting lecturer.

The spirit of American University, Washington College of Law lies in the hearts and minds of their community members, who are dedicated to the professional advancement and well-being of their students and alumni, and who strive to “Champion What Matters,” locally, nationally, and internationally.

At American University Washington College of Law, people meet the world where they will practice their profession. The world has become essentially borderless, where economic, political, and social changes require innovative legal analysis and solutions.

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