Alumni Series Interview with Alíz Nagyváradi, 2017 HIF Graduate Scholarship Recipient
Back in 2017, Alíz Nagyváradi was a graduate student at the University of San Diego at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies which is the first stand-alone school in the U.S. focused on this topic. The Kroc School provides students with an exceptional and inspiring environment for learning from leaders and peacemakers from all over the world.
Before coming to the Kroc School, Ms. Nagyváradi worked in Hungarian Public Administration. Ms. Nagyváradi has a strong interest in working on behalf of disadvantaged children which is rooted in her volunteer work. At UNICEF in Hungary, she provided classes on children’s rights to kids in elementary and high schools, with the aim of informing children about their rights and empowering them with the knowledge and tools to seek help out of abusive situations.
While in the US, Ms. Nagyváradi had the opportunity to work at the Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), which is one of the most widely recognized academic, research, and advocacy organizations in the US, working to improve the lives of all children and youth. As part of her HIF Scholarship, Ms. Nagyváradi was working on a specialized project. She was assisting CAI’s team on a human trafficking legislative recommendation for California. The recommendation focused on the treatment of commercially sexually exploited children.
We were excited to interview Ms. Nagyváradi to see where her path has led her since her time in the US.
Where are you on your career path now?
I am currently working with the Ministry of Finance on programs that aim to improve regional development policies across Europe. It is an exciting task to shape future international cooperation programs while representing Hungary in different multilateral planning committees. Besides my job, I am actively volunteering with the Anonymous Ways Foundation (Névtelen Utak Alapítvány) that serves victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, offering them full rehabilitation and recovery program.
During my studies in the US, I focused on human trafficking and I had the chance to learn deeply about the complexity of this issue and about the ways how it can be addressed. I spent a three-month fellowship in the Washington D.C. area with Shared Hope International (SHI), a leading organization that fights domestic minor sex trafficking in the US. As an Ambassador of SHI, I started to speak more about this universal social problem in different communities. I wanted to continue this kind of ministry at home and I got in touch with the Anonymous Ways Foundation through my church.
Which achievements are you most proud of since we met?
The past few years in the US were very intense, and I had quite a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. I had the honor to work with Prof. Robert Fellmeth at the Children’s Advocacy Institute of the University of San Diego School of Law as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar. This is how my journey in the US started. Here, I learned first about the prevalence of the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking and started to be involved in different research projects on the treatment and special needs of the victims.
In May 2019, I graduated from the University of San Diego Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. This is my greatest academic achievement so far. Without the generous support of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation, I would not have been able to pursue studies in the US and become the person, who I am today. And I must mention the other grants, as well: the Fulbright scholarship, the International Peace Scholarship of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), and the scholarships provided by the Kroc School and the Rosztoczy Foundation. I feel privileged that so many organizations put their trust in me and supported my academic journey in the US. It is a driving force that keeps me motivated to pursue my passion. I am also proud of working with Dr. Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, associate professor of political sociology at USD Kroc School. As a research assistant, I did some background research to support his newest book project on the relationship between slavery and freedom and between perpetrator and survivor. During this project, I gained not only valuable insights into the recurring themes of contemporary slavery but also a firsthand experience on the process of writing an academic book.
Finally, one more but another kind of accomplishment: I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2019, the French Way, which is a 500-mile (800 km) long pilgrimage across North Spain. It was an unforgettable journey, that helped me to process my US experiences and the transition into my old-new life in Hungary.
How did your experience with HIF in the US help you reach your goals?
The financial support from HIF throughout the first semester of my Master’s program was crucial that enabled me to focus fully on my studies and obtain high results. The work of HIF is highly important because it does not only promote cooperation between the US and Hungary but also provides exchange programs, scholarships for Hungarian applicants who seek learning opportunities in the US. It is a rare opportunity that needs to be cherished.
I would also like to highlight my experience with the Young Hungarian Leaders Program (YHLP) that I attended in Spring 2018. It was a unique opportunity to gain valuable knowledge about the U.S. federal system of government. The visits with the think tank organizations were extremely helpful to get a better understanding of how independent civil society organizations shape the U.S public policy today. We also visited the Hungarian Embassy in Washington D.C. that made the whole YHLP program even more enriching.
What struggles/challenges did you have to overcome to reach/move closer to your goals?
The three years in the US were full of challenges – not only because of the graduate school workload but also because of the subject of my studies. Global challenges, violence and conflicts, peacebuilding, and modern-day slavery… These were the keywords in my studies. However, the Masters’ program made me think outside of the box, be innovative and creative, made me apply and create knowledge, and helped me learn a lot about myself and my capabilities.
What impact did your US experience have on your overall journey?
Living and studying in the US, I got to know the world from a different perspective and opened my eyes to social problems, I did not see before. The Master’s program at USD Kroc School gave me the opportunity to learn through real-world examples, to analyze conflict situations, and also to work on my own personal development by using reflective practice.
“The challenges I had to face as an international scholar and later as a student in the US made me more vulnerable but stronger at the same time. They made me work harder but also helped me become more flexible to accept what is happening in my life and have faith that good things are coming my way.” – Alíz Nagyváradi
In those three years, while I was living in the US, I was mainly based in San Diego (CA), but l lived in Houston (TX), and in Washington D.C. for a couple of months, and visited many other states, as well. I had the opportunity to engage with the local communities, and as a part of the larger campus community, I actively participated in professional on-campus and off-campus events. Through these events, I formed relationships, made friendships, met incredible peacebuilders, inspiring ladies, and survivor leaders who now run their own nonprofits to help victims of human trafficking.
The Women PeaceMakers Program of the Institute for Peace and Justice at USD Kroc School is a series of events on campus that I had the chance to follow for three consecutive years. I attended the classes held by the women peacemakers of the year who participated in peace and security-building in their own countries or in other conflict-affected communities. Having mentors, like one of these courageous women was a truly humbling experience.
“The impact of my entire US experience on my overall journey is indescribable, but one thing is sure: it slowly but steadily shaped my personality, and changed my character, my value and my belief system.” – Alíz Nagyváradi
What are your plans for the future?
I have interests and expertise in different public policy fields. In the future, I would like to combine my experiences I gained in the public administration on the decision-making level, my volunteer and research background in the counter-trafficking space with my aspiration to serve the unseen and marginalized population. Human trafficking has many areas of intervention and intricacies that require a high level of attention and collaboration with various stakeholders from different sectors. Due to the multifaceted character and prevalence of this crime, partnership, teamwork, and a multidisciplinary approach are vital to making decisions, and I am passionate about cooperation. I hope, I can make my contribution to shaping policies for the protection of the victims and advancing international collaboration in this field.
What words of advice do you have for future recruits?
Do not worry, it will all work out! And… get ready for fantastic opportunities.
What books are currently on your reading list?
It is hard to pick and choose a few because I love reading and always buy new books. Currently, I am re-reading Justin Dillon’s book: The Selfish Plan to Change the World. I have recently ordered Edith Eva Eger’s new book ‘The Gift’, the ‘Man’s search for meaning’ by Viktor Frankl, and the ‘Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust’ by Edgar H. Schein and Peter Schein. The newly published ‘In the Surgery Room with God’ (Istennel a műtőben) by Martí Zoltán, is also on my reading list. This is an interview-style book with Dr. András Csókay, Ph.D. globally recognized Hungarian neurosurgeon, whose career path, walk of life, and faith journey is remarkable and can inspire many.