In September 2020, the Hungary Foundation together with Mathias Corvinus Collegium (Budapest, Hungary) established the Budapest Fellowship Program, a full-time, fully-funded transatlantic fellowship opportunity in Budapest, Hungary, for young American scholars and professionals. Among the four selected fellows who accepted the commitment of immersing themselves in Hungarian history and culture, we welcome Kelli Buzzard. Kelli’s host institution for the duration of her Fellowship is MCC – Mathias Corvinus Collegium, with the research topic, Preserving Hungarian Identity and Culture. Her mentor to guide her on the journey will be Dr. Sándor Gallai.
When Kelli Buzzard crossed the Czechoslovakia-Hungary border in the fall of 1988 with a group resourcing dissident Hungarian churches under Communism, she never dreamed she would return over 30 years later to live and work in the country. But this fall, as a Budapest Fellow with the Hungary Foundation, that is just what she is doing.
A lifelong traditionalist and Christian, Kelli learned about the Budapest Fellowship Program (BFP) and the Hungary Foundation (HF) by reading a conservative blog post. The author highlighted the current Hungarian administration’s approach to immigration, the family, and other social issues. He also mentioned the mission, vision, and goals of the BFP and HF. At once, she knew she had to apply for the immersive 10-month program.
Although Kelli loves to enjoy the best of Budapest’s many coffeehouses and cake purveyors and sights and sounds, her Budapest Fellowship work keeps her pretty busy. She reads widely, conducts interviews, mines data in a quest to understand the effects of over 50 years of Communism on religious belief, affiliation, and ritual in Hungary. More broadly, her academic interest lies in the intersection of faith, culture, and politics in Central Europe, from the Communist Era to the present time.
During her time in Budapest, the MCC School of Social Sciences and History is hosting Kelli. The partnership provides her collegiality with fellow academics of like interests and vital professional support from the Head of School, Dr. Sandor Gallai.
“Kelli is a lover of Hungary, eager and adamant to learn Hungarian, open-minded, enthusiastic and energetic in work.” – Dr. Sándor Gallai
After her initial visit to Hungary so many years ago, she returned home to the United States to study for her Bachelor of Arts in communications and history. She then invested a decade in building Christian leaders in ministry and the marketplace, after which time she returned to Europe. This time she spent a year living and working in the war-torn Balkans and sporadically visiting Budapest, the location of her NGO’s headquarters. Then, returning home, Kelli worked for a Seattle-based non-profit fundraising firm and an international visiting professor ministry while also studying for her Masters in Christian Thought (history, philosophy, theology).
“Looking back over my personal and professional life I see a beautiful logic in the journey that brought me to Budapest.” – Kelli Buzzard
Following over a decade of teaching the humanities, Kelli immersed herself in the foundations of Western Culture through studying for an MA in Classics. This fall, she is finishing her final program course, Western Art and Music, and cannot think of a more inspiring backdrop than Beautiful Budapest’s many galleries, landmarks, and museums.
I am eminently thankful to the Hungary Foundation and to MCC for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I find it truly a joy to immerse myself in the culture, sights, history, religion, and language of one of the world’s most fascinating and admirable countries. Looking to the future, I hope to make Hungary my permanent home, with plans to earn my Ph.D. and then teach college students in Budapest and beyond. – Kelli Buzzard