A group of students at Budapest Business School has been bringing counterparts from every corner of the world to the city this spring and summer. However, it is not a typical student exchange program.
The local students have been working together with international university students through the International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences, known by its French acronym AIESEC. Their goal is to provide Budapest’s youth with community development programs centered on education and business.
AIESEC is an international non-profit organisation that provides young people with leadership opportunities with an emphasis on making a difference in society. It includes over 90,000 members in 124 countries and territories, and is the largest student-run organisation in the world.
The organisation functions out of universities through local committees. Members come from a variety of college majors, not necessarily from an area related to economic or commercial sciences. Through local committees, students can work within the group to facilitate professional and community projects. One local committee works in Budapest Business School through the College of Finance and Accountancy, or PSZF.
The Global Community Development Program (GCDP) focuses on providing community projects for international interns. The specific program organised by the students in Budapest Business School partners primarily with kindergartens and high schools. International interns are placed in the schools throughout Budapest and surrounding towns to teach a variety of subjects, including English and world culture.
This spring university students came to intern and teach in Budapest schools from a variety of countries, including Brazil, Canada, India, Thailand, China, Singapore, Australia and the United States. After being placed, the interns lead classes, assist teachers and educate students on cultural differences between Hungary and their home country.
Ben Lee is one of them. He is a 20-year-old second-year student who studies occupational therapy at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in China. Lee spoke about his experiences coming to Budapest and working in the community development program. He taught at Kosztolányi high school in Budapest for six weeks in May and June.
“It is a precious and meaningful experience to interact with the students here in Budapest,” Lee said. “I really enjoy exchanging our cultures together. I believe GCDP is helping not only me but also students all over the world to become global citizens and additionally learn more about the world.”
Eszter Peterfai, a teacher at Teleki Blanka Közgazdasági Szakközépiskola in Budapest, shared her thoughts on the impact of the project in the school. “As an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher in a Hungarian secondary school, I was glad to welcome the international interns in our school,” she said. “Exposing Hungarian students to such friendly and open-minded internationals is an excellent way of making communication real and the use of the English language indispensable for our pupils.
“A real, personal example of another culture, a flesh-and-blood student similar to them gives meaning to their foreign language learning: most of the Hungarian students developed a genuine desire to get to know the intern’s personal life as well as the cultures they came from.”
During July the PSZF local committee will also be providing a camp for area youth. The camp, called Summer for Youth, is organised specifically for Hungarian high school students interested in immersing themselves in English, developing their potential and learning about new cultures. Camp leaders from the US, Ukraine, Australia, China, Mexico and Pakistan are being brought in to facilitate an international experience for youth without leaving Budapest.
Syed Hannan will be one of the counsellors. He is a 20-year-old studying business in his third year at Baruch College in the US. Hannan says he was drawn to the program for its impact and message for youth.
“I think it’s important that the youth of every country understand that the world is much bigger than just their country,” he said. “They need to realise that their possibilities are endless and anything can be achieved with a little hard work and ambition. I’ve come here to help them realise that.”
Zsófia Boros, a 22-year-old finance and accountancy student and the vice-president of the local committee, said: “Hungarian youth don’t really speak English and they don’t really know a lot about the world. The aim of the project is to give a better view about multiculturalism.
“An intern in a kindergarten can be as useful as the one in a high school. The kids in the kindergarten are more open because they don’t know negative stereotypes yet. They are curious about everything and everyone.
“In high school there is a primary focus on literacy and English. Currently we have around 20 partnerships with schools and we are hoping to reach more and more.”
Boros emphasised what the group can provide for students in the business school and abroad.
“We can gain experiences in leading a team, leading a committee, improving communication and presentation skills, gain knowledge of self-awareness, self-branding, and learn about marketing and other business plans. We can learn more about business than we would if we were only studying in the classroom.”
Students from Budapest Business School are also being sent through the GCDP to other foreign local communities to make an impact. “You come back to Hungary as another person,” Boros said about her experience working in Italy with the GCDP last year. “It really happened to me.”
She said the group went through many changes over the past five years to focus on bringing more international students to projects. “We were trying to just be business focused for years and then we decided to focus on exchange work.”
That work has paid off. This past year the group brought in 51 international students in the winter and spring. “Previously there were only two or three exchanges,” said Boros. “Now we are focusing on providing life-changing international programs and experiences. We have around 500-1,000% growth compared to the previous years. It is awesome. We can only improve from here.”