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Interview with the Executive Director of the Hungarian Youth Association, Martin Pászthy

Eleonora Horvath 2023.09.24.
Martin Pászthy and Bálint Karagich with the Friends of Hungary Award

In 2023, the Friends of Hungary Foundation, publisher of Hungary Today, awarded the Friends of Hungary Award for the sixth time. The award is a prestigious recognition of the outstanding work of selected individuals and organizations active in the greater Hungarian community. The recipients have invested significant time and energy in improving Hungary’s international image, strengthening Hungarian diaspora communities and improving Hungary’s relations with the diaspora. This year’s recipients include the Hungarian Youth Association.

The Hungarian Youth Association was founded three years ago to represent the interests of Hungarian students studying in the diaspora and to promote their cultural ties to Hungary. Now, the organization is represented in 12 countries and 80 universities, reaching more than 7,000 students. The current Executive Director of the institution is Martin Pászthy.

Their activities include: providing information at the national level on study abroad opportunities for disadvantaged students, networking between students studying abroad and diaspora communities, and organizing community-building and cultural activities.

How did you get involved with the Friends of Hungary Foundation? What does this award mean to you?

Bálint Szüle, former board member of the National Talent Center, introduced the Friends of Hungary Foundation to the former leaders of our association. Later, thanks to this, we were invited as an organization to present our activities in the diaspora at last year’s conference.

It was a great honor to receive the Friend of Hungary Award this year, after only three years in operation. It is a very strong confirmation for the association that our community building, cultural, and advocacy activities are important, valuable and respected worldwide. Furthermore, it is recognition for our members, who in addition to their university studies, volunteer their time to support the organization.

Members of the association. Photo via Hungarian Youth Association

How would you describe the main purpose of your organization?

It was established to build, support, and represent the Hungarian community as a student organization for Hungarians studying abroad. The aim of the Hungarian Youth Association is to help talented Hungarian students in as many aspects of their journey as possible, from the initial choice of university, through the years of study, to employment.

Moreover, our core values are to increase access to education, motivate young people, and create international youth links.

We seek to promote these goals and values in a very diverse way. On the educational side, we provide informative secondary school lectures, 40-50 page country-specific brochures on studying abroad, and help with the application process by involving students studying abroad. In the context of community, we organize cultural and community-building events both locally and internationally, such as Christmas, carnivals, university graduation, and our summer Outland Festival, which is based on the theme of studying abroad. In addition, we support alumni to start their careers by networking with professionals, advertising company opportunities, and providing administrative support for returning home.

We also conduct research on student demographics, career plans, and intentions to return home to effectively support and reach out to the community. Finally, we represent their interests in consistent policy decisions at local, national, and international levels.

Photo via Hungarian Youth Association

What does it mean to you to represent the interests of students living and studying in the diaspora? Why is this necessary?

For us, advocacy means supporting students studying abroad on issues that are important to them – whether it is study, returning to Hungary, funding – based on their feedback. In the past, for example, we have successfully proposed to remove restrictions on students working in Hungary while studying abroad (e.g. summer internships), but we have also petitioned the European Parliament to make it easier for students to study in the UK after Brexit through a new higher education mobility scheme.

We are also currently working on the creation of a student loan scheme in Hungary for students studying abroad, and in the future we want to work on simplifying the process of degree validation.

This is very important because this student population, currently standing around 20,000, is growing not only in absolute numbers but also in proportion to the number of students in Hungary, yet they were not given a specific advocacy role.

It is also a community whose members, having acquired unique and competitive knowledge and experience in foreign universities and labor markets, are of strategic importance. And if we can make it easier for students to go abroad and return home, this knowledge can contribute to Hungary’s innovative and cultural development.

Photo via Hungarian Youth Association

Who supports the association financially?

This touches on one of the most important elements of the organization’s existence, as we are a non-profit organization with a lot of activities and challenges.

We do not receive regular financial support and we are independent in all respects, including financially. Thus, our main source of income comes from our events, occasional corporate sponsorships, and business partnerships, as well as from government tenders and public sector grants awarded on an individual basis. Occasionally, there are also students themselves who support the organization through various channels. And the funds raised from these are used entirely for community building, with no benefits going to any of the organization’s volunteers.

Are there volunteers in the organization?

Yes, the whole organization is made up of enthusiastic student volunteers who are currently studying abroad or have recently graduated. We currently have around 85 volunteers from the 12 countries where we are present. From local community organizing, advocacy and research, to marketing and finance, they are responsible for everything that is needed for the development of the organization. They are the reason we are where we are today.

Photo via Hungarian Youth Association

What are your plans and goals for the future?

Above all, we want to continue to help build the student community in the future. We will therefore provide more support to our local community so that they can carry out their desired activities. In addition, we would like to provide more support for students to go abroad or return home by making student loans and degree renewal more attractive.

Furthermore, on the community-building front, we plan to strengthen the cultural strand by taking a theater piece abroad that focuses on national identity.

Ultimately, through these activities, we want to create an international network and environment where students can connect with each other without barriers and put their knowledge to good use in the way and place that suits them.

Professor E. Sylvester Vizi Opens the Friends of Hungary Foundation Conference
Professor E. Sylvester Vizi Opens the Friends of Hungary Foundation Conference

The foundation focuses on work with Hungarian organizations across the world.Continue reading

Featured image via Hungary Today

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