A unique scholarship program launched by the National Talent Center will finance the higher education of 18 Hungarian students who set out to study at the world’s best universities. The merit-based Stipendium Peregrinum scholarship covers tuition fees, travel, accommodation, and all study-related costs of the selected few. As a condition of the award, the recipients of the scholarship must return to Hungary upon the completion of their studies to utilize their knowledge for the benefit of their homeland.
With tuition fees at some of the highest ranking universities reaching more than USD 50,000 annually, entering some globally renown institutions has always posed a real challenge for talented Hungarians. According to the executive director of the National Talent Center (NTK), Krisztina Lantos, it is imperative to financially assist those who otherwise could not reach their full potential; since, as she put it, “cultivating one’s talent results in the joy of the student and the enrichment of their environment.” That is why NTK launched its internationally unparalleled Stipendium Peregrinum (SP) full scholarship that covers all study-related expenses for 18 exceptional students going to institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Oxford. “We were inspired by the medieval tradition of sending the brightest young talents abroad to gather experience and bring it back home,” Lantos told Hungary Today. The SP program is aimed at reviving this tradition.
Minister of State Katalin Novák addresses the recipients of the scholarship.
While the program covers all expenses for the 18 students, the benefits come with strict conditions. During their studies, the students must engage in a variety of volunteering activities; and after their graduation, they are obliged to return to Hungary, equipped with novel skills and knowledge, to benefit the country.
Out of 144 applicants, the 18 students were chosen through a multi-stage screening process involving a video introduction, a motivation letter, and the detailed explanation of their plans for benefiting Hungary following their studies. After the first round of the selection process, a chosen group of 49 applicants from across the country were invited to Balatonszárszó where they took part in an intense selection camp involving both group and individual contests.
Contestants at the selection camp at Balatonszárszó.
The camp, organized in early July, was led by a group of instructors including award-winning nature photographer Bence Máté, Olympic champion Áron Szilágyi, Minister of State for Family and Youth Katalin Novák, and the organizer of the Brain Bar Budapest festival Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy. “Each and every one of them taught these bright students something important,” Lantos said. “They were inspired by Áron Szilágyi’s perseverance and hard work, [award-winning pianist] János Balázs’ precision and [opera singer] Erika Miklósa’s unlimited supply of energy.” Seeing the students in different challenging settings allowed the board from NTK to select the 18 students who have already delivered exceptional results in their respective fields and who also possessed the personal qualities and leadership skills necessary to excel in the future.
The selected few are students from a variety of fields, some pursuing a Bachelor’s degree, others doing their Master’s. While the vast majority (72%) of the students will study natural sciences and other STEM subjects, some social scientists and economists are also among the winners. The scholarship was awarded on an individual basis and the level of support ranges between HUF 4.3 and 22.2 million per student for one academic year.
One of the winners, Maya Beleznay has been an enthusiast of space exploration and astrophysics for years. After completing a research program at Yale University, she was recently admitted to MIT. The scholarship allows her to continue her studies at one of the most prestigious universities in the world without putting an excessive financial burden on her family. She explained her plans to foster transnational cooperation in the field of space exploration later in life and she told us about her plans with great enthusiasm to come back to Hungary after gathering some experience in the industry.
Maya Beleznay, one of the 18 winners. The scholarship will allow her to begin her studies at MIT.
The sponsorship of the education of these 18 Hungarians must be understood within the broader phenomenon of an increasing number of Hungarians studying abroad. As of 2020, around 2,300 Hungarians study in the United Kingdom alone, with many others studying in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Although the NTK has been supporting these young Hungarians through partial scholarships for several years, the SP is certainly one of their most generous programs so far.
All photos provided by NTK.