Student Spotlight: Viktor Weisz – Stanford

Viktor Weisz has lived in Budapest most of his life and is a highly motivated student in 12th grade at Budapest’s SEK International School, where he takes courses in Hungarian, English, and Spanish. He is currently studying toward an International Baccalaureate, which is a diploma achieved after completing a rigorous 2-year program that involves writing essays on different subjects and delivering presentations. Viktor also serves as head of the student council for SEK and plans to apply to American liberal arts colleges next year. Viktor spent the summer in California at Stanford University. Read about his experience below!

Interviewer: Helen S. Shaw

Q: What was the program that you participated in this summer at Stanford University? What did you do there?

The program I was doing at Stanford was a two-month-long session where high school students could take part in actual university courses and classes, held by actual university professors and actual Stanford undergrads as some of the classmates. There were approximately 750 students admitted and more than a hundred summer courses to choose from – all the way from organic chemistry (the students taking that were practically mythical and non-existent, as they were studying so much–whenever we got the chance to see one of them, we made a wish) to creative writing (those students were always around everywhere other than the study areas for some reason). With various different and interesting academic subjects and sports offered to me and my peers, it was indeed a heaven for us nerds. I took three courses altogether for credit: Genocides and Humanitarian Interventions, Thinking Strategically, and Yoga. All of them were relatively interesting, even more demanding, and incredibly fun!

Q: Were you able to participate in activities outside of the classroom during your stay at Stanford?

Along with the lectures, we had plenty of activities to participate in, such as several trips to the nearby cities of San Francisco and San Jose. We had the wonderful possibility of witnessing a real Fourth of July celebration in Mountain View, visit the Google HQ, USP Alcatraz, the world-famous Fillmore Street Jazz Festival, the Great America theme park, the Winchester Mystery House, and much more. Making substantial friendships were also an essential part of the experience. I like to think that these are the sort of friendships which can withstand time and distance.

Q: How did you select and apply for the program at Stanford? Where did you hear about it and how did you decide to apply?

It all started back in the summer of 2016 at Temple University, when my English literature teacher, Ms. Erin Hough suggested for me to consider applying for this program for high school students such as myself. She thought that it would be more challenging and fun, and that it would like an adventure on the American West Coast. I figured that she might be right–after all, she is an expert on the topic. So, I proceeded to apply in December. My excitement and unshakeable dedication faded away a little bit when I saw the tremendous amount of essay requirements: they asked about my extracurricular activities, important life decisions, daily routine, what I ate for breakfast that morning, etc. I finished up everything in early January, and by March, I had received an email that I was accepted.

Q: In what ways did EducationUSA support you in finding, funding, and securing a place in this program?

To be honest, without the opportunity to spend my summer at Temple University, I probably would have never even cared much about, nor heard of the High School Summer College at Stanford for various reasons: Primarily, because it was my English literature professor who suggested trying it out, because she thought that I would have a chance of getting admitted. Subsequently, I have also received a tremendous amount of motivation from Alicja, a friend of mine from the program at Temple. She was telling me about a girl from Bulgaria, who successfully got admitted to Stanford University to study psychology at Jordan Hall. There, she even had the opportunity to meet the world-renowned psychologist, Dr. Philip Zimbardo. That was when I have realized what it means to be a student, a member of such an excellent, respected institution as Stanford. During the application process, I also asked for the help of Ms. Kornélia Litkei who wrote a reference letter for me for the application, which helped a lot in getting the scholarship. It may sound cheesy, but I can frankly say that without EdUSA or Fulbright, I could not have gone so far, and for this, I’m forever grateful.

Q: Did you experience any culture shock or homesickness during the program? What were some challenges you faced?

Since I love traveling, and have been doing for a while prior to this journey, luckily, I did not have to deal with homesickness. Being able to go with another student from Munich, who I have got to meet on Facebook two months prior to the flight made it a whole lot easier. However, that does not mean that everything went perfectly, of course. It was quite difficult at times to find the healthy balance between hanging out with friends in San Francisco and sitting down to work on the course material. I guess this is very typical, but procrastination was my biggest enemy which I had to overcome with every bit of diligence I had in myself. Ultimately, I was spending my summertime there.

Q: This was not your first time in the United States. How did this experience compare to past programs you have participated in and other parts of the United States you have visited?

This summer program was significantly more serious than anything I have participated in previously. From the vast amount of courses which we could choose from to the high-quality workshops, we students had everything we needed in order to have a good time on campus. It was also longer than most of the summer programs. Therefore, we could accomplish and gain more from it by the end. As for my experience on studying in California, it was fabulous. I’m positive that the people are a lot more relaxed and friendly in the Golden State in general than in the places I have been to on the East Coast. Moreover, they seemed to be living a more leisurely lifestyle as well.

Q: What is your most valuable takeaway from this program? How have you changed as a result of your participation?

Well, first and foremost I have unexpectedly and unintentionally become an expert on various genocides of the 20th century, which is kind of a weird feature I have now, when I come to think of it. I have also become a yoga instructor to some of my friends, which is undeniably an improvement they find very beneficial for their own, relatively stressful, lives. Overall, I would say that I have notably become more confident in myself; I genuinely believe that I can achieve and fulfill anything if I try hard enough. I successfully managed to pick up that La La Land vibe of The Bear Flag State.

Q: How has participation in this program influenced your trajectory for the future? Where are you planning on applying to university, and what do you think you might study?

It definitely did! If anything it has made me even more devoted to study at an American college, and I cannot wait to return to such a marvelous environment to study in. I am currently applying to the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University in the early decision period. I would like to continue studying international relations and maybe pick up other minors, such as film courses, or photography. Whatever happens, I trust that the following few years will be one of the bests of my life, it really does matter a lot where one spends them.

Q: What advice would you give to a Hungarian student who would like to study in the United States?

One of the main issues Europeans in general may find difficult in living in the United States is keeping up with the food portion sizes! When they say that everything is bigger over the other side of the Atlantic, they are not kidding – the roads are much wider, the buildings are a lot taller and the drinking age is a lot higher than what we have in Hungary. Americans living on the coasts also tend to be remarkably more open-minded than most Europeans and they are way more interested in hearing about where you are from and learning about different cultures than what I have experienced in any other nation I have had the chance to visit. It is always a delight to meet up with people who consider themselves Hungarian based on their ancestors. Even though they have never been to Hungary, nor speak any Hungarian, they are outstandingly more patriotic towards Hungary than any fellow Hungarian that I know.