Student Spotlight: Viktor Weisz – Temple

Viktor Weisz has lived in Budapest most of his life and is a highly motivated student in 11th 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 certificate achieved after completing a 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 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. next year.

Interviewer: Will Freeman

Q: What made you apply to the EducationUSA Summer Academy program at Temple University in Philadelphia?

A: By doing research on the requirements for applicants to American universities, I found the EducationUSA Academy program through the Fulbright EducationUSA Advising Center in Budapest. This is a short-term academic program that provides English language courses, college preparatory content, tours of diverse colleges and universities, and cross-cultural activities to 15- to 17-year-old students from around the world. There are plenty of study programs to choose from, which are in summer and last for 3-4 weeks. This is how I found out about the EducationUSA Academy program at Temple.

Q: Was it challenging to find a scholarship to fund your participation in the program? What steps did you take to make your application the best it could be?

A: Studying at American universities is not cheap. This is why it was important for me to find a place like Temple University where my studies would be supported by a scholarship. As part of the application process, I had to register on the EducationUSA website, upload the required documents, and attach school records, competition results, and a certificate of language knowledge as well as a letter of reference. Kornélia Litkei from the EducationUSA Center in Budapest helped me a lot with this process. After I had sent all the documents requested in March, the university informed me with a short message that I had been accepted on their preparatory program, but that they would get back to me with their decision about competitive scholarships in May. There were only two spots for scholarship-funded students in the program, and in May they emailed to me to let me know that I had won one of them. I believe that my excellent school results, my advanced knowledge of English, my results at a short story writing competition, my strong letters of recommendation, and my personal statement all helped me win the scholarship. This was an immense support as I only had to pay for my flight ticket, the visa, the insurance and some activities while I was there.

Q: What was an average day like during your program?

A: We had lessons from early morning to late afternoon every day. We studied English literature, essay writing, fine arts, personal development, and effective time management. We also received homework every day. After the lessons and on weekends we visited popular tourist attractions in Philadelphia and New York, went to see the ocean, and watched a professional baseball match.

Q: What was the most important takeaway for you academically?

A: We had excellent instructors in every subject. This is why I enjoyed the study component of the program. The program helped me improve my academic knowledge and creativity, and it also made me a more open-minded person. I should also mention that I improved my time management, which I had struggled with before. Of course, I also learned about the application process at American universities.

Q: What was one thing you learned about U.S. culture and what is one thing you tried to teach others about Hungarian culture?

A: This was the first time I had been to the U.S., although I had read a lot about the country. I was impressed with Americans’ open-mindedness and tolerance. I was greatly influenced by their positive thinking and helpfulness. Philadelphia was the first capital of the U.S., and by spending time there I learned a lot about its history, monuments and the evolution of the whole country. We had a very international group. My classmates were from Poland, Spain, Brazil, Columbia, Iran, Armenia, Taiwan and Mexico. We had the chance to present about the geography, culture and history of our countries. We learned a lot from each other, particularly about everyone’s country of origin.

Q: How do you think your experience at Temple will influence your future? Are you considering applying to college in the U.S.?

A: It definitely brought me closer to my long term goals. Through the program I learned a lot about the application process at American universities, particularly about admissions criteria. When we finished the program, we all received a certificate as well as a detailed, personalized report. I got an A+, the highest grade possible, as well as a reference letter to the preparatory course of Stanford University, which has accepted me this year. I do not think this would have happened without the letter of recommendation of Temple University. I have been planning to study at an American university for a long time, so I will definitely apply next fall.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for Hungarian high school students thinking about applying to a program like the EducationUSA Summer Academies, or a one semester or year-long exchange?

A: I think these programs are also useful for those who do not necessarily want to continue their studies at an American university. In addition to improving academic knowledge, programs like the EducationUSA Summer Academy also contribute to the development of one’s personality. One becomes more open-minded, which is nowadays unavoidable if one wants to become successful. An excellent knowledge of English is important for applying to a program like the one I completed. However, one is also able to improve his or her English skills on this program. Therefore I would particularly recommend this program to those who have fewer English lessons, as having excellent command of English is essential for many careers nowadays.