estefania with her friends

Estefania Fodor comes from Maracaibo, Venezuela, and inherited her Hungarian roots from her grandfather. She is working toward her goal of becoming a bilingual kindergarten teacher and is currently enrolled in the Kindergarten Education program at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest as a Hungarian Diaspora Scholarship holder. Last year, Estefania was honored with the Excellence Students' Award, and we had the chance to interview her about her experiences studying in Hungary.

When was the first time you visited Hungary?

I first set foot in Hungary in 2021 with the help of the Magyar Máltai Szeretetszolgálat and officially moved to the magical city of Budapest. Since then, I have visited different towns around Hungary.

What is your earliest memory of Hungary? Can you describe the moment when you realized you have a Hungarian heritage?

All the memories I have of Hungary I owe to my grandfather, who since the moment I was born, showed me all aspects of Hungarian culture. I will always remember singing with him boci, boci tarka, playing  Kerekecske, gombocska and watching Süsü, a sárkány on the TV every time I visited him.  Of course, food was always part of those memories, eating paprikás csirke every time I could, one of my favourite dishes. I even got to wear traditional Hungarian clothing that my grandfather bought for all the grandchildren, such beautiful attire.

Estefania with her grandad

What is the best way, in your opinion, to reconnect with your ancestors’ culture and heritage?

I believe that the best way to maintain a close relationship with your roots is learning the language.

Even as I sang, played and watched shows in Hungarian, nothing beats the feeling of being able to talk the language your ancestors spoke, as it gives you a whole new level of understanding about the history of your family.

I am lucky enough to have one Hungarian relative living in Hungary, and being able to speak with her gives me the sense of belonging that everyone needs once they move to another country.

What are your impressions of studying and living in Hungary?

The best part of studying in Hungary is the people you meet; I have had the opportunity to meet wonderful friends who have overcome every obstacle that I have met during my studies. We all share the same struggles of studying at a university.

The kindergarten education program at ELTE is a small community of people sharing the same passion, covering various areas of education, from math, science, physical education and even music! The Hungarian program is based on free play and teaching through the Forrai methodology, very different from the traditional way of kindergarten that I was used to.

Along with my studies, I am a member of the International Student Advisory Committee at ELTE, where we aid international students in the university and organize events in hopes of bridging the gap between international and Hungarian students. And so I have had the opportunity to take part in multiple events for the international community. We even got the opportunity to collaborate for a Discover Tunisia event!

Estefania Fodor

What inspired you to pursue a professional career in becoming a bilingual preschool educator?

After graduating from school, I had no idea what I wanted to study, I had considered many fields but never decided. One day a friend told me about an opening at an English academy to be the assistant for a kindergarten teacher, and since I have always had a passion for languages, I decided to give it a chance. This was the best decision of my life, it opened for me a world of possibilities that I had never thought of. From there on, I dedicated myself to gaining experience in the field, for which I took part in a volunteering year in Germany where I taught Spanish at a kindergarten. This led me to apply to study Bilingual Kindergarten Education in Budapest, where I get to study what I love.

What would you tell the Hungarians around the world about why they should apply for the Hungarian Diaspora Scholarship Program?

The Hungarian Diaspora community is the best place to connect with people who have a similar background to you. It is a place that will make you feel like you belong, never feeling like an outsider. The Hungarian Diaspora Scholarship programs make sure of that, organizing programs for us to take part, meeting Hungarian descendants from all around the world, as well as learning the history, language and culture of this country.

Estefania with her friends

What is your favourite memory from your time studying in Hungary?

I owe every good memory from studying in Hungary to my friends. I have made both international and Hungarian friends while studying in Budapest. They have made every experience a joyful one, even in things as though as learning Hungarian.

My favourite memory of Hungary is going on trips with my friends, I have visited Szentendre, Debrecen, and many towns around Balaton, the best place to spend your summer in Hungary, and visited Győr, the hometown of one of my closest friends. There I got to eat traditional dishes made by the mother of my friend. What an experience.