The lobby of Quinnipiac’s Arnold Bernhard Library can be a buzzing place. People come and go, but the young woman standing adjacent to the small lounge is one of the few people occupying the entrance area when I walk out of the library. I walk past her, position myself next to the round stone pillar on the other side of the hall. I check my phone; hear a Chinese conversation coming from the lounge ahead. Two young students in sports clothes enter the building and walk past me. The woman checks her phone, head down, and a bag next to her on the floor. With her blonde hair and business casual dress code, she fits into the environment. When our eyes meet, something begins to click in her mind.
At first sight, there’s nothing that sets Katalin Németh apart from a typical American student. Her name might be a first hint to her international background. Németh translates into the word German, and that, she says with a remarkable clear voice “has some sort of meaning because my family migrated from Austria. So my parents were the first generation becoming entirely Hungarian.”
With a delightful “ha”, she picks up the apple-green fountain pen and writes down the name of her hometown Győr.
Talking about the over two thousand year old city she calls home, her face lights up with a perfect smile. “If there are two remarkable things about Győr,” she explains, “water and baroque buildings for one and an extreme density of Audi cars on the roads for the other.”
The German carmaker produces several models and engines in the city. “Yes,” Katalin says, “the police officers have Audi TT roadster coupes. So you have to be really careful to no being intercepted by them. That was the company’s pro bono donation.” With a mild laughter, she adds, “bizarre idea.”
Having already completed master programs in Hungary that came attached with work experiences for industrial firms, the motivation for the two-year Master of Business Administration program at Quinnipiac developed during such experiences.
“Probably because of working for interesting clients,” Katalin explains, “sitting in one of their meetings, I was just amazed by some strategic presentations on the client side, and decided ‘okay, I would like to pursue an MBA program because I would like to know that much about business and sit in that seat!’ ”
With a clear goal in mind, the process of applying to a university abroad still elicits high emotions. “I was anxious and excited,” Katalin recalls, “I mean we submitted a program-plan for the next three to five years that also outlined which courses or what type of coursework you really would like to attend or pursue.”
In addition, it required her to think about her future. “That was,” Katalin says, “a really interesting thought process because I had to revisit what I wanted to do, what realistically I could do, why I was ready to risk that position and basically my life in Hungary.”
At the end of this journey through her own life, she felt ready to take risks to achieve her goals. “I understood that there is a special interest of mine,” she says with a clear focus in her voice, “which I really would like to achieve, and really would need this type of education, coursework, and professors here to be able to do that.”
Going through the application to an American university is one part of the story, getting ready for this new chapter in one’s life after being accepted is another.
“That was when the anxiety part began,” Katalin says with a gradually fastening voice, “I’ve never been to the US before; I have never seen an American university before.”
Millions of questions begin forming, questions that give you doubt about your plans, your decisions, and the path you’ve chosen for your future.
Thankfully, Katalin adds, Quinnipiac has stepped up their game in international student affairs. The supportive staff of the Central European Institute, the School of Business, and the Office of Multicultural and Global Education helped her through all the hurdles that needed to be leaped before a foreign student can finally set foot on campus.
But there are other, more personal obstacles for foreigners. Katalin wouldn’t want to bother school officials with everyday problems and feels gratitude for the global partner program the OMGE has initiated to help students adjust to life in the U.S.
“Quinnipiac officers really care about you,” she explains her intentions for becoming a global partner herself, “however, when you’re integrating foreigners into an American system, there are a lot of practical tests that are so to speak formal and the OMGE is doing a terrific job handling those, but you have a lot of such small uncertainties, often so banal.”
“That is,” she continues, “why they have this opportunity in place. Fellow international students have a shared experience, you just ask them.”
Giving arriving international students a helping hand, she adds while her smile lights up as if reliving good memories, gives her the opportunity to meet new people from across the globe and exchange views on life in the U.S.
Home, however, is far away for European students in America. “I believe,” she says about missing the ability to roam the streets of Budapest, “many who have been to Budapest will understand that. They are beautiful. The city is so much alive. I mean Condé Nast Traveler voted it the second best choice for international travelers to come to Europe. There is a reason for that! It’s an interesting city.”
With a year and a half filled with experiences, Katalin has mastered the hard beginnings and enjoys the atmosphere on campus.
“It’s just so cool seeing people lying around on the grass,” she says, interrupted by laughter, “especially when the weather is much more nicer. They chat and play Frisbee, it’s so nice. In Europe most of our universities are located in urban areas and the buildings are sometimes quite far away from each other. So when you exit the university library you’re on the street of a city and not on a laid-back campus.”
Describing herself as a business geek, Katalin feels that Quinnipiac has broadened her perspective and will prove helpful to her future plans. “I would like to pursue some sort of technological business, analytical support, or consultancy. For that,” she reasons, “it provided a thorough approach and fundamental education, like basic business disciplines.”
Hands-on experience is one of the key elements she’s received from the program. Receiving an education from a country that’s widely seen as the world’s tech and business leader, she concludes that Quinnipiac “has helped a lot!”