When Kármen Bogdán (AFS 2013, Hungary to Italy) was a young teenager in Hungary, it was clear that studying abroad to learn a new language, expand her horizons and become an active global citizen would be a dream-come-true. However, coming from an underprivileged background with limited financial means was a significant hurdle to overcome on the path to accomplishing that dream. Luckily, it did not stop Kármen’s foster mother to reach out to AFS to work together on finding the best solution.

AFS Hungary, AFS Italy and AFS alumna Rosta Károly (who received the AFS Galatti Award for her longtime dedication and exceptional commitment to advance the AFS mission) joined forces and gathered enough funds for Kármen to live her dream. Given that Kármen comes from the Roma ethnic minority  in Hungary, and her difficult family history which includes being orphaned at a young age, AFS was especially motivated to support her and ensure that she can have access to intercultural education. All this is fully aligned with the AFS mission and strategy to provide inclusive intercultural learning opportunities to a growing number of people from diverse backgrounds.

Kármen had an amazing experience during her year abroad with AFS, and in 2017 she was admitted to the University of Arts where she is studying to become an Italian language teacher. Today, this is how Kármen describes her experience and the impact of AFS on her life:

“When I went to Italy in 2013, I did not speak much Italian, I knew only a couple of words from a brief online course. When I arrived to Italy, I could only say my name and a few basic sentences. By the end of the program I was an advanced student of Italian. But I can say that I not only learned a language from a beginner’s level, but I got to know the Italian culture and the people, and what’s more I realized what I want to do for a living.

My interest in the Italian language has remained and I want to improve my knowledge continuously. Now, I am a student of Italian at the Faculty of Arts of ELTE University, probably the best university in Hungary. I would like to become a translator or interpreter in the future.

I would also like to return to Italy, now as a university student. As of next year, I am hoping to spend a year and a half at the University of Florence.

The year I spent in Italy made me a lot more open-minded than I used to be. I now make friends more easily and I believe I am a lot more independent than before.

When I was in Italy, I got a lot of support and encouragement from my host family and my classmates, which helped me a lot to make good progress at school. Me and my host family also did a lot of travelling in Italy. I lived in Suzzara, near Mantova but I also had the opportunity to see beautiful sites of interest in Milan, Verona, Turin, Florence and Rome. I got on very well with my host family and I made a lot of good friends with other exchange students too.

Since I got back to Budapest, I have made a lot of Italian friends and I feel like I never lost touch with Italy. I believe it is my open-minded attitude that helps me make friends and contacts easily and I picked up that kind attitude during that beautiful year in Italy.

In the future, I want to be more active in voluntary work, and I already took a volunteer training course with AFS. My family in Hungary also hosted an Italian exchange student since I came back.”