Oskar participated in the Hungary Work-Study Program in 2019. He spent six weeks studying and working in Budapest. He learned directly from the founders of the start-up business he worked at. Read about his experience!
Why did you choose your program and destination?
At the time, I was winding down my undergraduate degree while also working full-time in commercial real estate. Since the market was especially slow in Alberta and my graduation was coming fast, I kept wondering what I wanted to do in the future. After looking into the Hungary Work-Study program and not being able to shake the idea of going, I got in contact with Gizelle who facilitated my exchange semester in Belgium in 2016.
I also asked respected individuals in my network this question: if you had two candidates for a job with the same skillset, one with work and study experience from around the world and one without, who would you be more interested in? The answer was unanimous.
Soon after, I decided to extend my graduation, quit my job, and go through with the program. The main reasons why came down to 1) the last HOORAH of my undergraduate degree 2) to gain international finance/leadership experience 3) to set myself apart from others.
What was the most memorable experience of your time abroad?
The most memorable part of my trip was by far the coworkers and company I worked with. On the first night, I arrived in Budapest after traveling for well over 24 hours straight. As soon as I got settled into my accommodation, I got a message on my phone from one of my Hungarian coworkers who I had yet to meet or speak to. He told me he and another coworker were coming to my accommodation within 30 minutes to show me around the city. They took me to both the major attractions such as the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle and the Fisherman's Bastion and also to hidden local hotspots while telling me about the history and customs of Hungary. Afterward, I led my classmates around the city and showed them what I had seen that first night. By far my favorite part of the Work-Study program was learning the history of the Magyar culture from my own personal tour guides and now life-long friends.
Were there any challenges? How did you overcome or cope with them?
There were definitely challenges along the way mostly from culture shock and missing home. These things are natural when you are in an entirely new place (especially if it's your first time away from home). How I learned to cope was to take a step back and actively appreciate being in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and having great classmates and co-workers around me. By the end of the trip, appreciating everything around me came easily and actually turned into the sadness that I had to come back home!
Has this education abroad experience helped you personally, academically or professionally?
My experience abroad helped me in all three ways. Personally, I was able to build my leadership and adaptability skills while also forming relationships from across the world. These are tough skills to develop and the Work-Study forces you to step out of your comfort zone, which has helped me ever since. Academically, I strongly believe this experience taught me more than anything else in my undergraduate degree. So much so that I'm actively looking into taking a graduate program abroad in the next few years. Professionally, the experience in international finance and business I received was priceless. The company I worked for was a start-up that was founded by two former bankers who gave me invaluable exposure in finance and how to successfully grow a business. I use the lessons I learned in this program on a near-daily basis in my professional life today.
What was your experience like when you returned home?
Shortly after returning to Canada, I graduated and started looking into full-time positions. This took time with the hiring market at the time, but I felt empowered enough from my experiences abroad that I began freelancing in different roles such as real estate and personal finance for a few months. Eventually, I was hired at a large bank on their technology side who were very impressed with my time abroad which was a central topic in my interview questions.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
If I could do it all again, I would have also done the Malaysia Work-Study program.
Would you recommend trying an education abroad program to other students?
Yes, I 100% think every student should take a study-abroad program. My advice to students is to take advantage of every possible opportunity the university provides you. Extracurricular projects, clubs, and events really set you apart from the average student and I think the best of them all is an abroad experience. It teaches you essential things that really can't be taught in a classroom and you'll create memories and stories that'll be with you for the rest of your life.
For those who are on the fence about whether to go abroad, my advice is GO!