Small piece of Hungary makes big impact at JCU

September 27th, 2007

In its mission statement, John Carroll University strives to help students “excel in learning, leadership and service in the region and in the world.”

Zoltán Bugnyár, a master’s student in communications management, is a prime example of fulfilling this goal.

Bugnyár, a native Hungarian, came to JCU in January 2005 to continue his communications education. He studied as an undergraduate and earned his first masters degree in Hungary. Afterwards he started working full-time as an editor and reporter for two magazines and later for the Hungarian National Catholic Radio.

During his work, he learned about the opportunity to study in the States. “I learned about the opportunity while I was on duty as a reporter,” Bugnyár said.

“I was sent to a fund-raiser dinner by my boss, but when I got there, I learned about this communications scholarship in Cleveland. I did a little research and made a quick decision that I really wanted to do it; I wanted to gain some experience abroad, and in the communications field, the U.S. is the best place to study.”

Within three months, he applied for the scholarship, quit his job, obtained his Visa, and passed the Graduate Record Examination, a test foreign students are required to take.

“I was picked up at the airport that night when I arrived in Cleveland and JCU was the first part of America I saw in daylight,” he said. The Calasantius Training Program is run by a Hungarian American opthamologist, Dr. Peter Forgach of Buffalo, New York who has various connections to American universities.

The program was designed to contribute to the social and ethical development of the Hungarian society and economy through the participant’s personal experience, as well as their academic knowledge, gained in the U.S.
Bugnyár stressed that it isn’t just the academics; he described his experiences growing up in Socialist Hungary and the different perspective offered by living in the U.S.

“It was not only academic knowledge, but also what you learned in terms of volunteerism, because that was not encouraged at all during the time of Socialism,” he explained. “Party leaders told people what to do for free, and during those 40 years, people forgot that it was possible to work from the ground up and that it could really make a difference. That’s one perspective you can take from living in the U.S.”

Bugnyár is also a resident minister. He has participated in various volunteer work with campus ministry at JCU, including a couple immersion trips. He particularly enjoyed working alongside the volunteer students.

“The biggest thing I got out of the trips was my interaction with the students and the transitions I watched them go through,” he said.

“When we went to Ecuador, some of the U.S. students went through an uncomfortable process of witnessing the poverty there. I think it made them realize that money isn’t everything for people to be happy.”

Bugnyár’s religious calling goes back to the way he was raised. Even during the Socialist regime, his parents took him to church and religious classes.

“I experienced a time when freedom wasn’t a given. My parents did take me to Masses, but it wasn’t information I wanted to share with my classmates because it wasn’t tolerated,” he said. “If you kept it secret, it was okay, but you couldn’t talk about it. For people who take freedom for granted, it is difficult to understand it.”

If he wished to combine his communications education with his religious background, Bugnyár was open to it, but it he said it wasn’t really part of his immediate future plans.

“I am going to take three comprehensive exams in October and then finish my project thesis,” he said.

“I am here in Cleveland through May for Campus Ministry. I would like to find a U.S. company with international presence and first work for them here and then possibly in Hungary in the field of business communications. I don’t really want to make a living in media anymore, but I can see myself doing a radio show or something like I do for WJCU.” (He is the co-host for Bocskai Radio, The Voice for Hungary, on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m.)

Ultimately, he wants to run his own communications agency in Hungary. He explained that his experiences in the U.S. have influenced his career goals.

“I’ve never regretted making the decision to come here,” he said. “I want to implement things from here towards different causes in Hungary. I now have knowledge of things to utilize when I go back.”