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HVG

How is student life in western Europe different from at home? HVG spoke to a few university students studying in the 'exotic West'.

"I started by using my English to get a job as a barmaid in a Paris club to cover my EUR450-500 monthly rent. In France, EU students are allowed to work, but the best thing is that an hourly wage of EUR12 is more than enough to cover both rent and food," says Bolgarka Palosi, who is studying for a masters in cultural management and cultural policy at the University of Paris 8 (UFR). The Hungarian girl, who left for Paris to study French three years ago, is no longer dependent on bar work to pay her tuition fees of EUR400 a year. She works for a film production company in Paris, imports contemporary art from Hungary to France and sells Francophone folk songs to eastern Europe. "At college we're expected to execute our own cultural projects, so last year I arranged a week-long Hungarian film festival and a concert and I promoted some DJs," she says, adding that her money runs to the odd weekend excursion and trips to restaurants. Before, even stocking her fridge was a problem.

Integrating was also a challenge. "One thing is that the French are very superficial. Another is that the average standard of living here is much higher. If you live here, you have to adapt to the local norms. That is, it would be normal to go to the cinema, to concerts, to the theatre as often as three or four times a week, just like the French. As a foreigner, and as a student in particular, it's quite hard to find the kind of work that makes this possible, so you feel like you're doing badly. But if you compare life here with your standard of living at home, then you're doing pretty well. But if you're in company, you're still alone, because people aren't interested in you. What's better? This, or the melancholy and whinging we see at home? I'd prefer to stay. The years to come will compensate for my current privations, but my friends are still Hungarians," she concludes.

Nora Grasselli also lives in Paris. She's more cautious. The reservedness of the French is the result, she believes, of a greater level of individualism in the West, with people less likely to turn to friends, whereas friendship is more important in Hungary. Of course, she arrived in a different way from her compatriot. After graduating from Debrecen University in Hungary, she decided to study for a second degree in Nantes. She was able to apply for the French government's Eiffel Scholarship, which provides more than EUR1000 a month. Despite this, she chose to leave for Paris after a year. She won a place to study for a PhD at the Hautes Etudes Commerciales in Paris. She told HVG that she was drawn by the opportunity to study with her favourite scholar, Gilles Amado, a workplace psychologist. She now works as Amado's assistant, supplementing her scholarship with money earned from part-time lecturing.

Most Hungarian students in western Europe finance themselves, even if most receive some form of official support. Last year, a total of 2600 received Erasmus scholarships, which provide an average of EUR200-250 a month. "In Holland you need about EUR800 a month to survive, but that was enough to live, eat and take public transport - and that only in a Nijmegen, which is much cheaper than the big cities," says Balint Takacs, who is an Erasmus student. Integration was not a problem: he met Dutch people at the university. "Erasmus is good not for getting to know the country you're visiting, but for developing contacts with people from Istanbul to Oslo, from Vilnius to Valencia - and we have fun, as well as learning the language," says the 22-year old.

But most students in western Europe find their own way, without the help of the Erasmus programme. Some 83 per cent of French people studying abroad and 74 per cent of the Italians are supporting themselves. Standards of living do not vary dramatically in the countries of western Europe, so spending a couple of months abroad is not a major difficulty. Unlike for most of the Hungarians.

But surviving is not enough - you have to study as well, and teaching styles are very different. Katalin Molnar, who studies in Groningen in the Netherlands, says: "At home, the professor stands on the dais, speaks and we all listen, but here, we're always working in small groups."Postgraduate degrees are different. "There's loads of individual work, and I think demands are higher than in Hungarian universities. I had to take a specialisation exam at the end of the first year, which was meant to weed out people who should have failed the entrance exam - they want to get rid of students who aren't strong enough," according to Nora Grasselli.

hvg.hu English version

Opinion: Geza Jeszenszky

A leader in the right-wing daily Magyar Nemzet listed Hitler as one of US president George Bush's "great predecessors." The article spurred Geza Jeszenszky, foreign minister in the Antall government and former Hungarian ambassador to Washington, to respond.

hvg.hu English version

Liars of 2006

We lied more than four years ago - this could have served as a slogan for all the parties in 2006's campaign(s).

HVG English version

Public services

Local services cost twice as much in the country's most expensive towns as in the cheapest regions. Both political and economic factors lie behind the variations in price.

English version

Tons of blown aliment

There are many lessons of the growing food labelling scandal, but, in a state governed by law, there can only be one consequence: severe punishment. This is not about dodgy wheeling and dealing - this is the work of a well-organized criminal gang. Not with the best of wills can one accept the claim that there was no bribery involved in the deal. And it is strange that the company MEGA, whose owners several times failed animal health inspections, should be allowed to continue operations. If there is no corruption, then there is incompetence.

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