The 11 students who participated in the University of Lethbridge’s first Hungary Work Study program gained new experiences and knowledge and a few even came away with job offers.
The students faced the challenge of working at a job in a foreign country where the majority of their co-workers didn’t speak English.
“I would highly recommend it,” says Kathy Hong, a Faculty of Management student majoring in marketing and kinesiology. “You learn a lot more from this kind of experience than you do sitting in a classroom.”
“I personally enjoyed the challenge and taking whatever they threw at me and seeing what I could do with it,” says Cameron Pituley, a student working on a combined Bachelor of Management degree, majoring in finance and music.
“All the students did extremely well despite some language barriers and culture shock. Their professionalism and positive attitudes helped them overcome the difficulties they faced. I am very proud of them,” says Gizelle Tiponut, course instructor and co-ordinator for International Programs, outgoing exchanges, with the Faculty of Management.
Both Hungarian speakers, Tiponut and Michael Lanyi, an instructor in the U of L’s Department of Economics and Tiponut’s husband, found suitable placements for each of the participating students. Lanyi joined the trip as resource person and chaperone. The group stayed at a private hostel in the outskirts of Budapest, commuting to their workplaces using public transit.
A work-study program gives students insights into other cultures and foreign workplaces, all the while providing them with a valuable credential for their resume. In addition to their duties at their Hungarian workplaces, the students were required to work on assignments, participate in field trips and attend academic seminars related to the Hungarian culture and workplace, economy and history.
Hong, who has an interest in sports marketing, worked at the Budapest Honvéd Football Club for five weeks and then for Red Bull Hungary for one week doing web analysis.
“I learned the importance of marketing research. They’re always pushing it in class but it’s not an area of interest for me. I always pushed it aside,” says Hong. “But I learned, especially when I was doing the web analysis for Red Bull, how important it is to know the numbers.”
Hannah Steenwyk, (BMus ’14), a management student majoring in human resources, worked in sales and development at Atalian Global Services, a multinational facility management company. She also conducted market research and created a performance management system to reward lower level employees.
“I learned to work in a high pressure situation with deadlines and how to work with people when you are just plunked into an office,” she says. “It was a cohesive little unit. Everyone was really helpful. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.”
Daniel Brisebois, a management student who’s majoring in marketing and minoring in international management, worked at Enco Software. He created a marketing brochure, translated two websites into English, and crafted a marketing plan for the company’s expansion.
“I learned to overcome adversity. Nothing’s ever going to be perfect so you have to get around it somehow,” he says. “I’d tell any student who’s interested to absolutely do it. Even if it’s not part of their degree, the combination of the internship as well as the study allows you to really get to know what it’s like to be abroad instead of just being a tourist.”
Pituley worked for Bonafarm Group, the largest agricultural company in Hungary, which includes feedlots, a meat-processing facility, wheat production, dairy and a winery. He worked for Bonafarm’s dairy company and was tasked with doing a top-down industry analysis and creating a detailed competitor comparison.
“I had an amazing experience,” he says. “I learned so much about so many different things. It wasn’t just academic. Every time we went out for lunch I would be sitting with CEOs and CFOs gathering information about potential career paths and life experience.”
The Hungary Work Study Program, a 4000-level management course, will be offered every other year and was designed after the Faculty of Management’s Malaysia Work Study Program, which has been operating for 17 years.
“Some of the initial employers are still with us and this past year we had 12 students participate,” says Andrea Amelinckx, director of International Programs and First Nations Governance in the Faculty of Management. “Whether Kuala Lumpur or Budapest, you’re being immersed in a totally different culture. We want students to be exposed to situations with great learning potential.”
The students also had high praise for Tiponut and Lanyi.
“They had to put up with 11 students in the same house for six weeks,” says Pituley. “They were very accommodating and very willing to help us whenever we had a problem.”
“It was a really good experience for both the students and us,” says Tiponut. “We’ll do it again, for sure.”