California State University, Fullerton

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Meet Three Fulbright Scholars From Eastern Europe

Scholars from Hungary, Poland and Russia Acclimate to Southern California

May 16, 2013

Maté Balogh traveled from Hungary to Cal State Fullerton to study one of Orange County's native sons, Richard Nixon, and an aspect that is often overlooked when looking at the Nixon presidency — Hungarian-American relations.

The subject matter of his doctoral thesis made the choice of where the Fulbright research scholar should study easy: "It wasn't a difficult choice to come here because of the closeness to the Nixon Library ... it was obvious."

Balogh is among four Fulbright scholars on campus this semester. Justyna Kuzniar from Poland and Ekaterina Kuzmina of Russia are both working on a master's degree in American Studies, while Khadija Namini of Pakistan is in the master's program in geology.

Like Balogh, Kuzniar and Kuzmina say that the decision to come to Cal State Fullerton was easy: the American studies program fit their career needs.

"For a long time even before I applied for a Fulbright scholarship, I wanted to visit the United States," said Kuzniar, who has a bachelor's and master's degree in English philology from the University of Wroclaw. 

"I intend to pursue a career in the government or in an international nonprofit organization that furthers cooperation and strengthens relations between Russia and the United States," said Kuzmina, who earned a bachelor's degree in modern language from Moscow Region State University of Humanities and Social Studies in 2009. "And I believe that cultural literacy is important to ensure a successful American-Russian dialogue."

Balogh has been on campus since January and been auditing a few classes to experience American teaching and make friends and connections. He holds master's degrees in history, international relations and American studies from George Soros University in Budapest.

"What I like most about my department is how nice, helpful, and informal everybody is, both students and faculty," said Kuzniar, who has two more semesters before completing her master's degree. "And I am a little surprised by how much is constantly happening on campus, all the clubs and organizations you can join, the multitude of events you can attend. It's positively lively."

"The CSUF faculty and staff are great. ... They do everything possible to help you succeed and cope with whatever difficulties you face," said Kuzmina. "I think, therefore, my adjustment to America and new academic environment was pretty easy.

"The Fulbright Program has offered an incredible chance to study in the United States; and that is the best way to explore the American culture not only through the coursework, but also on the inside, to discover and learn what is not written in the textbooks," said Kuzmina.

Kuzniar agreed, adding, "I doubt very much that I would have been able to do this by myself."

"It's so important to experience other cultures," explained Michael C. Steiner, emeritus professor of American Studies, who is a two-time Fulbright Scholar who studied in Hungary and Poland. Steiner worked with Balogh's doctoral adviser during his studies in Hungary in 1998. "All students need to realize that we are a part of a larger world. Travel provides that transnational experience."

By: Pamela McLaren, 657-278-4852

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