Here from Hungary

Loudoun Valley Hosts Exchange Students
Photo provided by Kent Bailey
Photo provided by Kent Bailey
Here from Hungary
Photo provided by Kent Bailey from the Spring 2023 Hungary Trip in front of the Reformed Great Church of Debrecen.

This past month our school welcomed 23 students and 2 teachers from Ady Endre Gimnázium, a school in Debrecen, Hungary. The exchange program involves two weeks in the U.S. for Hungarian students Sept. 29 through Oct. 11 and a trip in May to Hungary for a group of LVHS students. 

“We’ve been able to keep this going now,” Kent Bailey, international relations (IR) and government teacher, said. “It’s been 13-14 years and, except for COVID, we’ve been doing exchanges every year.” 

Bailey first traveled to Ady Endre Gimnázium in 2010 as a part of a teacher exchange program. Now, Bailey facilitates the student exchange program between Debrecen and Loudoun Valley. 

The main takeaway of the program is to do something cross-cultural; on both sides of the trip, students visit major cities and travel with their host families, often forming meaningful connections. 

“I love getting people from parts of the world together so we can solve problems or at least have new friendships formed,” Bailey said. “It’s the reason why I do this.”

Adventures in America

The Hungarian students began their week in the auditorium with a presentation on their country. To an audience of IR and history students they shared language, culture and history, culminating in teaching their host families a Hungarian folk dance. 

“I was really scared before these presentations because in Hungary the people are just not interactive,” Hungarian student Luca Kornya said. “But here, even the first time you started laughing, I was like, ‘Okay, this is gonna go good.’”

After spending Monday at Valley, students took field trips into Washington D.C., New York and Boston. 

For Kornya, visiting these renowned cities promised excitement, historic landmarks and gorgeous fall leaves. 

“In New York, I would love to see the buildings because it’s like the movies for us,” Kornya said. 

While in Virginia, the Hungarian students were hosted by Loudoun Valley students. Junior Grace Kestler hosted Kornya for the first few days of her trip. 

“Grace’s family is just so lovely,” Kornya said. “They made us feel at home the first second.”

Hosting at Home

Senior Morgan Lundberg hosted three of the visiting students. As an AP Spanish student not taking International Relations, this program was promoted to her as a way to experience other cultures. 

“I thought it would be a cool opportunity. We were free and we had the free room,” Lundberg said. 

As a host, she got to know the Hungarian students and their way of life. By the end, Lundberg gained both a broader perspective on the world and new memories. 

“It was a little chaotic with four teenage girls in one house at a time,” Lundberg said. “I was surprised we got out of the house on time some mornings.” 

In addition to organized activities through the program, Lundberg and the students she hosted enjoyed game nights together. 

Host students like Lundberg will be promised a spot on the Hungary trip, a visit Lundberg, for one, is excited for. 

“I think it has impacted me a lot,” Lundberg said. “I definitely want to go to Hungary in the springtime after hearing them talk about it.”

Photo provided by Kent Bailey from the 2023 Spring Hungary Trip.
Connections Across Continents

Last spring, a select group of seniors traveled to Hungary as their capstone project. For 10 days, these students went sightseeing in various historic sites, starting in Budapest. 

“The second half of the trip we go to Debrecen, which is where I taught,” Bailey, teacher and organizer of the trip, said. There, students continued exploring and stayed with host families in Debrecen — a similar exchange to Valley hosting the Hungarian students this past month.

“My favorite parts of the trip were in Debrecen,” graduated senior Gabriel Kelso said. “We got to hang out with the people from Valley and their hosts, and had an amazing time just hanging out.” 

Kelso went on the trip to Hungary in spring 2023. While the flights were long and sometimes required hours without sleep, Kelso gained a lot from his visit. 

“It was really interesting and informative to live in a place with a different culture from the U.S.,” he said. 

While the participating seniors only have one chance to go on the exchange trip, Bailey participates in the trip nearly every year. 

“My favorite part is seeing the connections that are made between my students and the students from Hungary,” Bailey said. “It’s just the friendships and seeing my students really connect with someone in another part of the world that they wouldn’t have otherwise known.”

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