Our new interview-series presents through the lens of a senior student how Brexit has changed our students’ preferences for university applications and acceptance of offers, including the students’ interests, their chosen courses and universities, as well as their decision following the offers. Stay tuned, we hope you accept our ‘offer’!

Blanka Regéczy-Csermely – University of Pennsylvania / University of Cambridge

Will the Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business course of the University of Pennsylvania, admitting only 45 students a year, or the Land Economy course at the University of Cambridge be the winning entrant for Blanka? The first senior student interviewed in our series is Blanka Regéczy Csermely, considered to be one of the most gifted students at the Szent István High School by her Head of Class Teacher. She joined Milestone Institute in her tenth grade, intending to become a medical doctor like most members of her family. Over the first year, Blanka realised that she is much more interested in the interplay of economics and geography, and that is what she would like to study at university. 

Blanka’s journey at Milestone Institute is not a usual one, as in eleventh grade she had the opportunity to continue her high school studies in the United States under the ASSIST scholarship programme. It was through Milestone that she has heard about this organisation which selects talented students from all over the world to study in US private schools for an academic year. The application process itself was very similar to an American university application, which had already somehow introduced Blanka to its workings. During her stay in Florida, she experienced how different the American education system is from the Hungarian one, but still, certain elements were familiar to her – such as the possibilities of elective modules – given her previous experience with Milestone Institute’s flexible system. In America, just like at Milestone, the high school curriculum is tailored to the student’s interest, so Blanka was given the flexibility to take specific courses within the fields of economics and geography. Furthermore, she also received a scholarship to an economics and leadership summer programme at Yale University, which was a huge breakthrough for her, further fuelling her university degree choice decision. During the programme, she explored topics like the economics of water scarcity and long-term responses to it in Cape Town. In addition, she has conducted research on whether it is possible to develop urban green spaces in a socially inclusive way. In this paper, she reflects on the current debate surrounding green gentrification and argues that urban planners have to depart from a market-driven logic if they want to avoid the pitfalls of segregation, concluding that to create stable urban economies and reach the true potential of cities, planners must think about long-term human welfare benefits alongside environmental sustainability.

Thus, after gaining so much insight and experience in the field, it was no question for her to apply for a degree in Land Economy – a subject taught at the University of Cambridge – encompassing law and economics, with aspects of the environment, business finance, and resource management; therefore, combining all segments of Blanka’s interests. However, last year’s news about the changes caused by Brexit greatly influenced her decision. Due to the lack of student loans, Blanka has decided to apply not only to England but also to the United States while still hoping for scholarships in the UK but putting a bigger emphasis on her American application. She was not alone with that. Brexit was a big break for everyone, as the students would not have thought that they would be the first ones to be affected by the changes. Hence, many of Blanka’s friends from Milestone have focused on applying to other European countries, such as Denmark, the Netherlands, or Germany, and interest in applying to America has also increased. Milestone had an exceptionally high number of students applying to the States and helped them by launching numerous information sessions and an SAT preparation course in every trimester. 

Within the early decision system of the US, Blanka has applied to the University of Pennsylvania, where she has been admitted recently. In her opinion, it is quite difficult to decide which American university one wants to go to, as many of them have a high world ranking and most combinations of subjects are available at most of them. So, she chose the University of Pennsylvania mainly for personal reasons: one of them being her love for Argentine tango, because the university has an Argentine tango club which is rare to find, then the university’s urban setting, and the opportunity to teach disadvantaged children to swim, which she has also done in Hungary. In the UK, from the five universities Blanka has applied to, she has already received an offer from the University of Cambridge, University of St Andrews, and University College London (UCL), and is still waiting for a response from the London School of Economics (LSE) and University of Edinburgh. 

With the uncertain scholarship prospects in England, she expects to start her college years at the University of Pennsylvania. Within the university, Blanka was accepted to the Huntsman Program, a unique dual degree program in International Studies & Business, providing two degrees; one in economics and the other in international studies. The course also contains a compulsory semester abroad and an intensive language course, in which Blanka would take Spanish as her primary language, in which she placed 9th in the National Olympiad (OKTV). The Huntsman Program supports the development of globally minded scholars who become engaged citizens, creative innovators, and ethical leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors in the US and across the globe. Taking into account that only 45 students from all over the world are admitted to this highly competitive course each year, it is a very big achievement that Blanka is among them. After earning her degree, she wishes to pursue a career where she can incorporate environmental considerations into business decisions, especially within urban development, and spur innovation in this direction. 

She also added that there is a common tendency to think that American education is overly expensive but is less known that there is a system that objectively calculates the financial background of a student’s family. It provides scholarships for tuition and living expenses accordingly, making getting a US university degree more accessible to students from lower-income families. Hence, receiving a significant part of the tuition as scholarships will play a huge factor in her final choice, because it would allow her to study in the United States at an affordable price. So now, the question is whether Blanka will choose her already secured place at the University of Pennsylvania where her studies would be financed by a scholarship, or whether she will stick to the University of Cambridge where her financial prospects are still uncertain. We wish Blanka good luck with her decision and congratulations on her excellent results so far!