The second interviewee in our series, Dóra Berkes, is a senior student at the German nationality school Koch Valéria Iskolaközpont. Dóri joined Milestone Institute in her Junior year and from the autumn semester of that year she served as secretary of Milestone Institute’s History Society, a position she replaced at the beginning of her Senior year with the position of president. In addition, she is an active member of the Model United Nations (MUN) Society and has attended four MUN conferences, earning the ‘Honourable Mention’ award twice. She is also a representative of the Milestone Student Council. Dóri has gained a lot of useful experience through her continuous involvement in societies, from producing official documents to handling the logistics and organising events such as the ‘Historical Myths and Misconceptions’ event series organised by the History Society.

Dóra Berkes

With the results of their ‘érettségi’ exam, most students preparing to study abroad already know where they will go to university. However, it is not the case for Dóri. She has two preferred universities in Ireland, from which she will not hear back until the 7th of September. Apart from Ireland, the Netherlands could also be a realistic destination for her. But how did Dóri come to this decision?

Dóri has applied to several English universities, namely, the University of St Andrews, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Lancaster and the University of Manchester, in all for a History degree. She received offers from all of these institutions and successfully fulfilled all of them, with her ‘érettségi’ grades above 80% and 90%. However, Dóri could not accept any of these offers because of the changes in financial support for university students induced by Brexit, such as the lack of student loans and scholarships, despite that Britain was her dream destination for continuing her studies. As we saw in the previous article of our series, the US has a very well-developed financial aid system and more opportunities for scholarships, so Dóri regretted a little bit afterwards that she hadn’t applied to America. 

When she joined Milestone Institute, Dóri already knew that she was very interested in history and wanted to study something related to this subject at university. However, she had no idea whether she would study only history or combine it with another subject. So, it is not surprising that she took mainly history modules at Milestone, which gave her the opportunity to experience the Anglo-Saxon history education, which is of course very different from the Hungarian education system she had known until then. Her lessons allowed her to familiarise herself with the ‘other world’ of history, and to realise that history includes not only dates and the different important historical events as usually presented in the secondary school curricula, but also the discipline of history, which Dóri had never heard of before and which fascinated her. So, there was no question that she wanted to continue studying it at university. She says that being part of the Milestone community also helped her to believe that she could really do it and get into the world’s top universities.

Her love of history is reflected not only in her module choices at Milestone Institute and her important role in the History Society, but also in her participation in the National Academic Competition for Secondary Schools (OKTV) in the Division of History where she succeeded until the second round, and her seventh place in the National History Competition for German nationality schools. The preparation for these competitions and additional learning at Milestone Institute have all helped Dóri to digest new information in a short amount of time, strengthen her analytical thinking and complement her existing lexical knowledge. Dóri enjoyed this process so much that she wrote a 38-page long research paper on the education of women in the 19th century Hungary. In the essay, she showcases the background and circumstances of the European educational system and puts her focus on the Hungarian school system and the status of women within that system. In the centre of her research are two Hungarian pedagogues – Teréz Karacs and Antonina De Gerando – who despite coming from a different social background had a very similar carrier. Dóri’s goal was to inspect the type of circumstances and social status one needed in order to incite the calibre of reforms in the Hungarian educational system, that the above-mentioned women achieved. 

Regarding her university choice, due to Brexit, Dóri had to rule out England and instead chose three other destinations. She has already secured her place at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which is currently third on her list of preferences, coming after University College Dublin with the course History and Greek and Roman Civilisation, and Trinity College Dublin with Ancient History, Archaeology and History as her first option, admitting 23 students a year. Unfortunately, it is difficult to reconcile these two options, as Dóri should have everything in place in the Netherlands before she may even know the outcome of her Irish university application. Thus, to ease her situation, she is currently considering applying to Germany, where university starts only in October. In a few months’ time, however, the decision will be made and Dóri will be able to start her university years either in the Netherlands, in Ireland or in Germany to take her passion for history to an even higher level. Until then, we wish Dóri all the best and congratulate her on her exceptional achievements so far!