FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

FAO-Hungary fellowship opens doors wider for young professionals

Lidia Homolya, a young plant protection professional from Senta, Serbia, has just received her master’s degree from Corvinus University of Budapest, thanks to FAO’s fellowship programme in Hungary.

After concluding her undergraduate degree through a distance learning programme, she started her own business in Senta cultivating and selling gladiolus flowers. One day, at the market with her flowers, she ran into a university contact, who told her about the joint fellowship programme of FAO and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture and suggested she apply.

How familiar were you with the programme? With FAO?
It wasn’t completely unknown to me, but I hadn’t really thought about it until that point. Then I started to look more into the details. Of course I wanted to continue my studies, but without the financial support of this scholarship, it would not have been possible.

The same is true with FAO itself. I knew the Organization, but not a lot about its exact activities. Actually, because of my studies I didn’t had much time to follow the news. That has changed with the fellowship. At the beginning, I had to explain to people about this programme and about FAO and what it does. My family and friends got familiar with it rather quickly!

How did you benefit from being an FAO fellow, besides the financial grant?
We had FAO fellowship meet-ups – for example one at the very beginning and also at the end, during the closing conference in the Ministry. Those were nice occasions for getting to know one another, to talk and exchange contacts. I’ve become friends with a fellow scholar from Ukraine, who was studying in the same faculty.

Since others did their master’s courses at different universities, and in English, I usually met them during these meetings. It was clear in talking with them how grateful and happy they are to be studying in Hungary with the support of the FAO fellowship.

There is a growing community of FAO fellows. Is there an alumni network?
I know many former fellows in Serbia. Over the years, a solid community has emerged. The general perception – and this is in line with my experience – is that the programme is a good and useful opportunity for everyone. It has helped many to find work in their professions, which otherwise was difficult. Many graduates are now working in Serbia, others are in Hungary.

What comes next for you?
I’ll give myself a little time to relax and then, I need to arrange for Serbian recognition of my diploma. Afterwards, I’ll start looking for possibilities to put my newly obtained knowledge into practice.

The fellowship programme was launched in 2008 as part of the FAO-Hungary Host Country Agreement. Financed by the Hungarian Government, it provides a unique learning opportunity for young specialists from selected countries in Eastern-Europe, Asia and Africa, to complete a master’s degree in animal health, plant protection, rural development or other related fields. FAO provides technical advice on the selection of the fellows and participates in training activities. To date, a total of 230 students from 35 countries have participated, the majority of whom are now working in their country of origin.

3 August 2015, Budapest, Hungary