Nurturing and encouraging future generations of pastors is an important task for any church denomination. In the Reformed Church in Hungary, one way this is realized is through a scholarship program where students have the opportunity to study abroad for a year. The RCH scholarship program allows Hungarian reformed theology students to apply for a scholarship at one of the RCH’s eight partner seminaries.
Csilla Török, a theology student from the Debrecen Reformed Theological University, is one of the recent scholarship recipients. For the 2013/2014 school year, she was able to study at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, USA.
“I always had this dream to study somewhere. I wanted to go to an English area and I believed if I won this scholarship, maybe I will just study somewhere in Europe. However, somebody from the Synod called me and asked: ‘Would you like to check a seminary in United States?’ and I said: ‘Yes!’”
According to Csilla, studying abroad not only gave her the opportunity to pursue a Theology Masters but also introduced her to a number of international students from many different cultures.
“The first week in August, we had an orientation week, where we (Masters of Theology students) were together in a group from Korea, France, Uganda, USA and me from Hungary,” she explained. “We presented our cultures, our Church, our lives and studies. It was the most interesting week for me to learn about some cultures that I hopefully will visit later.”
University programs differ in the U.S. and Hungary, so while at Western Csilla pursued a Masters of Theology aside from her degree in Debrecen. Some of her classes included: Prophets and Theologizing Violence, Food and Faith, Living Water, Psalms and Wisdom Literature as well as a research paper focused on women’s roles in ancient Israel.
“I am so glad that I studied these classes because I learned and experienced a new type of thinking, and I learned more ways to understand, use and live my faith and knowledge,” Csilla said.
When asked why she decided to apply for the scholarship and to study abroad, she said that at first it was to be in a foreign culture, to test herself in speaking and studying in English, but more importantly it was an opportunity to observe and learn from cross-cultural thinking. Furthermore, her time in the U.S. awarded her a “peaceful year” to study away from the hectic pace in Debrecen, where she is pursuing two degrees.
“I can just encourage everybody to apply who feel that she or he needs some new experience. I am so thankful that I got it and I had a chance to be and live in USA,” Csilla noted. “I got many lifelong friends there. I experienced what it is like to be alone abroad, where I had to try to live alone, but I cannot express how good that was, because I learned more about myself… My eyes were opened to the world. Before, I could not have imagined how huge it can be. Now I can use all of the experience and knowledge that I got from there in my future.”