Dr. Judit Fortvingler on international life at the Faculty

Szabó Zoé Júlia | 2022.12.14.
Dr. Judit Fortvingler on international life at the Faculty
Dr. Judit Fortvingler is known to many of us, numerous students majoring in finance and accounting attend her classes. In addition to her teaching activities, as educational director, she is also responsible for the international affairs of the Faculty. In close cooperation with International Office, she is one of the first faculty members to meet the foreign students who want to study here, she helps to solve their problems and constantly monitors their feedback on teaching. The assistant professor of the Department of Finance and Accounting talks about the Faculty’s increasingly popular international life.

– As the education director responsible for international matters, you have a good insight into the management of international life at our Faculty. What is the situation like now, to what extent are we popular among foreign students?

Students mostly come to us in two ways: for one or two semesters with the Erasmus programme, and for the entire English-language training. Looking at the trends, we see that we have more and more applicants for the full bachelor's degree program, both for the scholarship places and for the self-funded training. This year, the number of applicants was over five hundred. After a two-stage admission procedure, approximately fifty foreign students began their full programme with us in September. This year, we placed increased emphasis on the spring admission process: we were specifically looking for students who can fit in easily, are highly motivated, have confident language skills and a good attitude. On the other hand, over fifty foreign students are also spending the autumn semester with us as part of the Erasmus programme, and a similar number of GTK students have travelled abroad for their part-time training.

– Which nationalities are represented here at the moment? How well are we aware of their goals and abilities?

They come to us from many countries of the world, and with the exception of Australia, from all continents. We have students from Japan, South Korea, the United States, the Mediterranean countries, and the distant island of Santa Lucia, so the international student cohort is very diverse. During the admission process, we assess the applicants’ English language skills; this is one of the most important skills required. An important admission criterion from the faculty's point of view is the potential students’ level of motivation, how eager they are to acquire new knowledge and how well they will be able to fit into GTK’s education system. Open-mindedness is also a key factor here. When we ask the applicants why they want to come to us, many of them say that they have already heard about us from someone who studies here and who has a good opinion on the Faculty. Using various communication channels like FB also help us reach potential students.

– What does internationality mean for the teaching team? Do you need to prepare for the lectures in a different way? Does it require different organisation? 

From a methodological point of view, it does not usually mean a significant difference rather in terms of the more diverse questions asked in class and the answers given to them. The thinking of the foreign students is often very different from that of the Hungarians. It often happens that we have to explain the same topic several times, in different ways, since each foreign student wants to understand the material with a different background and knowledge. At my high school, my Hungarian teacher always asked us when we analysed poems, "I wonder what the poet was thinking...". I think a bit like this when I receive questions from students, wondering what might be behind the question and how I can derive the answer from the students’ thinking so that they understand it based on their own logic. Everything can be explained in many ways, and it's a continuous, two-way process of what works well with students and when.

The growing number of foreigners also means that the international team has to communicate precisely with the instructors, as this is a new situation for them, and it generates many cases to be resolved. The international team, with excellent and motivated colleagues, looks at the International Office as a provider of services not only to external partners, but also internally, to students and instructors.

– When we look at the numbers, what do we see? How many of our instructors teach in English or how popular are the subjects taught in English l among the students? How does the university support students studying in English?

In the case of colleagues, teaching in English was mostly started by teachers who already had experience in teaching in foreign languages. The expressed goal of the previous dean György Andor was to continuously increase the number of instructors who can teach in English, and for this purpose, several professors teach a few classes in some courses first to become more intensively involved in them later. The range of English instructors is therefore constantly expanding.

We are experiencing a growing trend in the popularity of English-language education. I ‘d like to mention the subject Accounting II as an example. At the beginning, barely a hundred people chose the subject in English, while this year the number of students in the spring semester was over four hundred. Based on the language preference of first-year students, we expect a further increase in the popularity of subjects taught in English. Recognising the increased demand, this year, for the first time, we announced a series of three lectures. The purpose of the course developed by dr Nóra Kelecsényi is to help first-year Hungarian students who study subjects in English in the transition from high school to university life. The course introduces students to the special vocabulary necessary for university life and students learn what skills they need and how to improve them to be successful in their university studies.

– If we have a look at the Hungarian student’s perspective, do many people want to travel abroad to spend a semester there?

Due to the Covid pandemic, the number of people traveling abroad has decreased somewhat, but basically, we constantly encourage students to spend one or more semesters abroad, as they can get experiences that can only be gained there: they have to fit into a foreign environment, they have to find a common ground with people who think differently and have to work with them. We are constantly expanding our partnerships to meet the demands of a growing number of student body. I too had a scholarship to the Netherlands during my university studies, and my teaching methodology at GTK is significantly influenced by the experience I gained there.

This year, in a joint project with the Dutch Avans University, Hungarian students had the opportunity to work together with sixty visiting Dutch students in a joint hackathon on innovative solutions to Budapest's traffic problems. The courses offered by our summer university also provided an excellent opportunity for our students to experience what it felt like to cooperate with international students for a few days and, of course, to have fun together in the evenings. Such encounters can have an important impact on our students' decision to study abroad.

– You are also teaching the subject Analysis and controlling in English this semester. How do the two jobs complement each other?

Obviously, the two together mean less free time (laughs). Seriously, there are many advantages to seeing the international life at the Faculty of Economics, from both angles, as an instructor and a director of foreign affairs. There are always many foreign students in the Analysis and Controlling classes so, on the one hand, I gain a lot of teaching experience in an international environment and, on the other hand I also get first-hand feedback on the problems and questions students have that we on the international team have to deal with. These two roles help me see better what kind of information my teaching colleagues may need in this colourful and increasingly international university environment.

– Returning to the topic of Analysis and controlling, what awaits those who study your course?

A lot of thinking. I would say this subject is my favourite, mainly because the emphasis is not on lexical knowledge, but on its attitude-forming, developmental nature. However, this only works if the students think together throughout the lessons. When I was a university student myself, during my time at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, I was introduced to problem-based learning, which I can also apply here very well. I bring a lot of cases to be solved by the classes, with lots of problem proposals, which the students either work on in small groups or we analyse them together. I often say that there are no right or wrong answers, only answers from which we can learn and develop together, and this process is often more intense in an international environment. Improvement is a joint achievement of both the student and the instructor.