Hungary Program Amplifies Student’s Passion for Neuroscience

Vivian Schmidt ’25 might one day advance the fight against neurological disorders such as ALS, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease—and her recent study abroad experience is one reason why. 

Schmidt, a biology and psychology double major with a concentration in neuroscience at Kalamazoo College, worked for 10 weeks last summer in the University of Michigan’s Summer Intensive Research Experience in Neuroscience (SIREN) program, then followed that with an academically rigorous global challenge in fall at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest, Hungary. 

Schmidt chose the ELTE program, called the Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science (BSCS) program at K, for its wide breadth of subjects including biology, psychology, philosophy and computer science, each of which covered topics in neuroscience through a K partner program that included faculty from Slovakia and Hungary. She now feels ready to return to Ann Arbor this summer for additional hands-on research. 

“I was able to meet many researchers during my time in Hungary as they were our professors, so I got to learn a lot about the groundbreaking research happening outside of the States,” Schmidt said. “Before going abroad, my main goal was to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to try new things, eat new foods, meet new people, experience new things, learn a new language and more. I wanted to make it the experience of a lifetime. Now that I am back in the States, I would say that I did just that.”

As a first-generation student, Schmidt said studying abroad seemed absolutely out of reach for her family. Therefore, the experience was special to her, especially with it supported by the James G. Stemler Study Abroad Scholarship through Alpha Lambda Delta, a national honor society that recognizes academic excellence in their first year of college. The K chapter is advised by Jessica Fowle, K’s director of grants, fellowships and research. The scholarship gives 20 students from around the country between $1,000 and $2,000 apiece every year. Recipients are ranked in the top 20% of the class at the end of their first year with a GPA of at least 3.5.

 “Without this scholarship, I wouldn’t have had a chance to study abroad, I wouldn’t have gained all the incredible experiences, and I wouldn’t have met the amazing people I did,” she said. “Because of this scholarship, I was able to grow as a person, excel as a student and make connections that will last a lifetime.”

Equally beneficial was the opportunity to discover a place completely unknown to her.

“Growing up, I did not learn much about Eastern Europe,” Schmidt said. “Given the opportunity to study abroad, I wanted to learn about a culture in which I had no preconceptions or experience with. I wanted to see a whole new part of the world, one that I probably would never have seen without my study abroad experience. Those three months were the most memorable of my life thus far and they will continue to hold a special place in my heart for years to come. The relationships that I made while abroad are some of the strongest in my life.”

Vivian Schmidt in Hungary
Vivian Schmidt ’25 (left) earned a scholarship to study abroad last fall in Budapest, Hungary.
Vivian Schmidt in Hungary
Alpha Lambda Delta distributes $30,000 in study abroad scholarships each year to students like Schmidt who finish in the top 20% of their class at the end of their first year in college with a GPA of at least 3.5.