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Márton Biró: ‘My only condition was going on exchange to Leiden’

He studied Dutch Studies, did Dutch literature research for his internship, and worked at HEMA: Hungarian Márton Biró (26) came to the Netherlands on exchange and decided to stay.

It's raining outside, but the coffee is ready. ‘Pretty typical Dutch weather, huh?’ Márton laughs in flawless Dutch.

With the choir from Budapest to Amersfoort

‘Who am I? Oh, like some kind of Tinder bio?’ Márton says jokingly. ‘I’m from Budapest, which is easier than saying you’re from Hungary, which is always so politically charged.’ He has always had a thing for communication, art, and culture, but ended up studying Dutch by accident.

‘In high school I was in a choir that had an exchange with a school from Amersfoort: we gave some concerts together. There turned out to be one Hungarian in the Dutch choir: a girl who was on exchange for her Dutch studies. We got talking’, he recalls.

Studying Dutch turned out to be more attractive than many Dutch people realize: ‘The Netherlands is a big investor in Hungary. Many Dutch companies are based in Hungary. If you call the KLM or Vodafone customer service, someone from Hungary answers your call.’

‘And then COVID arrived’

He earned his bachelor’s degree in Dutch at Károli Gáspár University and then began a master’s degree in Dutch ‘My only condition was going on exchange to Leiden, because it’s the only university in the Netherlands with a track for non-native speakers. That seemed convenient to me, because professors are more attentive about things that are obvious to Dutch students.’

‘And then it was early 2020, COVID arrived’, he sighs. ‘Somehow it was a stroke of luck, because it meant I didn’t have to go back to Hungary and could complete my master’s online. And I was allowed to stay at longer in the DUWO house I was living in. It was difficult to get in as an international student, but since I was already here, I was able to start my second master’s quite easily: Dutch Studies.’

Writing a thesis was harder than he expected, but he enjoyed his internship. ‘For my internship at Leiden University Libraries, I collaborated on the exhibition Keuzes in oorlogstijd (Choices in warime, ed.) and did research on camp literature. Because of corona, the physical exhibition could not take place, but because of that ours became a pilot for online exhibitions. You can still see it and the posters were already printed, so you can still admire those in the UB as well.’

HEMA, hobbies and the Handmaid’s Tale

In addition to his studies, Márton found a part-time job at HEMA. ‘It was great that I was able to work at HEMA, because Dutch is really the spoken language. A lot of students work there, so I made a lot of friends.’ Next month, he will start his first job: optimizing a Dutch-language web catalog.

Now that he has graduated, Márton has also taken up new hobbies. For example, he likes to craft and tinker, but ‘for fun, it doesn’t have to be pretty’ and he’s started working through his full bookcase of untouched books. He also blogs about Hungarian music and he enjoys watching series. ‘I do like that dystopian vibe, like the Handmaid’s Tale, but I’m now hooked on the Dutch series Dertigers (people in their thirties, ed.), do you know it? It’s about six friends in their thirties who have to deal with new relationships, divorces, kids and so on. I even took an NPO Plus subscription for it.’

Whether he wants to return to Budapest? ‘It’s a very beautiful city, although I might be a bit biased. I miss my family and friends - with them I would like to become “dertigers” though!’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we do a story of one of our researchers, staff members of students, every month. What are they, and what do they do? Click here for more stories and information.

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