AFS student tells of his life in Hungary

Levy Kiss
Levy Kiss

Levy Kiss, 17, has been in Iowa since August. He attended school at Glidden-Ralston during the first semester and has been at Greene County High School since earlier this month.

Of all he’s seen and done in the States, his favorite is one of the first. “I really liked the State Fair,” he said. “I’ve never seen a festival like that before. We have music festivals, but nothing like that with so many people. It was so American.”

His favorite State Fair food? None of it. “I thought it was gross,” he said.

Kiss is in the States as an American Field Service (AFS) exchange student. He’s staying with the family of Larry and Margaret Saddoris while in Greene County.

He receives some financial support from the local AFS chapter during his time here. The chapter’s annual fundraiser, a beefburger supper, is slated for this Friday night, Jan. 29, from 5 to 7 pm at Trinity Lutheran Church in Jefferson.

Kiss explained that his older brother had spent a year in West Bend, WI, as an exchange student. His brother had a good experience, and he took his brother’s suggestion to try it himself. His first choice was Norway. He’s always been intrigued by Norway, he said, but he yielded to another student who could only go there and took the States as his second choice.

Kiss’s home town of Veszprem in western Hungary has a population of 65,000, about the size of Iowa City. It’s an industrial town – Continental tires and Haribo gummy bears are made there. He had never been on a farm before coming to Iowa. Even here, he’s been on a farm just once.

Kiss has studied German for 10 years and English for two. He’s a little concerned that he’s forgetting his German while he’s here, as German will be part of the university entrance exam he’ll eventually take.

He attends a high school that focuses on languages, math and engineering; he had to qualify for the school with an entrance exam as well. He said about 600 students attend the school, half of whom live nearby and the other half who come from other parts of Hungary and board at the school.

He enjoys running and ran as a Glidden-Ralston student with the Paton-Churdan cross-country team last fall. This winter he’s swimming with the Greene County swimmers on the Boone High School swim team.

He also enjoys poetry, and gets together with friends a couple of times a month for poetry readings.

Kiss is politically aware and astute. He has followed the presidential campaign and has picked his favorites: Ben Carson and Sen Bernie Sanders. He knows their views are not very similar, and answers that “none of the candidates is perfect,” and that although they’re his favorites, he wouldn’t vote for either one. He said he absolutely would not support Donald Trump.

He’s the first generation of Hungarians to grow up with democracy since the disintegration of the Soviet Union 26 years ago. According to him, many people in his parents’ generation think they were better off under communism because everyone had a job. Americans, in general, work harder than Hungarians, he said.

He speaks knowledgably of the Syrian refugee crisis and explains that Hungary, with a population of only 10 million, doesn’t have the financial resources to accept refugees. He added that in Hungary, people don’t talk about politics very much.

Kiss will be in Iowa until June. When he returns to Hungary he’ll still have three years of high school. He plans then to attend college to become a doctor or an economist. He’s leaning toward medical school and still hopes to work in Norway.


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