Alumni impact: How Appalachia influenced me

by Daniel Alexander

In April 2017, as part of a group of students from the prestigious Fulbright Program, Kinga Zsofia Horvath traveled to Appalachia with Amizade for a week of service-learning focused on storytelling. In this short interview with our intern Tammy Griffin, she explained how this experience influenced her life and helped break stereotypes about rural America.

Tammy: How was your experience in Williamson, WV? And what was the outcome?

The Fulbright-Amizade service-learning program has been one of the most meaningful experiences during my Fulbright scholarship. I was able to meet and make long-lasting friendships with people from different countries and with diverse expertise. But most importantly, I was able to gain real and valid information about a region and the people who live there that are often, unfortunately, stereotyped by some of the U.S. (as well as the international) media. Everyone we met in Williamson and the organizations/community activities we visited showed us how the Appalachian community is committed to changing their —and the following generations’— circumstances, not to mention the welcoming environment and the beautiful landscape people can experience if they visit this state.

Kinga and her project colleague talking to a resident of the Appalachia region in Kentucky

Tammy: How has this experience influenced your life and your daily tasks, or even your work as a researcher?

This service-learning project was a great example of how people from different backgrounds and with various interests can collaborate and work together to achieve something better, more significant and more impactful.

As a researcher focusing on philanthropy and giving, this experience showed me how important is it to have primary (local) sources and use storytelling as a research tool. And as a nonprofit practitioner/volunteer, this experience gave me some ideas to think about and discuss with others. It was especially interesting to me personally because I am from one of the post-mining regions in Hungary that faces similar challenges.

Even after almost two years, I keep sharing my experiences with my colleagues and friends in the United States and overseas, whether it is about a project idea for a nonprofit organization, the experience of writing thank-you cards, or the beauty of West Virginia.

Learn how Fulbright and Amizade have helped the community of Williamson tell its story by visiting The Heart of Appalachia project page.