Klara Hulikova comes to CEU’s Philosophy, Politics and Economics bachelor’s program from Bratislava, where she was a regular volunteer at a local orphanage and an active contributor to informal education efforts at her high school. After her studies she intends to return to Slovakia to combat discrimination in the education sector. In pursuit of this goal, Klara served as an academic mentor and is a former teaching assistant at the British Council.
We spoke to Hulikova on the occasion of her 2021 Presidential Scholar Award. This is an edited interview conducted on November 4, 2021.
What does this honor mean for you?
For me the scholarship literally means I am able to study at CEU. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't be here, and for that I'm very grateful. Studying here is something I really wanted, and the award gives me the opportunity to follow this strong desire.
What was your route to CEU?
When I was in high school in Bratislava, I learned about CEU through my teacher. I was always interested in the humanities and this teacher, who gradually became my mentor – both personally and academically - had studied at CEU. She discussed with me the bachelor's programs which had started in Vienna. This moment was game changing for me because otherwise I may not have applied. I really have her to thank for the support. I got into both the PPE and CPS undergraduate programs. I chose PPE and am very content with the decision. It’s a good fit.
What drives you in your work?
I am blessed and cursed to have a strong sense of curiosity within me that constantly needs to be fed with new information, experiences and relationships. This is what drives me, and the result is positive when I direct it. Otherwise, it can be paralyzing because there are so many options and I want to learn about so many things. I would also say I'm a bit of a perfectionist which makes me want to do things as well as possible, so I try to navigate these qualities with boundaries that are constituted by my personal values.
I should add that I have a very strong need for belonging and community. I lived in a residential community for a year during high school which was an eye-opening experience. Community is also something I'm looking forward to at CEU.
In terms of the projects, I'm currently involved in, I'm still in the process of transitioning from Bratislava to Vienna so there are still some projects that I haven't quite let go in Slovakia like volunteering at an orphanage and mentoring. I would really like to transition and focus on the community here in Vienna now, so with that aspiration, I look forward to finding volunteering work locally. I'm trying to get to know the city and root myself as someone new.
What else would you like to express?
Being here at CEU is even better than I could have imagined. My peers make this place what it is. They are full of intelligence; very open-minded and inspirational people, and I think in this way I learn outside of class as much as I do in class. An environment with so many accomplished, young, inspiring people has the potential to create imposter syndrome, however so far the atmosphere has been very motivating and wonderful. I thought the quality of education and institution itself would be the primary highlight, but my peers are equally a top aspect of the experience.
The Presidential Scholars Fund was established by Michael Ignatieff and Zsuzsanna Zsohar. It supports four Presidential Graduate Research Awards for exceptional Master's and Doctoral students whose research shows promise for the next generation. The Fund also awards two scholarships per year to incoming bachelor's students demonstrating exceptional academic credentials and leadership promise.