What word would you choose to define your CEU experience?
That’s what dozens of alumni and students from around the world who joined the university’s first-ever Online Gala last Saturday were asked. And throughout the event, they didn’t hold back.
From the straightforward to the conceptual – from “opportunity” to “blessing”, “friends” to “family” – attendees raised a glass and shared the one word or image that encapsulates their time at CEU.
One by one, each of these was followed by a story, told by a graduate or a student, about how this university has enriched their life.
“We were all part of a great family,” said alumnus Kenan Idrizovíc (LEGS ’13, Bosnia Herzegovina) recalling the ups and downs of student life. “God, did we study. I still dream of those long nights. But it was worth it.”
Drawing nearly 200 attendees, Online Gala was held in lieu of the university’s traditional alumni reunion, held in Budapest every May but cancelled this year due to Covid-19 fears.
The online gathering may have been a surrogate, but it also brought a new energy and directness to this CEU tradition. Alumni shared at-times startlingly personal stories, photos and other memorabilia of their student days.
Hailing from CEU’s first graduating class, alumna Julia Salós (ENVS ’92, Hungary) recalled the thrill of being accepted to the then-new university’s summer school and meeting thinkers from abroad. “I liked having different people from all over the world here together,” she said.
Another early graduate, Marianna Skuratovska (HIST ’95, Russia) told of being a CEU student in the days before the opening of the iconic Nador 9 campus, adding that she feels “that I am still that young student, with a fantastic life ahead.”
Younger alumni also spoke warmly of CEU life.
Diksha Mahara (ECBS ’18, Nepal) recalled an academic year made more difficult by stinging personal loss, but one enriched by countless friends in the dorm. “The art of being grateful,” she said, her voiced tinged with emotion. “That’s what I learned at CEU.”
Former Alumni Scholarship Recipient Jorge Antonio Chavez Mazuelos (IR '19, Peru) also recounted a rigorous year, but one in which “there was always the opportunity to serve the community.” He added that his turn as co-host of last spring’s Alumni Reunion Gala was “the cherry on top.”
Several current ASRs also spoke, including Esther Angonemi Ebimoghan (LEGS '20, Nigeria), who has been co-organizing relief efforts for classmates sheltering at the CEU dorm. “It’s a blessing,” she said. “At CEU you never walk alone.”
Where it could, Online Gala mirrored traditional reunion fare. Attendees dressed up. There was music, there were toasts. President and Rector Michael Ignatieff gave a speech. Serge Sych (IRES ’97, LEGS ’99), Vice President of Enrollment, Careers and Alumni Relations, moderated. School of Public Policy student Kanan Azimov sang the George Ezra hit Budapest.
By taking place online, the gala underscored current realities. But digital format or no, it also confirmed the irreplaceability of community, not least during times like these. Sincere thanks to all CEU alumni, students and friends who joined and helped express that. In words or not.
Online Gala kicked off CEU’s first-ever Online Alumni Reunion. A month-long series of social, cultural and career-related online events, Online Reunion celebrates the university’s resilience and global alumni community. See full roster and register today.