Blanka with Lilka and Tom Areton
Blanka Szekely came to the US in 2006 as a young adult to participate in CHI’s Internship program, and that program changed her life. Blanka interned at CHI’s headquarters in Northern California as a member of the Work and Travel department. She met friends whom she now considers her family, and she accomplished the first important professional challenge of her career. When she returned to Europe, she used the skills and experience she gained with CHI to earn a job with a Hungarian TV station, where she’s been working for the last decade.
Fast forward to this summer, and Blanka happened to be on her way back to California to accept an award from the Los Angeles Television, Film, and Script Festival for a documentary she worked on. Her flight had a layover in Philadelphia, and who should she see at the airport? None other than CHI co-founders Tom and Lilka Areton, on their own journey. Their paths crossed for less than an hour, but Blanka was thrilled to see her old friends, and they quickly caught up on each other’s lives.
It would be fair to assume that being feted in Hollywood would be the highlight of this story, but Blanka insists that she was most excited to revisit her old friends at CHI. “My soul … has a part of it forever left in San Francisco and San Anselmo”, says Blanka. “This second part of my US short-visit was way more exciting and heart-warming.” So, after her well-earned So-Cal reception, Blanka drove up the coast back to CHI’s Nor-Cal headquarters to say hi to more old friends and relive some old memories. It was truly wonderful to see how she’s matured into a successful journalist and to think that CHI played a small role in helping her become the person she is today.
Blanka is clear about why the Internship program was so important to her: “It affected my life more than one could imagine”, she says. “I think once you work in the US in an international work environment, it changes you and opens your mind forever. I am more confident knowing that … I could make a living in another country. … I have friends to visit now all over the world: Russia, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Bulgaria, Thailand, etc. I have a travel plan for the next couple of years.” Blanka continues, “Tom and Lilka serve as a model for me as a way of life and hospitality. It is nice to have models you can follow. Not everyone has the chance.”