43. Life As A School Counselor in Budapest, Hungary With Taylor Maxwell

In this podcast episode of Counselor Chat, we delve into the fascinating world of international school counseling with our guest, Taylor Maxwell, a school counselor currently based in Budapest, Hungary.

Taylor brings a wealth of experience from her previous roles in Korea and shares unique insights into the life and work of a school counselor abroad.

Here are the key points covered in this episode:

  • Introduction of Taylor Maxwell: Learn about Taylor’s background, including her education in psychology and her journey from Nashville, Tennessee, to becoming a school counselor in Budapest, Hungary.
  • Transition from Korea to Hungary: Taylor discusses her shift from high school counseling in Korea, where academic pressure is intense, to middle school counseling in Budapest with a focus on student well-being.
  • Experiences in International School Counseling: Gain insights into the challenges and rewards of working in different cultural and educational environments. Taylor shares her experiences in both Korea and Hungary.
  • Life in Budapest: Explore Taylor’s personal experiences living in Budapest, including adapting to Hungarian culture, participating in local festivals, and the challenges of learning the Hungarian language.
  • Advice for Aspiring International School Counselors: Taylor offers valuable advice for those considering a career in international school counseling, including understanding lifestyle choices, family needs, and the support systems available at international schools.
  • Resources for Finding International Opportunities: Discover resources like ISS and Shroll that Taylor used to find international school openings and the importance of thorough research and asking the right questions.
  • The Joy of International Living: Taylor shares the joys and challenges of living internationally, including the unique opportunities for personal and professional growth.
  • Future Plans and Perspectives: Get a glimpse into Taylor’s future aspirations and her thoughts on potentially moving to Southeast Asia.

Listeners interested in learning more or having specific questions for Taylor can reach out through the podcast’s contact channels. 

Interested in hearing the experiences of International School Counselors? Check out these episodes:



Carol: You're listening to the counselor chat podcast.

Carol: A show for school counselors looking for easy to implement strategies, how to tips, collaboration, and a little spark of joy. I'm Carol Miller, your host. I'm a full time school counselor and the face behind counseling essentials. I'm all about creating simplified systems, data driven practices, and using creative approaches to age students. If you're looking for a little inspiration to help you make a big impact.

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Carol: Hi, everyone, it's Carol. Welcome back to another episode of Counselor Chat. I am really excited today for our guest. Her name is Taylor Maxwell. And just to give you a little background, I feel like we are kind of like globetrotting around the globe a little bit, because if you have been following the podcast, you'll know that I've done a few other episodes recently on international school counseling. One was with Daniel Inman, who talked about his life in Ethiopia. And another one was with Michelle Pownell, who talked about counseling in Korea. Today, Taylor, our very esteemed guest, is going to be talking all about her experiences because she is currently in Budapest, Hungary. So just to give you guys a little background about Taylor. Taylor is a school counselor. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology. She is originally from Nashville, Tennessee. And prior to being in Budapest, Taylor was actually in Korea for five years where she was a k twelve counselor and a high school counselor. But now she is in Budapest with her husband and she is a middle school counselor. So, Taylor, welcome to the podcast.

Taylor: Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.

Carol: We are really excited to hear all about your experiences. So why don't you just jump right in and tell people a little bit about yourself and who you are and give us all the dirt. Tell us all about school counseling in Hungary.

Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. So whenever I was finishing my time in Seoul, I felt like it was a time for change. After five years. And so, especially with COVID ending, it seemed like the perfect time to actually open up some options and look on the horizon for what other opportunities are out there. And so, high school counseling in Korea, if anybody knows it, can be really tough and very intense. And so, you know, middle school counseling is one where I just love to be with kids, and I absolutely love to get more time in the classroom and teach some of those fundamental social and emotional skills. And so I was really looking for opportunities like that. And it was really cool because the American International School of Budapest popped out of nowhere, I was in the middle of interviews, and they popped out, and basically their mission statement, the core is well being. And so, I mean, I feel like that's a lot of school counselors heart is just making sure that the student is the center of what we do and that the well being of the students and the families that we work with are our top priority. And so it was just really cool to get to hop from one school to this current one where my whole focus is getting to work with kids and be hands on with them and really have a school be able to back that up and make that their top important. So I'm really excited about it. It's been a really cool transition so far.

Carol: That sounds really awesome. What actually led you to counseling overseas? Counseling abroad?

Taylor: Oh, that's an awesome question. Yeah. I had no idea what opportunities would be available to me when I was in my master's program. And so being very open minded about opportunities, I actually was on a mission trip in Nepal, and it was really neat because it was the first time I had ever been overseas. But I'm an outdoorsy person, and I also love being active. And so this mission trip came up where we were delivering donations to different villages in Nepal after the earthquake that happened. And while I was there, I got to also help teach English at a school that's maybe three days from Everest. So not only is it gorgeous, but the opportunity was just so beautiful to get to work with those kids. And that's when I just realized, wow, I might be able to use my career and travel and also still help and serve children. And so that's when I started googling just international schools and options that were out there, which ended up leading me to Korea for my first k through twelve job. So it kind of came full circle. And I never saw myself in Asia just because from where I'm from in the south, it just didn't seem like I could do it. And then when I realized, wow, I could make this happen, this could be a reality, I definitely jumped at the chance.

Carol: Awesome. I know from talking with the other counselors and their experiences, it sounds like it's pretty similar. Like, I wanted to do some traveling. I wanted just something new, and I also really wanted to maybe get my first school counseling job. Yeah, it kind of all falls in together.

Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. And I also think, too, there's something to like, I had never been overseas before, and so when I did get that opportunity, getting to speak with people who are outside of the US, they just have just a different way of seeing the world, and they also have different struggles that are in their lives. And so that also really intrigued me. Getting to have just new experiences with the kids that I worked with and what their lives look like versus maybe the experiences that I had. So it's also just a different way of their worldviews that really intrigued me because you just have such a different reality when you live in the US that when I started talking to kids and actually talking to their parents and what they go through on a day to day basis when I was in Nepal, I think that also really intrigued me because it's just a different way of seeing things and working with families, so you just get different experiences. And that was really exciting to me, too.

Carol: What have been some of the real big experiences that you have been able to witness and be a part of?

Taylor: What kind of experiences?

Carol: Yeah. What are you so grateful for? Wow. If I hadn't gone overseas, I would have never been able to see XYZ.

Taylor: Oh, gosh. Yeah. I just never thought, first of all, in terms of travel, I never would have been able to mean a very good part of Asia and just learning about their culture, their heritage, getting to understand more of that side of the world and where they're coming from. I would have never gotten that opportunity. I also never would have met my husband, which he's from Oregon, but we met each other in Korea, and that was also a Covid blessing during that time working at the same school. I think another thing I never would have gotten to do was I was thinking about working in public school, but my first job in Korea was at a rural school about an hour south of Seoul, and I got to work in three divisions. I got to be with elementary kids, with middle school kids, and with high school kids. So I really got to have that range and get to experience just all the different levels of development and be hands on with those kids since it was such a small school. Yeah, there's just been so many really neat blessings that came out of it.

Carol: Is there something that you really love the most about working internationally?

Taylor: Probably, yes. Gosh. How to choose the best one, really. I love the travel, and on top of that, I really just love working with the kids from all different parts of the world. They really help me be able to see the world differently, and they also help me learn a lot about how to be a culturally responsive counselor. They really helped me learn how to be more open minded and pushed me to see different resources and how to serve kids in different ways than I never would have been able to just because of the nature of being amongst different cultures and different ways of looking at the world and values. So. Absolutely.

Carol: Is there anything that you miss since you're living internationally?

Taylor: I think what comes with that is, know, I think that's one of the harder parts is, at least from where I'm from in the south, most people don't leave. I'm from right outside of Nashville, and it's a small town and it's an awesome town to live in. And I think that's one of the things that's tough, is you only come back maybe a couple of times a year, if that, because of the work that you do, which is amazing. But also you do miss, you know, that's the beauty of social media and what we know, you get to stay in touch, but that's for sure something I would miss. Yeah.

Carol: If you were to compare your two schools, like your school in Korea versus your school in Budapest, are there some really major?

Taylor: So I think the one thing I have to preface before I say this is I was a high school counselor there and a middle school counselor there or here. And I think being a high school counselor there, one of the biggest differences would be just the academic pressure. And know, in Korea, that is something that's really tough on kids is they're really pushed to reach their highest potential in the university that they can get accepted in. And as a high school counselor, you have that pressure to make sure you are supporting them to make that happen. And really, we know as counselors, we want them to have the best fit. But sometimes that means you have to fight the pressure that's coming from parents who haven't learned what best fit means. And so you're having to educate them on that. But I think that's one of the big differences is the academic rigor and pressure that comes with academics in the middle. Know, I think one of the biggest differences with what I was doing is that I think here in Hungary, kids are a lot more open about their life experiences and also what's going on at home, which leads to some more safeguarding issues. And I think that's something that I'm seeing way more frequently and then having to support them on that, too. And I think that's the biggest difference for the two schools.

Carol: What is your typical day like as a middle school counselor in Budapest?

Taylor: This is a great question, and I feel like the first image that comes to my mind is a revolving door. I think when you first get to a school, you try your best to establish yourself in terms of the relationships you have with both kids and staff and of course, families. And that's definitely been my day to day, is just trying to be out and about as much as possible and getting to know kids in classrooms and their advisories and also creating ways for them to access me, whether that's through appointment and giving them access to my calendar and booking meetings or rest times. But I would say it's basically a revolving door. I sit down to answer emails, but then kids start right away coming in at 830. And so there's a constant stream of kids wanting to share and talk, but also learn more and also just being curious about different things that are going on in their life. So, yeah, it's kind of a revolving door of working with kids, being in advisories, getting to help teach social emotional learning, and then also just working with staff to really help them understand more of what I do and also how they can be supportive of that, too.

Carol: In terms of your own personal living in Budapest, I guess not really. How do you compare it? But what are you finding is a challenge, like living there, or also what are the things that the foods or parts of the culture that you are really enjoying?

Taylor: Yeah, great. Think. You know, in Hungary, the biggest difference, at least living in Budapest versus Seoul is Seoul is like so technologically advanced and the conveniences of life are very easy to get. So whether it's public transportation or delivery or just having access to whatever you need is so easy. I will say in Budapest, it's not bad at know with public transportation getting around and getting to be able to try to navigate and understand the culture. But at the same time, there are some of those conveniences that I definitely miss. I will say hungarian culture, they love festivals. They absolutely enjoy getting to celebrate. That's one thing we've noticed living near our house. There's like a festival almost like every week. So that's kind of fun to get to partake in the different celebrations of their history or their culture. And you learn a lot about them really quickly. Their food is delicious. They're all about the beef and potatoes or soups, like goulash, which is like, at every restaurant, which is great. And it's very nice because it's such an international city. English is everywhere, but at the same time, their language is one of the hardest ones to learn in the entire world. But it's been very cool to get to start learning their language because they're just so appreciative of that when you're trying to take that step out and learn more about them and their culture. And so that's been really fun. But also a challenge is to learn how to speak Hungarian, but it's really nice, too, because they're very accommodating with English. Yeah. And also the city is gorgeous. It's funny. Hungary is a beautiful country, but we were told by locals that when you get there, Budapest is so international, it feels very different than the rest of Hungary. So you're kind of in an international pocket. And so you get the conveniences of all these different nationalities having restaurants and shops there. So that's nice. And the city is beautiful, just gorgeous buildings. And it might be one of the most beautiful lit up cities. At night, it's really gorgeous. But at the same time, then you kind of want to push yourself to go outside of Budapest so that you can really see and understand more of the day to day of Hungarians living. So, yeah, it's really nice, and it also has some challenges with it, but it's worth it because you just get to learn more about them and their nation.

Carol: Awesome. And this question is really for, I think, counselors here that are deciding whether or not they want to try a new experience and maybe go to an international school. What advice or what information can you share with them?

Taylor: Yeah, that's a great question. I think you just want to consider the lifestyle that you'd like to have and also what type of benefits that you feel like you and your family needs, and then on top of that, how you would like to serve at that school. So, for example, I feel like families may want to look at schools and packages where they're able to be able to make sure they have everything they need for their kids, but they also are able to do the lifestyle that they would hope to have for their children. So, like when we were living in Korea, Korea is an excellent know for families because Korea is so great about taking care of kids and being very safe country. And the schools have great know. Same thing in Hungary. Hungary is a very safe place. They have a lot of options for family care. And I think, too, when you look at your school, you're just kind of looking at what type of position that they have, and then also the support that comes with that in the package. So I know one of the reasons why I chose this school was I was looking at their mission, and a lot of what their mission talks about are the things that I feel that are very important. And so it's an important thing to look at because I feel like I get the support from the school because it's part of their values of what I want to do. So that's really nice. And then once you go through that process, just getting to ask as many questions as possible so that you can kind of get the full picture of what it's like to live there, what it's like to work there. And also, most schools are really cool about hooking you up with somebody at that school who already lives there. So even after your interview or as you're researching, you can ask someone who actually works at the school and lives in that country currently, and you're able to get all the information that you need so that you can make the most informed decision. I would definitely do those things because then you feel like you understand what you're getting into, right.

Carol: And when you were looking and searching, were you part of any online groups of other international educators, or how did you hear about these openings? Or did you just simply use the computer to research?

Taylor: Yeah, I think that's an excellent question. I have a couple of groups that I was a part of. One of them is iss, that's actually an international school services group that actually has openings for all international schools or as many as are affiliated with them. And then shroll is another one. Both of these groups have all the openings of any school that's a part of their organization. And they also have job fairs and online job fairs. And so I just kind of looked through different websites that are like them, that are actually international school organizations that are looking to hire. So that's like the whole point of that website. And it's neat because once you join them, they also have professional development opportunities. You can go to different webinars for them. And on top of that, they also do hiring for schools. And it makes it really easy because you fill out one application, kind of takes a little bit of time, but at least you fill out one application. And when you start applying, you simply just click that you would like to apply for that school. So it's not like you have to do a million applications, you do the one. And then because you're a part of that organization, you can look through the schools with openings and then click the ones that you would like to put in your resume or cv for. And so it makes the process really streamlined. You get to learn about all those schools through those organizations, and then the principals or recruiters will contact you through them, which it just makes it really easy.

Carol: Now, after Budapest, have you thought about other places that you might want to go to another country?

Taylor: Well, it's funny you asked me that because I just like to think in the future about things. And again, I really love traveling, so I like thinking in the future and start talking with my husband about, okay, what could be a great next option, even after this school. Hopefully I'm at this school for a while, but we'll see. But yeah, I think we miss Asia. So we're still in that transition phase of getting used to Europe just because we both lived in Asia for a while. So that's where we called our home away from home. And now we're settling into our new home in Hungary. But we've both thought we would like to move to Southeast Asia after this. We were looking at a couple of schools before we moved to Hungary that are in Vietnam and Thailand. So I think we would really consider moving over there after this at some point just because it's very inexpensive to live there. It's also wonderful food, interesting culture, great weather for the most part of the year. Not all, but for a lot of part of the year it is. And so we probably would look at maybe Southeast Asia next after.

Carol: Cool.

Carol: And as you were talking about the weather, I was laughing a little bit because what our listeners don't know is the last time we tried to connect well, we encountered some snow problems in Hungary and we couldn't talk because the Internet was, oh, that was the craziest.

Taylor: Day because it was funny. People were telling me at our school, at the American International School of Budapest, they said, oh, well, we never take snow days because it only snows like maybe a couple of inches if it really does come down. And so it was so funny. We were going to do this episode and then next thing I know, it snows about over a foot. And they said it's the most snow they've ever had in like eleven years. So it was the most freak thing.

Carol: Well, at least you have a good story to tell, I guess.

Taylor: Yeah, absolutely.

Carol: I was hungry and it snowed.

Taylor: Yeah, it was beautiful. It was a great time. But yes, there were all the power outages and all that stuff because they weren't ready for that first snow so early. But everything was okay and we worked it out.

Carol: Well, that's awesome. And I'm so glad that we were able to connect today and talk a little bit. Is there anything else that you want to share about your experience or anything?

Taylor: I guess to round it out? It definitely was a dream come true, I think when you really get to move overseas for the first time, I was very nervous. I think I was 24 when I first moved over to Korea and there's just a lot of unknowns, which is true, but I feel like if it's something that is on your mind and on your heart, I would say you should definitely do it because schools are really great about taking care of you in terms of flights and insurance and housing, and so you really feel taken care of. And I think as long as you ask all the questions you need, like, there's never a dumb question, as we always say, and you really just think about what type of lifestyle you want. I mean, it can be a real dream come true and it's just such a fun time to be able to do that and also be able to work as a school counselor. I mean, it's just so rewarding as all of you know, I mean, if you're a school counselor, you know how awesome it can be and challenging at sometimes, but I think it just makes it even more fun when you're getting to work at this level. So I would definitely encourage anyone to do it for sure.

Carol: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I think for counselors that are educators in general that are going overseas and then coming back and sharing their experiences, I think that's just really awesome to do, especially as we're trying to become more culturally competent. I just think it's important to see the stories and hear the voices of what life is like in other places because sometimes we're limited to just a single story, like maybe what we've read or what we've seen on the tv once, but we really don't know the day to day activities and what goes on without hearing it from someone who's actually living it.

Taylor: Yeah. And I think, too, at our school, we're trying to, not trying, but it's a mandate actually, that we do diversity training once a month with a group of people that are really trying to push us to kind of find out where our holes are or our blind spots. And so it's really a blessing, honestly, because when you grow up, for example, in the US and you have the privileges that you do, some of these conversations, they really bring into the forefront know are, you know, the power and the privileges that you have to really bring in the voices and the experiences of marginalized groups or minorities. And they are a part of our populations at school. And so it's really helpful, I think whenever you go overseas, depending on what school you're at. But yeah, when you go overseas, you start to see those blind spots you might have. And I just think it makes you a better counselor, because you're just exposed to those voices and experiences and you're able to think about that in your practice, which then helps you find resources to then get those kids connected and the resources that they need to be supported. So, yeah, I think it's just so helpful and it's an experience that I think some schools do get to have now in the United States, but I feel like it's few and far between. So it's, I just think it's really helpful.

Carol: Well, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. And I know that I had a great time talking with you, and I hope our listeners are just soaking up your story and know what they can do with it. And for those counselors that are thinking about going internationally, I think just hearing the benefits and the experiences, maybe that'll lead them to try something new.

Taylor: I hope so.

Carol: Once again, thank you. So you are for our listeners. This will air after the holidays, but right now it is currently before the holidays. So I'm going to wish Taylor happy holiday, merry Christmas, and enjoy the time with your families and have fun. All right. For our listeners, thank you very much for joining us today on Counselor chat. Remember, if you're interested in hearing the previous podcast on international school counselors, be sure to go back and listen to episode 36, where we talk about school counseling in Ethiopia, and episode 37, where we talk about school counseling in Korea. And I will also link those in the show notes as well. And if you have any questions for Taylor, Taylor, I don't know if you want to give your contact information or if you just want me to send people. Like if anyone has a question for you, you want me to send it.

Taylor: On to you, that would be great. Yeah, I would absolutely be open to that.

Carol: So if you have any questions for Taylor, just let me know and I'll be sure to get them to her. Anyway, people, until next week, have a great week.

Carol: Thanks for listening to today's episode of Counselor chat. All of the links I talked about can be found in the show notes and at Slash podcast. Be sure to hit, follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind.

Carol: To leave a review, I'd really appreciate it. Want to connect?

Carol: Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials until next time. Can't wait till we chat. Bye for now.