Rodrigo Avila

Nationality: Mexico
Program: Mundus MAPP
Graduated: 2010
Current job: Chief Speechwriter for Mexico's Minister of the Interior
Location: Mexico City, Mexico

Beyond Work

+1. Which Hungarian words do you still remember?

My fiancée is Hungarian, so I still recall several words. For surviving in Budapest, I would advise "Igen jó" (yes, cool) and "Nem jo" (Not cool). These two phrases can help you get out of an awkward conversation in Hungarian.

+2. Who is your role model?

This is a tough one. When I was younger, for sure "Che Guevara" and Yugoslav leader Tito. Now the list has become larger... ranging from John Shattuck, CEU's fourth president and rector, to Barack Obama (for being an enlightened liberal who supports the middle class). I do not admire Vladimir Putin, but being a Mexican, I always appreciate it when someone counterbalances the power of the USA . Lastly, I think Justin Trudeau is doing an amazing job.

+3. What helps you wake up on Monday mornings?

The fact that I like and enjoy what I do in my job.

1. What led you to study public policy at CEU?

I first learned about CEU around 2004, when I read in the newspaper about a billionaire who was providing financial support to prevent then U.S. president George W. Bush from being reelected. The name of this person for whom I felt so much sympathy was George Soros, the founding father of CEU. I started following his activity and learned about the university.

Eventually, when I decided it was time for graduate studies, I became aware of the Erasmus Mundus Master's in Public Policy coordinated by CEU—a perfect fit for my professional interests.

I applied, and was awarded a full scholarship from the European Commission to complete this program, which at the time included a year studying development studies in The Netherlands followed by a year studying public policy at CEU. The academic program, combined with the real-life experiences, was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

2. What do you remember most about your time at CEU?

CEU offered me several things, both inside and outside the classroom.

On the one hand, the opportunity to discover Budapest -- beauty at its best – and Hungarian culture, which is outstanding and unique in every way: the lifestyle, architecture, people´s wisdom, history, food, the weather of each season, the poetry, music, sports, landscapes, and so on. It's no wonder that even though the country is quite small – there are only 11 million Hungarians (Magyars) on planet earth – the country is frequently in the top 10 for winners of Olympic medals, and also has the highest rate of Nobel Prizes per capita in the world.

On the other hand, CEU also allowed me to take part in and witness the power of creation through dialogue and team work. For example, by working together with classmates from two dozen different countries, I was able to acquire hands-on experience as founding editor of The CEU Weekly, a newspaper that has become a long-lasting forum for debate within the university.

In addition, through lectures and seminars, I was able to analyze and discuss entrenched issues with global leaders, top policy makers, and renowned scholars, ranging from George Soros himself, to Joseph Stiglitz and Lajos Bokros, to Iraqi and Israeli ministers and highly regarded scholar Philipe Schmitter. The plurality of viewpoints makes CEU a privileged place to gain an understanding of pressing challenges for the world, like tolerance and diversity.

3. What have you been engaged in professionally since graduating from CEU?

Currently, I serve as chief speechwriter to Mexico´s Minister of the Interior. In this capacity, I am responsible for the minister´s statements on a wide array of policies, ranging from democratic governance and human rights to justice, migration, and civil protection.

Among other topics, I have been involved in the ongoing process of drug policy reform in Mexico, and have played a key role in framing the law initiative discussed by the Congress, which aims to decriminalize consumption of marijuana and legalize its therapeutic use.

My life takes place mostly between the office and my bed, and it includes phone calls at 3 am and working Sundays. Nonetheless, it is a rewarding experience and I feel lucky to have this opportunity to observe and analyze politics from within.

4. How have your policy studies at CEU contributed to your career?

In my everyday work, I need to write about democratic governance, human rights, security, migration, and civil society.

The conceptual and analytical understanding that my CEU studies provided me regarding these topics has proven very valuable. My MA in public policy also enhanced my writing abilities, which is the tool I use most often at work. So yes, my policy studies at CEU have definitely contributed to my career and to my professional performance.

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

My dream would be to become Mexico's ambassador to Hungary. We will see if I can make it happen!

6. Do you have any advice for current students?

Be happy and grateful. Enjoy Budapest and Hungary: it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in one of the most amazing places in the world. Do not let the stress of the classroom and assignments drive your life. Go out to local places and become friends with local people. If possible, stay around during the summer. Visit Lake Balaton and go canoeing in the Danube. Try the halaszle (best soup ever!) and the langos.

Lastly, if you believe a professor has graded your work in an unfair way, appeal it!

7. What is your favorite thing to do in Budapest?

Going to the baths and watching the sunset from Liberty Bridge.

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