Xpat Interview: Dr. Jennifer Walker, Freelance Writer & Journalist

  • 10 Sep 2014 12:00 PM
Xpat Interview: Dr. Jennifer Walker, Freelance Writer & Journalist
Jennifer is an ex-nuclear physicist turned freelance travel writer and cultural journalist. Originally from the UK, Jennifer comes from a mixed background of British and Hungarian heritage. Born in Epsom, Surrey, to an English father and Hungarian mother, Jennifer grew up between East Sussex and Budapest, infusing her with a wanderlust and a fascination for other cultures.

In 2005, she graduated with an MPhys in Physics with Satellite Technology with a First Class with Honours from the University of Surrey, and conducted her masters research at GSI (Institute for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt, Germany for a year before moving to Madrid, Spain to undertake her postgraduate studies.

She has a Masters of Advanced Studies in Nuclear Physics from the Universidad Compluntense de Madrid and finished her PhD in Physics (Summa Cum Laude) at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in 2011, and has conducted experiments and research work at CSIC (Spain), CERN (Switzerland), GSI (Germany) and GANIL (France).

After completing her studies, Jennifer threw caution - and physics - to the wind to pursue her true passion: writing. She has been working as a professional writer since graduation, interning at a national newspaper in Tbilisi, Georgia covering cultural topics in the Caucasus before moving back to Spain and then Hungary, and has since her work published in a variety of publications, such as CNN, Slate, Huffington Post, GOOD Magazine, among other publications and guide books. To see examples of her writing, see her website: www.jenniferdeborahwalker.com

She's passionate about making up stories, the arts, surrealism, underground culture, dilapidated art nouveau buildings, languages and travel.

1. When did you arrive in Hungary and what brought you here?
I originally moved to Hungary when I was 7 years old because my Hungarian mother wanted me to learn the language. We moved back to England when I was 11 so I could finish my education in the UK. I moved back to Budapest just over a year ago for a number of reasons. One was to tap back into my roots, but after living in Spain for 7 years I wanted a change, and Hungary appealed for a number of reasons, but one factor was not having to learn another language, but also I felt Budapest offered a lot of opportunities for a person like me.

2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?
Yes, I lived in Germany when I was 20 for a year. I worked at a particle accelerator just outside Frankfurt am Main, and I lived in Madrid, Spain for 7 years. I moved there to do my PhD in Nuclear Physics, and stayed a few years after completing it. I also spent some time in Tbilisi, Georgia in the Caucasus doing my first journalism job for a national English language newspaper (Georgia Today) as a cultural correspondent.

3. What surprised you most about Hungary?
Being Hungarian and having spent my childhood here, that's a hard question to answer. However, when being away from Budapest and Hungary, each time I came back the city and country always changed a lot. I find Hungary to be an exciting and fluid country to be in.

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?
Walk around and look up. Budapest is an incredibly beautiful city, and apart from the main, almost cliché sights, I love looking up and seeing the details of the buildings, sneaking into open courtyards and seeing the city from a different angle, and I encourage others to do the same. If a friend comes to visit, I love taking them on urban walking tours to see the city from a behind the scenes perspective.

5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?
Not technically Hungarian, but I love Sztrapacska. My family come from Ózd on the Slovakian border, so for us it's a local dish.

6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?
Cheese and a good bottle of wine.

7. What is your favourite Hungarian word?

8. What do you miss the most from home?
I've lived in so many different countries and places that it's hard to call a specific place home. I miss people more than things, I have really close friends scattered across the world and I miss them more than anything.

9. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
I'd love to be a painter or a performer, like a cabaret or burlesque dancer. I dabbled in burlesque dancing when I lived in Madrid, but very much on an amateur level.

10. What's a job you would definitely never want?
Anything with a stiffled routine without creativity. I thrive on learning new things and doing something different, so any menial office job would just bore me.

11. Where did you spend your last vacation?
I went on a wine trip round Serbia with the Borsodi Borlovagrend, which was great fun, even if I was the youngest person by 30 years in the group!

12. Where do you hope to spend your next one?
In a dream world, it would be some epic adventure round Central Asia, but more realistically it'll be somewhere in the Balkans or maybe a trip back to Madrid to visit old friends.

13. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?
I used to play the Celtic Harp when I was a teen. I just got the harp to Hungary, so once I restring it I'll hope to play again.

14. Apart of temptation what can't you resist?
A really good glass of wine or cheese.

15. Red wine or white?

16. Book or movie?
Depends on my mood.

17. Morning person or night person?
Night person.

18. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?
I feel passionate about women's issues and equality.

19. Buda side or Pest side?
Even though I live in Buda, I'm going to have to say Pest!

20. What would you say is your personal motto?
The only limitation is the one you set for yourself.

  • How does this interview make you feel?