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Ksenia Lukanova (‘14): “You can achieve anything you put your heart into”

Passionate, curious and enterprising, AUBG graduate Ksenia Lukanova (‘14) truly embodies the liberal arts values taught at AUBG.  Just a couple of years after graduation, Lukanova has already traveled the world, worked at a leading startup accelerator in San Francisco, established her own brand and been featured on The Huffington Post.  

“Working at 500 Startups has been incredible,” Lukanova said. “I learned and improved so many new skills, including time-management, constantly asking for feedback and incorporating it into my work, learning on the fly, doing things that scare me on a regular basis, communicating effectively, networking, and working really long hours.”

Lukanova, BUS and JMC major at AUBG, had many opportunities to practice and develop her abilities during the 16 months she spent at the global company.

“I took ownership of my projects and that led me to great places,” Lukanova said. “I started off in operations but soon started doing a lot of graphic design, so I became known as the ‘graphic designer’ in the company.”

Lukanova then discovered her interest in data analysis and moved into marketing and analysis. “Such a range of roles and activities in a relatively short period of time allowed me to learn many practical and technical skills (…),” Lukanova said. “I loved the culture at 500 Startups – it’s a relatively flat organization and it’s very ‘startuppy’ – they really practice what they preach.”

Following the time spent in San Francisco, Lukanova joined her husband, AUBG graduate Alexander Khambir (‘14), in Sofia for three months. While Khambir was making a documentary film, Lukanova commenced work on her own project, the Bold & Zesty website “for all things email marketing.”

“I loved doing email marketing at 500 Startups, so I wanted to share my knowledge with others, so I started writing on that topic, and that’s how the idea for Bold & Zesty was born,” Lukanova said. “Right now I’m blogging and focusing on growing my email list as well as finding new friends in this industry to collaborate with.”

One of Lukanova’s posts on email marketing also got featured on The Huffington Post.  Following her success story with the prestigious content platform, Lukanova wrote a detailed step-by-step instructions on getting published there and is willing to share her know-how with aspiring writers at AUBG who email her at kasey@boldandzesty.com.

Back at AUBG, Lukanova served as editor-in-chief and art director for the Verve Magazine, reporter for Defacto and writer for the Office of Communications and Marketing. Her active contribution to the AUBG community, combined with her strong academic results earned her Departmental Honor for Outstanding Achievement in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2014.

“AUBG had a major effect on my career path and my life in general,” Lukanova said. “I merit AUBG with everything I learned that helped me further down the path, but also for giving me the best gift: the people that I met and became very good friends with. I was lucky to be friends with some of the greatest people and I hold those relationships very dear to my heart.”

Birthday parties, life in Skapto 1, editing sprees in the multimedia lab, class field trips and simply “living in Blagoevgrad and feeling so young, free and independent”—these are just a few of Lukanova’s fondest memories of her university years.

Lukanova and Khambir spent fall 2013 at the study abroad program Semester at Sea, an educational experience that proved particularly transformative.

“Semester at Sea is a study-abroad program where instead of going to one foreign country, you go to 12 – 17 in a semester,” Lukanova explained. “Students live and study on the ship, and travel and explore when the ship is docked in ports.”

The two AUBGers embarked on a journey that started in South Hampton and moved down the coast of Europe, then down to Africa and across the ocean to South America and Cuba and ended in Florida.  

“It was an incredible experience – we met amazing friends that we keep to this day, saw incredible cities, climbed tough mountains, and learned about how people live in different corners of our planet,” Lukanova said. “I highly recommend Semester at Sea to all students! It’s expensive, but they have many scholarships, so just apply for all that you’re eligible for, and then work with your Semester at Sea counselor to make it work.”

Never shying away from adventures, Lukanova advised current AUBG students to make the best out of their time at the university. “Take it all in, there will never be a time quite like it,” she said. “Cherish the time you have with your friends when they are just a hallway away. Cherish professors who put so much heart into teaching you, and learn as much as you can from them. And dream big, of course! You can achieve anything you put your heart into.”

Story by Dimana Doneva  
Photo Courtesy of Ksenia Lukanova

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