AUBG’s Sofia Semester Loading | AUBG Daily

April 04, 2024
AUBG’s Sofia Semester Loading | AUBG Daily

This article was originally published on the AUBG Daily website, it is written by Tsvetina Georgieva and edited by Radina Shtereva and Daria Dolgopolova.

AUBG is on track to offer its third- and fourth-year students the opportunity to study in Sofia instead of Blagoevgrad. The Sofia Semester optional program will provide a full load of AUBG credit-bearing courses. They will be taught for one semester either in the Elieff Center or online while students live in Sofia.

As of March 27, there is an ongoing process of research and gathering interest among students to evaluate their willingness to study a semester in Sofia, their majors, and the courses that can be offered. This is also a way for AUBG’s Administration to see whether a Sofia Semester can happen depending on students’ preferences and needs.

“At this point, we are trying to be as flexible as possible because if we’re able to run this even just one first semester in the Fall, I think it will, in turn, promote opportunities for others in the future,” J. D. Mininger, AUBG’s Provost, said during an info session about the Sofia Semester opportunity held on March 20.

What about the courses?

A preliminary list of the on-ground and online courses is already available. Depending on students’ preferences and professors’ efforts, more courses will be added to the list so that students with different majors can enroll.

“There are one or two GenEd electives, and then most of the on-ground courses for this semester are Business courses. But that’s not because we only want Business students,” Mininger said. “That’s because the department was the one that found they were most easily able to offer certain courses. But there are some other majors that, I think, can figure this out between a little creativity, online courses, and some other things.”

What is the biggest advantage?

The Sofia Semester aims to provide internship offers in big and well-developed companies, such as IBM, Commerzbank, Coca-Cola, Postbank, MSG Global Solutions, Nu Boyana Film Studios, Nova TV, Lufthansa, etc.

“Internships are one of the great, great values of this [Sofia Semester],” Mininger said. “One of the things that for AUBG is pretty incredible, but for an on-campus student you don’t always see, is how many connections we actually have in Sofia.”

Are there challenges?

Some challenges remain for AUBG’s Administration to decide on and clear out before actually launching the Sofia Semester.

“The first thing that will be the most challenging is the fact that the number of courses we can offer in Sofia to get this started is very minimal,” Mininger said. “We will have a few courses that are on the ground in the Elieff Center. But then there would be online course options depending on your particular situation, even an independent study,” Mininger said.

What remains the same as in a Blagoevgrad semester?

Studying in Sofia extends to the academic opportunities offered at AUBG. The terms and conditions of an academic semester remain approximately the same; only the location is different.

“There are lots of different creative things we can do with this location. But we also want this to be an academically legitimate environment for you [the students],” Mininger said. “We would never wish to harm or water down the quality of the academic opportunities that you would have. We hope, at some point, it’s even more.”

The situation with club participation, student activities, and events does not drastically change either.

“You’ll be away from this campus, but it doesn’t mean you have to be alienated from the things that happen on campus, and certainly when it comes to big events, we would find a way to make sure that all of you, if you wish, could travel,” Mininger said.

Studying in Sofia does not change the tuition fee a student pays. According to Mininger, “The tuition will be the same. You pay for AUBG credits either way, and the idea is that, for the most part, the cost doesn’t change unless you want it to somehow change.”

What can be slightly different?

A change can appear in accommodation costs. Students who live or have a place to stay in Sofia can do so. For the rest, an option for housing is Kitchen 59, which has conditions, services, and housing fees similar to those of the AUBG Resident Halls.

“The cost will be similar to living on campus in Blagoevgrad. A meal plan option is available for an additional fee for those who wish,” Mininger said. “Students will pay AUBG; AUBG will hold the housing contract and take care of the details. There are some notable amenities available onsite, such as a rooftop café and a swimming pool.”

If the group of people housed in Kitchen 59 is at least of modest size, there can even be a Resident Assistant (RA) working there. They will sign a student contract with AUBG, work under the same terms and conditions as an RA in one of the three Skapto Resident Halls, and have their housing fee covered for the Sofia Semester.

The Sofia Semester is not a requirement for any major offered at AUBG. As Mininger said, “It is simply a cool opportunity!” and students can express their interest by filling out a form.

What do students think about the Sofia Semester offer?

“Overall, I feel like this is a great opportunity for AUBG students. It provides you with numerous possibilities to intern at big companies,” Radko Mishev, a second-year student, said. “Sadly, I am not going to enroll due to it not having enough Computer Science courses.”

“Right now, the Sofia semester idea is very small-scale, meaning a very limited number of courses are actually offered. Depending on your major, doing a semester at Sofia might be impossible for you,” Kaloyan Dimitrov, a second-year student, said. “Also, the community aspect of the university inevitably suffers, as you will have a lot fewer classmates studying alongside you.”

“This 1-semester pilot project will be the bridge that connects AUBG students with opportunities for professional development. And I am hopeful that once the first trial is done, the program will steadily grow in popularity,” Alexander Yordanov, a fourth-year student, said. “However, given the short notice for this program, people could not plan their courses in advance.”

“I can’t be more excited about it!” Mihaela Mihaylova, a first-year student, said. “Sofia is my hometown, which means being closer to my family and living at my home. Also, I work in Sofia, so traveling every week will not be necessary anymore.”

“The Sofia Semester seems like an amazing opportunity that deserves more attention. If more students show interest in it, more professors will be willing to give lectures in Sofia or have online sections,” Samuil Mladenov, a second-year student, said. “For now, we can’t really know what difficulties might exist since it’s something new. But the university is willing to help with any hardships that the people enrolling may face.”