Vera Arzumanyan graduated from AUBG in May 2023 with a major in Journalism and Mass Communication.
During her studies, Vera was an active part of the University life putting her creative powers into photographing AUBG events, being a producer for the student-run Radio AURA and designer for the More Honors Academy student club. She was also a member of the Elevate team Eavesdrop (Подай уше in Bulgarian) working on a startup project promoting local history. During her studies, Vera contributed to multiple audio (and) visual projects on campus such as My Third Skin, Zvuk magazine, Melophilia.
To wrap up her AUBG journey, Vera decided to work on a senior capstone project exploring the concentration camps during Communist Bulgaria – Perpetuating Forgetfulness. After presenting her project, she shared more about the idea behind it and her AUBG journey overall.
My senior project revolves around my exploration of the concentration camps during Communist Bulgaria. What I wanted to find out was whether we have a well-constructed, coherent and continuing memory about that recent past as a society or not. The topic is extremely broad and difficult, since there isn’t one main factor or outcome that could have answered my questions and put my mind at ease, to be honest. It has a speck of history, interviews with experts, teachers, and people who are generally interested in and have done an immense amount of research on the topic, i.e., people who know more than I do.
In the end, though, it shifted into a multimedia personal narrative piece that follows my constant wandering and attempts to clear up any internal confusion I held. So, I guess I put both opposites into a weird mix.
The idea just popped in my head one December day. I guess, Bulgaria during Communism and after has been a subconscious itch I’ve had since high school. Maybe I saw something related to the concentration camps and that prompted me to think about the memory of the camps and how it felt that such memory has been blurred out or is something way back in the distance and doesn’t stand in such significance anymore. Which, of course, I thought shouldn’t be that way. Hence, my idea.
The process was long, frustrating, and tiresome, but ultimately beneficial (to say the least). I had this idea about Bulgarian concentration camps, but I needed something way more concrete and narrowed-down to work with. I had countless of flying papers with all variations of timetables, monthly schedules, timelines, and tentative outlines, which I’d follow until a certain point. The project was constantly changing and I was tirelessly trying to keep up with it.
I was reading, talking to people, figuring out who to contact for interviews, then interviewing them, and deciding on what format I should put it all together in, all at the same time, more or less. So, planning didn’t exactly go as planned.
I would often change my mind about the format – at first, I wanted it to be an audio documentary. Then, I wanted photographs, as well. Then, I realized that I won’t do it justice in that form, either, it needed text to support it, as well. But one almost detrimental challenge was the research trap. It’s hard to get out of it and time was moving at a rapid pace, so I had to come to terms with myself that not everything I would like to be included, will actually make it in the final piece.
In one of our final meetings with Prof. Kelly, we collectively came to the conclusion that I sort of split myself in two – in all of our meetings we were talking about how this should be my interpretation of the topic, since I’m not a historian or an expert, or anything close to that. Then, I’d go and do exactly the opposite.
I was trying to become an expert on the topic, but not because of some vain, self-important purpose that I had internally, but because I thought (and still think) that the topic is too serious and important to be half-told or worse – butchered.
I was planning to translate it into Bulgarian, since I think the project will do most of its purpose of informing or putting the issue in the limelight, if it reached Bulgarians.
One takeaway is that I gradually developed a quiet admiration for all the people who’ve worked on the topic for way longer than I have and continue to present it through their own artistic/historical viewpoint, in order to preserve it.
Follow your gut. Didn’t study it, per se, but I learned it from my professors, and later from pursuing some small-scale course projects.
Do, rather than think.
Too much thinking is a bad habit if you aspire to be something of a journalist and it’s limiting to the creative process (limits are sometimes good for creativity to flourish, but not that kind of abstract limits). I’m still working on it, to be honest.
I’ll skip on the ever-so-appropriate talk on personal development and growth. Humility, hard work, staying true to yourself, reading, and finding “your people” – that’s what I cherished during my studies.
Interested in Communications studies?