AUBG Employee Spotlight: Magdalena Bernaciak, Assistant Professor in Politics and European Studies

What is your role at AUBG?

I joined AUBG in September as Assistant Professor at the Department of Politics and European Studies.

Tell us a little about your background?

I grew up in Gniezno, a city in western Poland that is roughly the size of Blagoevgrad. My region, Wielkopolska, is rather flat but we have lots of natural lakes.

I obtained my first MA degree in European Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. I then moved to the Central European University in Budapest, where I completed my MA and PhD studies in Political Science. CEU was an amazing place that helped me grow and had a great impact on who I am today; I also met my husband Svetoslav there. Before coming to AUBG, I worked for seven years as a researcher at the European Trade Union Institute, a research institute focused on socioeconomic developments in the EU.

What is the most important project you have worked on recently?

My current research project, which I coordinate together with my former colleague Zane Rasnača, is an interdisciplinary study of national case law related to employee posting in the EU. We are working towards an edited volume on the topic but would like to write a comparative academic article as well, perhaps over the summer. 

As far as the non-academic sphere is concerned, by far the most important project that I have been involved in the past eight and a half months is taking care of our baby girl, Janka! It is a challenging one, for sure, but it also brings me lots of joy and a huge energy boost every day :-)

What do you like most about AUBG?

What I like the most is the fact that students and professors have a chance to discuss and interact both during and outside classes. This is the model of university I know from CEU; to my mind, it greatly stimulates critical thinking and enhances the learning process, benefiting both the students and the faculty members.

How does a normal day look like at your workplace?

My working days are divided between teaching and the preparation of courses. The latter takes lots of time as I had a nearly ten-year-long break in teaching! I come to my office around 9, have a cup of tea… and then time flies. I usually have lunch in the university canteen and continue working until five. At home we put Janka to bed at around 8:30 and then I usually work for another hour or two. I do make sure that I have the Saturdays free, however!

What is most rewarding about your job; what makes it all worthwhile?

It is very rewarding to see students creatively develop the ideas I share with them in class. I am also happy when I can provide them with advice - on the choice of their research topic, a university to possible apply to, or even on a place to visit in Blagoevgrad - and I see that they are happy with it, they find it useful.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

I enjoy hiking in the mountains and I spend lots of my free time planning new routes and identifying places to visit. We have had to decrease the intensity of the trips to make them suitable for Janka, but we nevertheless try to go somewhere every weekend. I also like reading and I often pick novels that give me a chance to ‘travel’ to other countries and cultures and to learn a bit more about them. I go to Nigeria with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to Turkey with Orhan Pamuk…

What's something about you few people know?

I like drawing, but not serious stuff, rather comic pictures. For instance, I would often draw comics during lectures at CEU, often referring to funny situations in class and/or picturing the class material in a funny way. I guess drawing funny pictures makes the scariest course feel less scary!

Where is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?

It is difficult to answer this question as every trip was special in its own way. The Hebrides islands in Scotland, Svanetia in Georgia, Transilvania in Romania have perhaps been among the most magical places I have visited. Bulgaria is also a very special place for me. I have tons on memories and impressions from our trips: watching the sunrise from the rocky cliffs in Kamen Bryag, climbing ladders in cave monasteries in Rusenski Lom, kayaking on the Beglika dam... and there is still so much to discover.  

If you could choose another profession, what would it be?

When I was a child I wanted to be a forest officer, like my uncle Waldy. I still think it is a great job but I am also happy with what I do ;-)

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