Besim Donmez (‘06): “AUBG Opened a Different World for Me”
Following his graduation from AUBG with a degree in Political Science and International Relations, Besim Donmez (‘06) embarked on an impressive international career. Originally from Turkey, Donmez spent several years working in sales in Bulgaria and then moved back to Istanbul, where he continued to build a career in foreign trade. Besim speaks four languages and has experience working with people from all corners of the globe, including North Africa, the Balkans, Russia, and the Middle East. He remembers his student years fondly and hopes that one day his daughter, who is now three and a half years old, will study at AUBG as well.
What was your first career destination?
My first professional destination was sales. Upon graduation, I started working as a sales executive in a medium-size Bulgarian company specializing in machinery sales. I was responsible for almost all regions in Bulgaria. After that, I started working in Sofia—my previous job was based in the town of Kurdzhali and I decided to move to Sofia and be the small fish in the big sea.
In Sofia, I began working for an internet company as a regional account manager responsible for the Turkish market. I was working on a social media platform integrating various social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook into one. I was responsible for promoting this platform for the Turkish online audience. After working there for two years I decided to move back to Istanbul, Turkey, where I started working in foreign trade as a salesperson. For about four years, I worked in the foreign trade operations and sales division in a company manufacturing stainless steel and aluminum cookware. I was responsible for regions such as Russia, the Middle East, the Balkans, and North Africa.
I then moved to another company in the foreign trade business but this time I was responsible for the sales of yeast for bread. I am also a Russian speaker and I worked with countries such as Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, the ex-Soviet countries. Then I had a change of regions and was responsible for Middle East countries such as Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Cyprus. Recently, I started working for a Korean company called Tridge where I am mediating between buyers and suppliers from all over the world and I’m trying to connect the buyers with the right suppliers in Turkey.
Actually, I missed mentioning one job that I did while studying at AUBG: in the last semester I started working for a Turkish company in Bulgaria as a translator.
How many languages do you speak?
Most fluently I speak Turkish and Bulgarian. I tend to forget Bulgarian a bit but thanks to my Bulgarian friends I get to meet and speak to them from time to time so I still feel pretty confident with the language. I speak Turkish, Bulgarian, English, Russian- I am probably the least confident with Russian but on a business level I am pretty ok with it.
Did your love for languages play a role in your desire to work for international companies?
Actually, because of the language proficiency, because of my background, and because of the type of education that I received, it somehow seemed right to take part in the international business. I feel it is a strength of mine to create relationships among people in all levels of management. I think this career is the right choice for me.
And in what other ways did your AUBG education had an impact on your career and personality?
AUBG opened a different world for me. Our professors, their vision and conversations with us, opened new horizons, new ways of thinking and understanding of the world. It is not a specific program or a class that created this opportunity for me as much as it is the overall impact of the professors’ vision and attempt to give their students a direction. What is more, AUBG gathers together very different students from various backgrounds, puts them in one place and gets them to interact, gets them to work together, to study together, to create projects together. I understood the value of all this once I graduated. While I was studying, I was just having fun. I was taking pleasure in being part of such a community. Later on, I got to understand that it was a very valuable experience that also creates strong bonds among people. My best friends are from AUBG-- I still have friends in the U.S., I have friends in Europe, in Bulgaria, in Belarus, in Kazakhstan, and occasionally I still meet those people. This value cannot be easily quantified but it is beneficial in all possible aspects. What’s also really nice is that I still keep in touch with a few of our professors.
Did you participate in any extracurricular activities or exchange programs while studying at AUBG?
What I did was I extensively used the Work and Travel opportunity in the U.S. With Work and Travel, if you would like to focus on travel, you can go and travel, and if you want to acquire some experience in different types of jobs, then you can work two, sometimes even three jobs and make some pocket money as well. I would strongly advise any student to take this opportunity because it would not only help you financially support yourself or your parents, it is also a great experience in terms of cultural exchange-- you get to meet people from all around the world such as Latin America and Asia.
What advice would you give to a student who is considering to study at AUBG-- especially an international student?
What I would advise them is to not be afraid of the idea of going to Bulgaria. Bulgaria is a great place to live in terms of nature, in terms of culture. And nature and culture are so rich, there is a lot to discover in Bulgaria. Secondly, Blagoevgrad is one of the best places to spend your student years. And AUBG is the best possible place to study in Bulgaria. There is really no alternative that I can think of.
I would strongly recommend AUBG to anyone considering to study abroad. For example, in terms of language skills, at AUBG you gain a really deep proficiency. AUBG can compete with really, really high caliber universities worldwide. I have a daughter who is three and a half years old. When she grows up, I’m really considering sending her to AUBG. Keep it up, guys.
Interview by Dimana Doneva