Symeon Yovev ’04: “AUBG gives its students the freedom of not having to make premature uninformed choices”

Few people can confidently and easily answer the interview question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Simeon Yovev, an AUBG graduate, is one of those few. Although his life has not turned out as originally planned and “while everything seems to have changed,” he considers himself  “still optimistic, still bewildered,” and ready to learn more about “being and the world.”

Beginning his college studies in International Finance and Trade at the International University in Sofia, Yovev eventually decided to transfer to AUBG. He considers AUBG the “best higher education institution in Bulgaria and the region,” so he did not give it much thought whether to apply or not. Yovev is grateful to the university for the four memorable years he spent here and believes that everything surpassed his expectations by far.

“Not even the sturdy critical thinking skills it [AUBG] provided could challenge this standpoint,” he testifies.

At first, admits Yovev, he was “mystified” by the traditional style of higher education in Bulgaria, which assumes that high school students are ready to apply for a single, fixed major. “It is so easy at that age to conflate the perception of a field with its practice that I’m sure too many people unwittingly end up locked on the wrong track,” he says.

That is why he so highly prized AUBG’s liberal arts system of education, for it takes the opposite view: high school graduates are not expected to enter college knowing what they want to do for the rest of their lives. And even if they do, they still get the opportunity to participate in different, often unrelated, activities and courses so that they can discover their true interests.

Indeed, some of Yovev’s friends started at AUBG studying Computer Science but graduated with degrees in Journalism and History. Yovev himself also exemplifies this freedom of choice: he studied Business Administration, Journalism and Mass Communications, and Fine Arts—and this does not even include the wide array of General Education courses that he took. The liberal arts system widened his cultural horizons, altered his worldview, and provided him with necessary skills and knowledge.

“And in the process,” he adds, “I met some of my best friends to this day. And had more fun than ever before.”

After AUBG, Yovev embarked upon a business-related path. He applied for the “Big Four” financial service companies, got a job, and “tried to fit in that ethos of numbers, financial statements, suits and ties.” Although he describes this experience as exciting, he did not consider it his place. “Growing chronically unhappy,” he decided to apply to a jazz conservatory in Holland and was given the only available spot.

Yovev considers music the most important part of his life ever since he started playing the cello and the guitar. Even though he tried to change his passion to something more lucrative, music always seemed to have the upper hand. So, leaving the professional world, he followed his desire to study jazz to the Netherlands, where he recorded an EP and afterwards moved to Stockholm without knowing anyone there apart from a Swedish AUBGer, who helped him during his initial stay in the capital.

Once there, Yovev wrote, performed, and recorded while working on a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology in a highly competitive transnational program. He says the roots of his interest in social science reach back to AUBG, where the cultural diversity, competing viewpoints, and critical thinking environment were integral parts of his everyday life.

Now, Yovev has combined his passion for social science with his love of music. He is working on a PhD project in experimental composition with the Centre for Scientific Research in Music at the University of Leeds in the UK. The research project studies “social spaces and processes in relation to their sonic context.”

This project is a dream come true for Yovev, and he thanks AUBG for helping him seize this opportunity and for making him the person he is today.

Story by Yoana Savova

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