To Chicago and Back, Part Four: Chicago

October 18, 2019

In a series of four short stories, we will travel across the United States to discover what makes AUBG a unique place -- both in the region and across the ocean. Together with several AUBG representatives, I visited Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Boston Sept. 12-21 to connect with prospective students and AUBG graduates living in the States. In the past two weeks, I shared my experience meeting with the AUBG alumni in Atlanta, New York and Boston. Now it's time to tell you all about our last stop: Chicago. 

Boston. Chicago Airport. Bulgarian Cultural Center Magura. 

As we headed to the Bulgarian Cultural Center Magura, I was overwhelmed by a sudden desire to experience Bulgaria again. Ten days have already passed since the start of the trip and I was ready to go back home. These emotional, joyful, diverse 10 days will stay in my memory forever. But a time comes when you want to wrap things up and feel at home again. 

It was the center that gave me the much needed home-away-from-home feeling. Our lovely hosts welcomed us as most special guests. Bulgarians who moved to the States a long time ago, friends of the University, people working at the center, alumni – all of them gathered together that evening to learn about AUBG and experience that same feeling: of being home away from home. 

The largest Bulgarian community in the States lives in Chicago. I was amazed to meet all these people looking for opportunities to send their kids to Bulgaria and give them a chance to immerse themselves in the Bulgarian culture, history and tradition. Samantha Harvey, AUBG Admissions Counselor, presented the various options that AUBG offers to young people. Among them, the Summer Camp was the hottest topic. 

Following Samantha’s presentation, AUBG Development Director Irena Macheva (EMBA‘18) spoke about the university’s current affairs and stressed on the importance of alumni involvement in university life.  

I spoke to some of the AUBG alumni in Chicago. Here's what they had to share:  

Teodora Boteva, EMBA (’04)

 Head of Commercial and Economic Office at Consulate General of Bulgaria in Chicago

"After graduating from the AUBG EMBA Program in 2004, my life changed drastically. I was working in the state administration at that time but decided to quit and started working as a business developer. I was heavily involved in the oil and gas sectors, and I was doing infrastructural projects around the world. 

Nowadays, I work as a contractor to the Government and I work at the General Consulate in Chicago. The diploma allowed me not only to travel around the globe but also to work internationally. The most valuable thing for me was the fact that the program changed my way of thinking. I graduated from a Bulgarian university, but the American style of education is very different – they are not comparable. American education puts more emphasis on critical thinking and teaches you how to analyze data and abstract patterns. It gives you the freedom to think and analyze and not just memorize information. It taught me how to find different approaches so that I am more innovative instead of using simple applications of already invented solutions. 

My advice to current students is to learn how to fail. They need to try new things, make mistakes – this will help them understand the consequences of their decisions. Because if we protect ourselves too much, we will start making mistakes at a later stage in our lives – when it will be challenging to overcome them. What motivates me is that I want to make things not only with my hands but also with my brain and see the results. I want to see that when I do something – no matter of the time it will take to happen –I will be proud of the result."

Tatyana Bezinska (’12)

 Major: Business Administration, minor: Journalism and Mass Communication

 Senior Analyst, H&B vertical

"Even before graduating from AUBG, I attended the Job Fair at the university and received a job offer on the spot from a UK company that was working on a big project with eBay. The company was looking to hire a lot of talents, so many of my classmates were recruited. After the project was completed, I moved to my next job in an American company – one of Google’s vendors. Luckily, I won a green card and after long debating, I decided to move to the States. I first went to Ohio but then decided to move to Chicago. Most of my jobs are as a business analyst and now I am doing the same but for a huge company with a lot of opportunities for lateral movements. In this way, a person can try different things in a variety of departments and can decide what they are most passionate about. 

What I liked most about AUBG was its diversity. Given the fact that my hometown is Blagoevgrad, for me, it was of utmost importance to meet new people. I still keep in touch with most of my classmates no matter where they are now. My class consisted of students from more than 30 nationalities. This communication, this exchange of ideas, has helped me a lot and helps me even now. The work I do at the moment requires a lot of communication with people from different backgrounds and nationalities and I believe I learned how to do that at AUBG. 

AUBG is a top university in Bulgaria and none of us had difficulties in finding a job soon after graduation. My class was extremely successful – as I said before, exactly two weeks after graduation, a lot of people had already found their jobs. The connection between us is very strong and this is something really rare and special. My advice to current students would be to enjoy their first year, but after that, they need to think hard about their majors – it should be something they are passionate about, but also it has to be applicable. They should also take part in as many extracurricular activities as possible because it is a great experience. I was a part of Better Community Club, which focuses on social projects – a good way to give back to the community. I am very attached to the university; we are a family, here is why I came tonight. I just feel that giving back to the university that has helped us to become what we are today is the right thing to do."

Nikoleta Morales ‘08

 Major: Journalism and Mass Communication; Minor: Political Science and International Relations; Master in Journalism, Roosevelt University

 Associate Editor

"I work as an entertainment journalist and I frequently interview Hollywood stars but also ones on an international scale. This year I was attending the Oscars and was covering stories for FF2 Media, New York. I also write stories for Cultured Focus in New York, Montana Press in Montana and most recently, I was approved to work as film critique for Cherry Picks, which is similar to Rotten Tomatoes. In addition, I work as a PR and I have been working for movie stars and singers. If I have to describe my life in two words, these would be PR and Journalism. The most valuable lesson I learned at AUBG - to be yourself and be successful at what you want because many people try to influence you because they believe they know you well, but you know yourself best. My chosen career path is a bit unusual and many people tried to convince me to do something else, but I was persistent and followed my dream thanks to my professors who always believed in me and thanks to the incredible friendships I made at AUBG. I would advise current students not to give up because the journalism profession is not an easy one but it is very fulfilling. Even if it is difficult at certain points in life, just follow your passion and one day, you will achieve what you want. I miss AUBG a lot and I know that all of the alumni feel the same way. I am extremely proud of the success of my fellow alumni."

Chicago left its mark on me. Such a gorgeous, creative, artistic place. Wherever you are in the city, you see art in all shapes and forms. The spacious parks, the riverside, the lake, the buildings… Modern skyscrapers and beautiful old buildings all contribute to the city’s magnificent look. No wonder why so many people choose Chicago for their home. 

Sunday, Sept. 21, 11 a.m. We are ready to leave for Chicago Airport. I go back to Bulgaria with a suitcase packed with small gifts for the family and my great OCM team. I also carry with me tons of precious memories.  

Sofia – Atlanta – New York – Boston – Chicago – Sofia – Blagoevgrad, AUBG Campus: 20,257 km. In each place that I visited, one thing was always present: the AUBG spirit. We AUBGers feel at home wherever we go because there is at least one alum that will be there and treat us like family. We are around the world. We are making a difference. We are leaving a mark. We are AUBG.

Story by Albena Kehayova

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