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To Chicago and Back, Part One: Atlanta

September 25, 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 meet with prospective students and AUBG alumni living in the States.

Borders don't matter; what matters is the people that connect us. Inspired by the great Bulgarian writer Aleko Konstantinov and his travel book "To Chicago and Back," this travelogue has no ambition to compare to his masterpiece. But it served as a focal point of compiling the thoughts and emotions that this trip evoked in me.

AUBG campus. Sofia airport. Atlanta.

Cozy, warm, inviting space full of excitement. One would think that the eight people at the table represent a family reunion - and in a way, it was precisely that. The first-ever AUBG alumni gathering in Atlanta Sept. 12 brought together alumni from various backgrounds and career paths and AUBG Interim President Dr. David Evans and his wife Ursula, Development Director Irena Macheva (EMBA '18) and me, Albena Kehayova (EMBA '16), Communications and Marketing Director at AUBG.

As we all enjoyed delicious food and friendly talk, the word most commonly used at the dinner – community – explained it all. No matter how far away we are from one another, there will always be one thing that draws us together: AUBG.  

Anna Traykova ('02), Emilian Marinov ('96), Rostislava Ivanova ('08), and Nadezhda Zlateva ('01) were eager to learn all about the new developments at the university. We, on the other hand, wanted to hear more about their lives and adventures after graduation.

Here is what Emilian and Rostislava had to share about their AUBG experience and the advice they gave to current students: 

Emilian Marinov ('96), Managing Director, Ernst and Young
Majors at AUBG: Business Administration and International Relations, MBA, Georgetown University

"At AUBG, I learned that having a good network is of utmost importance in the business world. Also, acquiring a good education in combination with keeping in touch with your classmates and future colleagues is the basis of success. Actually, fellow alum Svetoslav Nikov, who now is a partner in a hedge fund in New York, told me that. He said to me: 'At some point, you will learn all the formulas and everything related to finances, but from then on, your development depends on the contacts you establish and sustain with others. You will have to collaborate, to share similar interests and goals.' 

My one piece of advice to the current AUBG students would be to stay in touch and build their network because these people might be crucial for their future – they might open a door for them. Also, current students should not hesitate to contact alumni, but once they do it – they should be prepared, respect other people's time, do their own research and homework. 

I am here tonight because I wanted to connect with other AUBG alumni living in the Atlanta area. I have lived in New York and Washington, where it was quite easy to meet other Bulgarians. Here in Atlanta, the Bulgarian community is tiny. But at some point, you come to realize that you make friends with people from different cultural backgrounds and you don't have this necessity to surround yourself only with Bulgarians. A lesson also learned at AUBG."

Rostislava Ivanova (‘08)
Major at AUBG: Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and Human Recourses, MBA, Darden School of Business

"My first job after graduation was at a Bulgarian HR company, where I was responsible for organizing training events, team buildings, soft skills development, etc. I spent two years there, but I wasn't yet sure whether I want to pursue a career in the HR or the Marketing field. And after recruiting many marketing people, I decided that I want to develop as a product manager. One AUBG alumna was working in British American Tobacco at that time and this is what opened the door to an interview that resulted in a job.

Later, I also spent some time in Samsung but I missed the FMCG sector and its dynamics and this is why I went back to the tobacco industry and joined Bulgartabak's team.

Spending time in the labor market helped me better shape my future and led me to my next destination – pursuing a master's degree in Darden School of Business. It was again AUBG that made this possible through awarding me the Tchaprachikoff scholarship. Actually, a friend of mine, a fellow AUBG alumna, recommended me the school. 

And in July 2015 I landed in Richmond, Virginia where I was met by, what a surprise, another AUBG alumna. When I think of it – AUBG has been an integral part of my life. I came tonight because I have always been very engaged with AUBG and the alumni community. I served as a vice president of the AUBG Alumni Association (2013 – 2016). The first thing I did when I came to work in Atlanta was to look for other AUBG alumni in the area. Throughout the years, I have maintained a very close relationship with the university. The most valuable lesson I learned is that teamwork is everything. I know this is a cliché and it seems easy, but in fact, it is hard. My piece of advice to the current AUBG students is to try building a network. This is something of huge importance."

The time flew by in an instant. Firm handshakes, hugs, smiles and promises for monthly AUBG alumni meetings in Atlanta. And hopes: to see each other again soon. 

Atlanta stroke me as a charming and green city with helpful and polite people. The warm atmosphere at our dinner resonated well with the weather – 36+ degrees and high humidity, almost like Blagoevgrad. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why I felt right at home in beautiful Atlanta. And I made new friends – an Uber driver, a waitress, a seller at CVS. Still, nothing can compare to the friendships I made that evening on Sept. 12. I know that if I ever happen to be in Atlanta again, there will always be someone happy to see me. 

One tip for when you visit Atlanta: don't forget to free some time for the Georgia Aquarium – TripAdvisor rates it as the world's most magical aquarium.

It is 5 a.m. and we are packing for the next exciting event. New York, here we come!

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