- Course: German and International Relations
- Nationality: Bulgarian
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I am Lia and I come from Bulgaria. I am currently in the final year of my Bachelor’s degree in German and International Relations. I had the amazing opportunity to secure a placement position in Germany during my third academic year and it turned out to be one of the most significant experiences in my life so far. I worked for the biggest private pharmaceutical company worldwide, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma, as a Specialist in Congress & Meeting Management.
I have always been interested in the public sector and therefore I have tried to build relevant work experience through volunteering or summer internships in institutions like the Youth Red Cross, The Duke of Edinburgh Award, and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Bulgaria.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I have had an affiliation with foreign languages since first grade and the opportunity to combine my interest with a subject that would allow me to explore many aspects from politics and economics to education and history was the most suitable career path for me. The University of Leeds was of my biggest interests as I saw the chance to work and improve my employability skills while being enrolled on my Bachelor’s programme. The decision to study abroad was a big step to take but our university has made feel like I am at the right place through various international initiatives, support services and the choice of student societies.
I have been an Intercultural Ambassador, an Assistant at “Students Go Global” at the Language Zone and I am currently a Link to Leeds Student Ambassador. To know that I can be of help to prospective students who are going through the same makes my time in Leeds more enriching and unforgettable.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
“International relations” is a broad subject – I can say that so far, my academic journey has allowed me to look at it from different angles. Since high school I was interested in history and politics and my choice has even surpassed my initial expectations. There are a lot of professionals who have engaged really well with their modules and this way I have found motivation to learn new things every day. I have also decided to write my final dissertation project in the School of Politics and International Studies due to this fact and the broad range of expertise.
What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most?
I particularly enjoy the fact that International Relations unveils many aspects of the international political and economic cooperation whether it would be European Politics, Security Studies or German History in the 19th century. I am grateful for the opportunity to study a Joint Honours Degree with wide variety of different discovery modules each year. I have managed to be part of more than four different faculties on campus and this way to get out of my comfort zone while becoming a better version of myself along the way.
Have you worked closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff? Tell us about that experience.
One of my favourite parts of the university life so far is the interaction with my personal tutor - Dr Stephan Petzold. He is the director of the German department but also have been an active part of my first and third academic years. When I first arrived in the UK, I was overwhelmed while going through the initial culture shock, but this was the person who supported me with invaluable “tips and tricks” on overcoming this and focusing on how I can get the most of my time here.
Unfortunately, my placement in Germany coincided with the outbreak of COVID-19 and I was not able to experience everything as imagined. However, Dr Petzold was there all the time and provided me with useful ideas on overcoming the stress of unplanned situations and turning them into positive experience while learning how adaptable and flexible I am.
I am lucky to have him as my personal tutor during my whole time at the university as I feel he knows me now and provides with the best support I can ask for.
What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?
As mentioned before, University of Leeds provides unlimited resources to everyone who is keen on further personal development outside their studies.
I firstly engaged with the Bulgarian and German societies, but later I was also part of the Yoga and Swing societies where I met some of my best friends in Leeds. It has been an enriching experience due to the fact that I really opened my mindset to all the things that I thought would support my further personal and career path. I now feel more confident when it comes to communication, teamwork, and independence.
One of the most favourite moments so far has been my role in the World Unite Festival in 2019 as an External Relations Coordinator and Intercultural Ambassador. Myself and my fellow team members have faced many challenging moments while delivering our final project “5 Intercultural Ways of Well-being”, so that it can be of best help to everyone who needed some motivation and support while enjoying and learning more about their time as students. To feel motivated and appreciated was an amazing feeling and I am glad that I challenged myself and overcame the initial barrier of trying something completely new and not giving up.
What do you plan to do when you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed so far at Leeds will help with these plans?
I am currently planning on continuing my academic journey with a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management which would allow me to build up on my current knowledge while learning many new things about the public and private sectors at the same time.
My placement year in Germany has played an important role in identifying my personal and career aspirations and how to achieve them step by step. I am now much more aware of how to overcome challenges, work in a team and be a reliable group member, conduct research independently and think critically. All this knowledge is applicable to each work field and make me feel optimistic of the time when I start applying for jobs. My final year is now another good source of preparation for what comes next in terms of time pressure and juggling between responsibilities.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
If you see yourself as a person who is interested in being part of two different schools, spending a year abroad in a German-speaking country and learning new things each day then Leeds is the right place for you.
I know the hard work may sound a bit overwhelming at first, but at the end it really is a rewarding experience especially when you try to get the most out of it. Persistence, dedication, and confidence are the ingredients to being the best version of yourself no matter the difficulties along the way. To be open-minded and to accept each challenge as an opportunity to grow was another lesson I learned, and I feel like everyone needs to hear it.