Hometown: Sofia, Bulgaria
Major: Double Major in Psychology and Russian
Why did you come to Bowdoin College?
Itís a long story that does not necessarily make sense. I went to an American high school in Bulgaria. My parents chose it for me because in 1995 Bulgaria was dealing with the aftermath of communism and its fall. Things were glum. My parents convinced me that it would be best to get an American-style education and try to go to college in the US. As a senior in high school I was trying to choose colleges, and so was the rest of my graduating class. Since only a few liberal arts schools in the US give scholarships to international students, competition was high. My college counselor did not want too many of us applying to the same school, so he directed me to a couple of schools. One of them was Bowdoin. I had never been to the US before, I did not know the difference between Maine and Florida, and when Bowdoin said they wanted me, I felt flattered and accepted the offer.
Why did you decide on your major?
I have wanted to be a psychologist ever since I was the age of twelve. Understanding the human mind for some reason gives me pleasure and I find helping people relieve their own pain to be a rewarding experience.
As for my Russian major, before communism fell, Russian as a language was a compulsory part of the schoolsí curriculum in Bulgaria. I was in third grade when the ďcurtainĒ fell and as a result, I only received two years of Russian. When I got to Bowdoin, I wanted to learn a third language and I picked Russian as a sign of recognition to my past and also because itís phonetically close to Bulgarian. In the past eight years I have lost close to 96% of my hearing so learning a totally new language would have been impossible for me. Russian is phonetically close to Bulgarian, but still a different and difficult language.
What's the best class you've ever taken at Bowdoin?
Professor Barbara Heldís Threesome Personality, Abnormal Personality and Philosophy, Psychology and Psychotherapy have been the highlights of my Bowdoin education. I grew up with the idea that psychologists are omnipotent professionals who know about you more than you do. Well, these three courses exposed me to certain truths about the homogeneity of psychology as a field and the effectiveness of therapy and medication. I learned that psychology has more academic problems than solutions. On the background of the psychology department, I think Professor Heldís courses are the best ones to present you with the current debates and problems in psychology. In academia, sometimes thereís the tendency to impose empiricism as the method and I do not find her guilty of such a thing.
What extracurricular activities do you participate in?
I dedicate a lot of my time to FORWARD, the campus group of people with disabilities. My job is to organize activities that create campus awareness on issues affecting people with disabilities. I am loyal to the people at FORWARD because I understand their difficulties and they understand mine. I like the fact that the group has the power to bring disabilities into the attention of people and in this way foster understanding and acceptance.
As a sophomore and junior, I was active with the International Club. At that time we had a large, strong group of people and we did a lot of things together.
I do a few other things on campus and I also work with several Bulgarian foundations on disability rights and problems of hard of hearing people in Bulgaria. Most of my non-academic time I like to devote to my friends. My friends and family are the most precious thing I have so I like to give them a lot of attention.
What's your best Bowdoin memory?
Last May two of my friends showed up in my apartment at about 5pm and asked me to go to Landís End with them. I am no writer, it will be somebody elseís job to describe the ride to Landís End with all the bridges and the smell of mud from the low-tide. It was spring. We were listening to Jean Wyclef and The Fugees, listening toThe Score, pretending to smoke cigarettes.
It was one of the first warm days of spring and sitting in a pair of menís shorts at Landís End was fantastic. We talked about everything and anything and started to go back because one of us wanted to go to a lecture about the abstract creations of the human mind. Go figure. He was late for that anyway, so we sat in Cookís Restaurant for a while, just talking.
At the restaurant, they had a map with pins on the places where some of their customers come from. They did not have one on Bulgaria, so my friend went to the manager and told him to put a pin there. ďI had to be very specific,Ē he said when he came back. It was cute of him. After dark we drove back to campus, stopping once on the last bridge to listen to more Fugees.
What's your strangest or funniest experience while at Bowdoin?
Well, most of my bizarre experiences do not fit the format of this profile. One strange experience was the first freezing rain I saw at Bowdoin: It always amazes me when the rain falls and immediately freezes on the ground, forming a deadly sheet of ice (Iíve never fallen).
Have you done any independent study/honors projects?
I did an independent study with Professor Putnamís Toddler Project. The course was designed to aid his psychological study on the relationship between parenting and child temperament and at the same time provide the students in the course with the opportunity to take part in a real-life psychological study. Because of my accent, some of the children would have had a hard time understanding me, so I mostly filmed sessions and coded data. Other students took part in the study acted as experimenters in the sessions.
Have you studied away during your time at Bowdoin?
I spent a semester in Yaroslavl, Russia. Itís a small city four hours north of Moscow. I went because I wanted to see Russia and how things are going there after the fall of the Soviet Union. As one of the other people on the program put it, ďWe were not living, we were surviving there.Ē Life for most Russians is very hard right now and just witnessing their hardship was a tough thing to do. With time I learned that Russiaís beauty is not readily available just as say, Veniceís beauty is. You have to look for it, you have to create your own joy.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I am planning to do lower lever social work for a year or two and then pursue an international masterís degree in social work somewhere in Europe.
Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here
that you would want prospective students to know?
If prospective students would accept my advice, I would say: Donít expect that things you want will be readily available at Bowdoin. Bowdoin offers valuable resources, but your own experience is whatever you make of it.