Alumni Profile: Neli Kirilova

Published: 24 August 2020

Year of graduation: 2015


Current employment:

  • PhD Candidate in International Relations and Security Studies, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  • Visiting Fellow – Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent

Looking back, what were the highlights of your time as an International Master’s student on our programme?

For me, the IMRCEES was an accelerator of great personal and professional growth. I found as its most precious asset the opportunity to meet amazing people from different parts of the world, each one ambitious and successful in their field of interest.

Some of the professional experiences which I had during the program include:

  • Program representative, in coordination with EACEA of the European Commission, 2013-2015;
  • Erasmus Mundus Association representative – EMA ambassador event in Sofia, 2015;
  • Visiting Fellow – Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, Baku and Ilia State University, Georgia, 2014;
  • Third mobility – Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, 2015;
  • Second mobility – Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary, 2014-2015;
  • First mobility – University of Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, 2013-2014.

What aspects of the programme did you find challenging?

Responding to the administrative and educational requirements in completely different from each other countries was a challenge. I studied in Bulgaria and in Spain prior to the programme. During IMRCEES, I studied in the UK, Hungary and Russia, with a fellowship visit in Azerbaijan and Georgia. In this sequence, the biggest challenge for me was to fit the requirements in South-Eastern (post-Soviet, Balkan), followed by southern Mediterranean, followed by independent-democratic UK, followed by Central Europe, then post-communist rule in Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It was interesting though, but really challenging. Because what was encouraged as positive behaviour in some of the societies, was assessed as completely negative in others.

For example, being self-centred is considered good in the West, while rude in the East. Being loud and close to the others is considered necessary in the South, while intimidating in the North. Academic writing is evaluated high in the North-West, while physical presence and public speaking is evaluated high in the South-East. So, I had to perform a quick change of contradictory values, which was confusing and took me time to adapt.

Do you have any advice for future students?

Yes. Do your best to take as many opportunities to learn as possible – not only from the content of the studies, but from the social norms and social behaviour as well. Understanding the root causes for different perceptions in different societies is precious. It gives to people skills of adaptation, understanding the motives behind behaviour of the others and cool-minded assessment.

Has the degree helped you in your professional life, since graduating?

Yes. I had the chance to work for the Permanent Representation of Bulgaria to the EU during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council, for the European Commission and for the Committee of the Regions. In my jobs, I was dealing directly with the Black Sea region, which was my focus during the IMRCEES.

Currently, I am in my last year of PhD, where I further develop the topic from my MA degree.

How successful have the other members of your cohort been in the job market?

They are pretty successful. 

First published: 24 August 2020