AUBG Student Alexandra Gouleva Selected Student Delegate at the Athens Democracy Forum
Alexandra Gouleva, who studies Political Science and European Studies at AUBG, was among the students selected to participate at this year’s Athens Democracy Forum. The event, organized by the Democracy & Culture Foundation, in association with The New York Times, gathers together political, business and NGO leaders to discuss the pressing issues facing democracy. As part of her work as student delegate, Gouleva presented a video on capitalism in a post-COVID world. The video ended up being one of the eight selected to be screened at the Forum.
The POS and EU student, who’s also a participant at the AUBG MultiTalent Quest and member of the Better Community Club, shares her impressions of the forum and talks about what made her decide to study at AUBG and what are her plans for after graduation.
How did you get selected to participate in the Athens Democracy Forum?
I first heard about the Athens Democracy Forum from one of my professors from last year, Professor Diego Lucci, who sent me an email with the application. He told me that they are looking for students who want to be student delegates and he thought that I would be a good fit for a nominee. Then I applied, I had to write an essay and send my CV and then there were a few very anxious weeks of waiting from April until end of May. Then I got the news from Robert White that I got selected to be a nominee.
Your video was also one of the eight selected to be screened at the forum. What is the content of the video?
One of the tasks that we had to do as student delegates over the summer was to create a video project. They wanted to include student opinions on some of the topics that the panellists would be talking about. But the whole point of the videos was to counterpoint, meaning that two students would take opposing sides on one issue. For example, my topic was capitalism in a post-COVID world and we had to argue whether the state was responsible for handling this crisis and solving these economic issues or whether that was the responsibility of the corporations. I chose to argue that the state inherently had this responsibly because the reason people created the state at the beginning of civilization was that its fundamental responsibility was to protect the people and to enact laws to facilitate their development. I argued that the pandemic and the economic crisis that followed was a responsibility of the state, but that does not mean that corporations were completely blameless or that they should stay on the side. I argued that they should be incentivised to develop practices and policies that would benefit citizens and invest in sustainable research practices, worker benefits etc., instead of only focusing on profits.
What other topics did you discuss at the forum?
One of the panels was on immigration and how to approach the topic of intergrading immigrants or refugees into society, what are the best practices that we can adopt, what are the practices we should avoid. For example, we should avoid simply focusing on accepting refugees, but we should focus more on the integration aspect, we should provide refugees with education instead of leaving them on the fringe of society where they become isolated and left with no prospects. There was also a panel that discussed the role of technology in the world that we live in and whether it’s actually the big bad villain or whether it can actually offer solutions. There was also a panel on the role of belief in society and a conversation on the U.S. elections.
Earlier this year you were part of the AUBG MultiTalent Quest as a judge at the debates, and you competed in the Quest as a high school student. Could you tell me a bit about your background with debates and your experience as a Quester?
My prior experience with debating is that I was part of my high school’s team on speech and debates. I used to take part in “Best Foundation,” they sometimes collaborate with AUBG. I did debates for a couple of years and then I decided to focus more on oratory and speeches.
As for the AUBG MultiTalent Quest, it’s actually a funny story. I hadn’t even considered applying to AUBG. I didn’t know that AUBG existed before I heard about the Quest. One of the teachers just shared one of the flyers that were distributed to the school and I saw it, I saw that there’s debates, arts, social challenge. I was not very keen on the math aspect of the competition but I decided to give it a try. I play the bagpipe and I decided to compete with that. So that is why I signed up for the Quest. And when I came here, I was just blown away. For one, the campus looks so modernized, its nothing like I ever imagined a Bulgarian campus would look like. I met some of the students here, I met some of the participants and I just fell in love with the whole energy and environment and how accepting everybody was. I met some of the professors too and I was like, “OK, that settles it, I am studying here. I am not going to apply anywhere else. AUBG is the place for me.”
What has been your experience as part of the Better Community Club (BCC) at AUBG?
The people at BCC are very accepting. All of them are very ambitious and they pour their energy into organizing all these events with social cause and I actually really like that. Before joining BCC I have participated in one or two charity events but I haven’t been part of an organization that deals with social issues. And I think it’s very important because it actually allows me to become acquainted with some of the root problems that everyday people face. For example, breast cancer, children in foster homes etc. It broadened my horizons to some of the difficulties that some people are facing, and how as a community AUBG can do something to help them, and how we can expand our support on a higher level.
What are you studying at AUBG?
I am studying Political Science (POS) and European Studies аnd I am also minoring in Journalism and Spanish. Ever since I arrived here, I knew right from the get-go that I want Political Science to be my first major. At that point, I had no idea about the prospect to do minors or a second major. I just knew that I want to do POS because I viewed it as the area of study that would allow me to use the skills that I already have and which I want to develop to help as many people as possible. I wanted to do something where I would be useful to the society I live in, and I would leave some sort of positive impact on the world around me.
What are your plans for after graduation?
For a long time, I really wanted to do diplomacy but now as I am studying, I am getting more into Political and EU science. I am thinking of working for maybe Think Tanks or some kind of other job related to EU studies, probably for the EU parliament or the EU commission. And also, potentially in political risk analysis. Because I am a pretty big nerd and I found that this could be one of my strengths because I love reading, I love writing, I love learning about so many different things, and like to argument myself and make some sort of, it can be anything from like a brief opinion paper or research paper, where I can present my argument and I know that the argument is well written substantial and on a more broader level for example on a think tank. I can for example write policy briefs where I offer some recommendations on policies that can actually be useful in the long term.
In what ways do you think your education would be useful to your future career?
When I took foreign policy analysis last semester with prof. Philips, he very much stressed, from the very first class, that the brief we had to write in papers is professional and not academic and we had to get used to this style of writing. I think that very much helped me to be very concise and to the point with my writing and express myself with as few words as possible. That’s one of the things that helped me a lot. The other thing that helped me develop more in the academic field, was when I got called for the open call research grands by the POS and EU studies department here in AUBG. And over the summer I chose a topic to write a research paper on. The requirement was for the research paper to be no less than 3,000 words; I ended up writing 13,000 words. I wanted to focus on Russian disinformation methods or the so-called “Sharp power” tactics. I remember my advisor prof. Sardamov told me “You basically wrote a senior thesis right now, you are just missing the methodology.” So, I think that helped me get an idea of how this can be my full-time job, or to do that on a more regular basis and I found out that I actually really like it. Its though, sometimes I have to stay during the whole night just to read and write a lot. But like I said I’m a nerd so I know that I am good at that, I know that I like it and what better way for me to put my skills into a good use.