For Dimitriya Paunova ('10), the Best Is Yet to Come
It was Tuesday night. I was finally at home, tired from all the work and classes I had that day. While waiting for an important call, I felt excited and a bit nervous. I know how busy people could be, but then I got a message from Dimitriya, that she is ready to talk. In that moment, all the anxiety and tiredness disappeared. During the interview, I wasn’t exhausted at all, maybe because I was drinking my third coffee, but mostly because Dimitriya answered all the questions in a very intriguing way.
After joining our Zoom meeting straight after work, she said with her calm and confident voice: “Zdravei.” I was so happy to hear her speak in Bulgarian. However, we switched to English when she started introducing herself.
Dimitriya has a British accent. However, I wasn’t surprised because she has been living and working in software marketing in London for almost eight years now. Dimitriya describes herself as adventurous, open-minded, and a giver rather than a taker. Taking care of others is in her philosophy. She is one of those people who pursue their dreams, and they come true.
Dimitriya Paunova, Didi for short, opened the conversation with her time at American University in Bulgaria (AUBG). I could feel in her voice the warmth and love while she was talking about the university. She joined in 2006 and started majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and Political Science, but later changed her POS major to European Studies.
“I love AUBG, and it was probably the best decision that I made in terms of education. AUBG is an amazing place, builds such amazing relationships with people, and gives you a very diverse experience because we can live with people from different countries and learn from international professors. I tried to get the best out of AUBG.” She did quite a lot — a work and travel exchange program in Hungary, she was part of many clubs and a Resident Assistant. Not only that, but she was very sociable, and she noticed that everywhere she goes, she meets someone from AUBG, which is exciting for her.
After her graduation in 2010, she decided to start a career in marketing and advertising. At first, Didi stayed in Bulgaria for three years. She did an internship for a PR agency and a newspaper to see her options and what she likes and wants to do. Three years later, she started her master's degree in London because she wanted to expand her horizons. She wanted to meet new people and didn’t plan to stay in London, but is now in her seventh year there. Her first job was in software marketing during her dissertation. She wasn’t interested at first because she did pharmaceutical advertising in Bulgaria and thought she would continue doing that. But that first job in London gave her the direction of her career development.
Her whole experience in England was a bit harder because she is a foreigner. She felt like she was starting a bit later than English people because they graduate from university at 21 and start working immediately. She moved to London when she was 25 and one year later started her first job. But she was competing with people who had five years of experience. This was hard for her, but she was motivated and took this challenge.
Although Didi didn’t know many people in London, she quickly made friends through her master’s program. She had only two English colleagues, all the other students were international. A whole new international experience. On the one hand, very similar to AUBG, but on the other, very different. “We were very spoiled coming from AUBG. We were getting so much support and working together, living together, all of this. A community spirit. The final result depended on so many things.” But in London, she didn’t have this. “You go to classes, study and have one assignment, and one final exam, and that’s it. If you fail, you fail.”
Didi has achieved a lot in her work. In the third company she worked for, she had to build a marketing team from scratch because she was the only marketing person at the beginning. Four years later she moved to another where she works with 2500, which is a whole new challenge and experience.
Despite her career success, Didi wants to do something more from a humanitarian perspective. She wants to help others. Together with a friend, she volunteers to help elderly people in London, but it is difficult right now because of the pandemic. “Unfortunately in this country, many of the elderly people who live in their homes don’t speak to anyone and they need physical contact because they haven’t talked to anyone in years. This makes a difference in a person’s life, and now because we can’t visit them because of the coronavirus, we can at least call them and make sure that they are alright.”
Taking care of herself is important for Didi. In her free time, she loves traveling and socializing. She often goes to visit her best friend, Lora, who lives in Cyprus. They met on their first day of orientation week at AUBG and have been best friends ever since. Lora described their relationship like this: “It doesn’t matter if it is something positive or negative, I always call and tell her. We laugh together, cry together, I can tell her everything. I can definitely say she is a friend for a lifetime.” Even though Lora has been living in Cyprus for almost ten years, and Didi lives in London, they are still best friends. They have a really strong relationship and visit each other at least three times a year.
Didi is a person who believes that everything can be better, and her favorite quote is: “The best is yet to come.” She encourages everyone to live by this quote because if you have a positive attitude, your dream can easily come true, just like hers.
This story is part of a series of alumni profiles by current students for professor Laura Kelly's Advanced Writing for Media class.