Ilona Lalova (‘05): ‘My experience at AUBG was truly transformative’
Fun. Family. Future. That’s how Ilona Lalova ('05) summarizes her AUBG journey in three words. Ilona graduated from AUBG in 2005 and is currently serving as a Content Strategy Manager at UNICEF in New York.
While at AUBG, Ilona majored in Business Administration and Journalism and Mass Communication. Apart from being a diligent student, Ilona was also an active member of Radio Aura. She keeps very warm memories of her academic and extracurricular adventures.
“Aside from the very solid academic background and the critical thinking that the university provided me with, the truly life-changing experience came also with the people and the friendships that I formed there,” she said. “The powerful community and the excellent professors were an integral part of shaping up my outlook on life.”
Having graduated from AUBG, Ilona moved to New York where she pursued a master’s degree in media studies. Despite being thousands of miles away from her family, Ilona never felt lonely.
“I never really felt far away from home,” she said. "There are many fellow AUBG-ers that are close by. We’re really everywhere in the world.”
Ilona found it easy to adapt to the vibrant world of New York. After spending four years in the diverse community of AUBG, Ilona had developed strong intercultural communication skills. She was fully prepared to conquer the world. “Before joining AUBG, I’ve been abroad just once,” she said. “Having the opportunity to meet all these people coming from different backgrounds paved the way to how I saw my future unfold.”
After settling down in New York and completing her master’s degree, Ilona made her first career moves. She joined the international team of EMI Records. She also worked for a small startup focused on building eco projects in the Caribbean.
The turning point in Ilona’s career came with her decision to sign up for an internship in the United Nations. Today Ilona counts more than ten years of experience in the global organization. In 2020, her efforts paid off and she was promoted to the post of a Content Strategy Manager at UNICEF.
Despite her impressive work history, Ilona acknowledges that finding a professional vocation is anything but easy. She still remembers how scared and confused she felt at the end of her AUBG journey.
“It’s funny how often we rush to be done with school and university, only to realize that life is very different on the other side,” she said. “It took me years to learn what I like and what I don’t like; how to say no, how to master self-confidence and trust my gut feeling.”
Having personally experienced the post-university uncertainty, Ilona advises all graduating seniors to embrace the unknown and draw inspiration from the people in their network.
“If I can say one thing to those who feel overwhelmed and anxious for their life after AUBG is to talk to the people around them,” she said. “(…) Be curious about what people have done in the past! This is the best way to learn. Knowledge sharing and building a strong network are the best things you can do for yourself, while at school. What I found out is that oftentimes ideas come from the people around us. You have to be open, honest and curious. You have to put yourself out there,” Ilona concludes.