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Mirela from Bulgaria is a student at Avans: ‘It has helped me grow’

Mirela Petrova

In September, Mirela Petrova from Bulgaria began her studies in International Business in Breda. Just a few months in, and she already knows she made the right choice to study abroad. “The Netherlands and Avans have so much to offer me.”

It was a huge step for 19-year-old Mirela; to leave her mid-sized Bulgarian city for a country she had never even visited. So choosing an Avans programme in Breda was a conscious choice for her. “Breda isn’t that big either, and I felt at home at Avans”, Mirela explains. “The city has the right balance for me. There are growth opportunities, but it is peaceful here, too.”

Mirela was lucky to find a place to live in the Avans city. “I live alone in an apartment. It was great that I did not have to worry about housing any longer.” By now, she feels pretty at home in the city. “Dutch people are very nice. Almost everyone speaks English, and those who do not try to help anyway, for example by using gestures.” She is happy that everything is so well-organised in the Netherlands. “Registration with the municipality, opening a bank account, those things go quickly here.”

In the beginning, Mirela did miss her friends and family. “When I first got here I was homesick, but I knew that stepping out of my comfort zone would make me more independent.” But she still had her doubts: “Did I make the right choice? Is the Avans study method a good fit for me? Will I like living alone?” During the first few weeks of the academic year meetings were organised for new international Avans students, and this is where she noticed that most students like striking up a conversation. “We are all in the same boat. Everyone is eager to meet new people and not feel lonely.”

She got off to a good start at Avans, but it did take the first-year student some time to get used to her study programme’s teaching method, because it was different to what she had been used to at home. “The first year is all about completing projects, there are no exams. It’s all about learning by doing.” In Mirela’s experience, education in Bulgaria is much more theoretical. “At Avans, you get a lot of personal attention as a student. I’ve been asked repeatedly if I need help. This is very important to me. Beforehand, nobody said it would be easy, so I expected the study programme to be challenging for me. But it does help me to become more independent. I am responsible for my own marks and progress.”

Mirela would definitely recommend studying abroad to other students. “After only two months, I can already say that it has helped me grow. I have set goals for myself and asked myself, how can I achieve them?” Mirela also has advice that she would like to pass on to fellow students. “Be open-minded. Try to be open to different cultures and personality types. Don’t let prejudice hold you back, but form your own ideas instead. Be curious, do not accept average knowledge and skills. If you have a clear goal in mind and persevere, then you will really boost your confidence.”

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