ESCI-UPF

Interview with Yvette Dimitrova

“Barcelona and the BDBI program won my heart”

BDBI Interviw Yvette Dimitrova
Yvette Dimitrova. / Photo: ESCI-UPF

Yvette Dimitrova is from Varna, Bulgaria, and she is a first-year student of the Bachelor’s Degree in Bioinformatics. In this interview, she shares how the experience of following the BDBI as an international student is going.

Yvette Dimitrova is 18 and is from Varna, a city on the Black Sea shore of Bulgaria. In her spare time, she loves reading all kind of books. Right now, she is reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen –one of her favourite authors–, but she also enjoys swimming, listening to music and hanging out with friends.

For those who do not know Bulgaria, Yvette says it is a beautiful country, with astounding natural landscapes and amazing orthodox cathedrals. She also raves about the Bulgarian food –which she is already missing– and mentions the banitsa, a traditional rolled pastry dish made with eggs, cheese and milk.

During her high school years, she moved from Varna to Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, and this year she decided to move abroad to study for the Bachelor’s Degree in Bioinformatics. Although she still has problems explaining to her grandmother what she is studying, Yvette goes into detail about the reasons that led her to Barcelona and chose the BDBI.

1. Have you ever heard of Bioinformatics before discovering the BDBI program?

I always knew I wanted to study something interdisciplinary. I did a Physics profile in high school, and I was interested in lots of things besides physics. Indeed, my Biology teacher inspired me, so I decided to study something related to it.

Other than that, I was pretty good at maths, and I had a lot of friends who followed the IT profile –and I also became interested in it. So, even if I did not know exactly what Bioinformatics was, I knew it was the discipline I was searching for.

2. How did you get to know about the Bachelor’s Degree in Bioinformatics?

At school, we had some college admissions counselors that helped me a lot in choosing what I wanted to study. I also went to different education fairs about countries or cities where to study. There I realized I wanted to come here, to Barcelona.

Then, I searched for university programs related to Biology in Spain taught in English, and the BDBI program was the one that won my heart.

3. Why did you decide to enrol in the BDBI?

The main reasons I chose the BDBI are because it is an interdisciplinary degree and it is highly international. Besides, it was easy to talk to the people from the university. When I was enrolling, I spoke with Ainhara del Pozo, the academic coordinator assistant, and she explained everything I needed to know.

Other than that, an important factor to apply for the BDBI was the internship program. And, in addition, I really appreciated that all the steps of the enrolment process were very punctual. This does not happen usually and made me feel that people here know what they are doing.

4. Was it difficult to follow the admission process to apply for the Bachelor’s Degree in Bioinformatics?

I did not know which university of the BDBI joint degree was the central one, so at the beginning, I was a bit confused. Nevertheless, I found all the information on the website and the admission process was easy and fast.

The only problem with the application was the timing. It was pretty late, so I had to apply to some universities in Bulgaria as well, and I was feeling like “what if I do not get accepted?” but everything turned out fine, and I am really happy about it.

5. When you started the degree, did you already meet or speak with some of your classmates? Is it easy to interact with them?

The only information I had was from Ainhara –she told me that there would be other international students in the class. So, I did not know anybody before starting the first lesson of the BDBI, but we did a group chat one week after we met each other.

My classmates are so open about speaking in English, and they also want to learn more about my country and my culture, which I think is amazing. But I also feel like they are very insecure about their English, which is crazy because they can speak English perfectly!

6. Is it easy to follow the BDBI courses? Are you adapting quickly to the university system?

So far, the courses are what I was expecting. I thought it would be hard, especially in the working groups with my classmates, because I do not speak Spanish. But it is perfect, I have no problems understanding the lectures, and I think it is going pretty well.

With regard to the university system, you have to study a lot at home –review the material and also prepare for a practical exercise– which I was not very used to doing when I was in high school– but I think I am learning to study on my own pretty well, which is amazing. Furthermore, I also like that the BDBI learning method is more about applying the knowledge you acquire than simple memorization.

7. How is the experience of living in Barcelona? Was it hard to find accommodation?

It is a completely new experience –especially having to take care of myself on my own and having to think about 20 different things at once. Living in Barcelona is great, and I am trying to balance the housework with exploring the city and focus on my studies.

Currently, I am living at Residència d’Investigadors, a RESA residence in the Raval neighbourhood. The place is really good, and it was very easy to find the RESA housing service because there is a link on the ESCI-UPF website. Unfortunately, the nearest residences were already full, so I asked if they would accept me at the Investigadors –which is set aside for master and PhD students. I applied for accommodation before coming to Barcelona, and the process was amazingly quick: I sent my application at 10 AM and, 4 hours later, they gave me the answer.

8. What would you like to do when you finish the degree? Which are your future expectations?

If I manage to graduate, I think the BDBI would definitely help me to find great career opportunities. For sure I would like to sign up for a masters degree, and I want to do it abroad: either in Spain or somewhere else, because I really like travelling. I think the master will be related to Biology –maybe Genetics?–, although we just had a few sessions, and two BDBI alumni told us they changed their mind on their career path during the degree.

9. Are you aware of the status of Bioinformatics research or Bioinformatics related enterprises in Bulgaria? Do you think you would have job opportunities there once you finish the degree?

In Bulgaria, we have a lot of science centres. There is the Sofia Tech Park, a science hub created to boost the development of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. There is also research done in Bulgarian universities, even if the government does not pour many resources into science.

I have not decided yet if I will return to Bulgaria to develop my career there, but I hope it will be one of my options – and I want to be 100% sure of my choice when I make it. Anyway, if I come back, I will do something very Biology related or either very IT, and I would prefer to do something in between… We will see!

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