From Targovishte to Tilburg

Elena Dineva from Bulgaria studying International Lifestyles Studies

During the ‘Week of the International Student’ (November 13th-17th ) Bron puts the spotlight on foreign students. Why did they choose to study in The Netherlands and specifically at Fontys? Today’s story: Elena Dineva from Bulgaria: “It was love at first sight. Totally.”

How is life in Tilburg?
Elena Dineva (19): “I am here since August, after finishing high school in my home town Targovishte. At first I literally felt butterflies in my stomach, because everything was so brand new. I am quite an emotional person, wanting to absorb things. Of course, it took some time to find my way around. So, in the beginning I was always lost and arriving late. But sure, Tilburg is nice. I like the atmosphere and the people, who are very helpful and understanding.”

What are you studying?
“International Lifestyle Studies at Fontys Academy for Creative Industries. I’m very curious since the day I was born, so I want to explore as many things as possible. I think, ILS allows me to do that. Another thing that appeals to me is the international aspect: my peer students are from all over the world: Chile, Syria, you name it. To be honest, for example my parents still think that the whole ‘lifestyle thing’ is rather abstract. But I really love thinking about practical concepts that enable people to improve their quality of life. The only thing that didn’t quite match my expectations is that I thought ILS would focus on fashion more. But I can always catch up on that later.”

Why Fontys? How did you get here?
“It was hard for me to choose, because I have many interests in different fields. So, in Bulgaria I went to the Dutch study information center Unify and they informed me about the ILS program. After doing some research myself on the internet and visiting the ‘Open Dagen’ last January, I decided to apply. I might say, it was love at first sight! Totally.”

How do you feel about the Fontys Internationalization Program?
“I think it’s working well. First, I have a study coach, that is assigned to our class. I sometimes even think as her as my Dutch mom, because she’s always there for advice or just listening. Then there’s my buddy, a fourth year ILS student. She’s helping me with the practical things, like all kinds of questions concerning assignments. Naturally, it’s a big advantage that I’m not the only international student around here. We’re all in the same boat together. For example, when I feel a bit homesick, wanting to hug my mother, everybody understands and supports me.”

On the Internationalization Program. Are there any things that Fontys could improve?
Elena laughs: “As a future concept developer I always see room for improvement. Some of the information in the English Taught Program of ILS is a bit vague, or hard to understand. Teachers want to give us as much info as we can gain, which is good. But for me it’s not always clear how to use or apply that information. Another thing is the rating of exams. I failed my first exam, but when I was looking into one of the answers and comparing it with a class mate I noticed that she got 8 points where I got only 1. In my opinion our answers where exactly the same, only I was being brief. In Bulgaria, when you write a half page answer, they almost automatically assume it’s incorrect.”

What is your opinion on internationalization in general? Does it really add value to your life?
“Studying abroad is a new beginning for me, away from my family, country and friends. Of course, sometimes I’m homesick and maybe even asking myself: OMG. Why am I doing this? But that doesn’t mean I don’t love my life here. There’re are so many little cultural things I find quite surprising or amusing. Like, the teachers here are so easy to approach. As a student you’re completely at the same level. And wow!, you’re even allowed to eat in class. Last year, in high school I couldn’t go to the toilet without permission.”

“A funny thing is, at ACI I’m meeting a lot of people who have visualized their future. Many of the Dutchies are already thinking about how their life will be in like five or ten years. For me that is rather insightful, because I never used to do that. I’m learning that now. So, to lift up a tip of the veil and tell you about my dreams- maybe someday I will own an art gallery or be an editor of one of the world famous fashion magazines. There, word’s out, finally!” [Frank van den Nieuwenhuijzen]