Evelina Prodanova – Bulgaria
I am from Bulgaria, not a huge Eastern European country. Being in one of the best High Schools and coming from a family of teachers and professors, education was a big deal for me. Logically I had to be in one of the best universities as well. For my US friends – things in Bulgaria are a bit different, in order to get into a specific major every university has its own rules and exams you`d have to take. Anyway, challenging enough, I made it as I wished.
Before that I had worked in 4 different sea resorts each summer of High School so that I could become more independent and learn what it was like to work hard and be responsible for taking care of myself, making every-day decisions.
The first year of university started, going pretty well but not extremely challenging and then it was the time to think about what I might be doing that coming summer. Was I done being a waitress or a shop assistant? What did I look for from then on?
One rainy day I got into a lecture and there was that girl presenting something… she was talking about a summer internship with Southwestern Advantage, in the USA, selling books, gaining work experience and skills and making quite a bit of money over all. Sounded strange and I didn`t really know if should I believe all that. As a very curious young person who obviously didn`t have a ton of job offers ready I decided it`s not going to hurt to check it out and I visited a presentation. I met Phil Martin, one of the Sales Managers in Southwestern at this point. I don`t remember what exactly we went over but I do remember clearly the sense of success I felt coming from that person, his confidence and nice positive attitude. That was so contagious!
So I decided I`d give myself a chance and got into a selection process, did all of the given assignments and eventually in a week was selected to participate in the Southwestern Advantage program. I don`t think I really realized what I had gotten myself into to be honest…
Training in Bulgaria started just right after I was accepted with a great girl named Teddi Lyutova, who was my manager. She taught me a ton of things but 2 of them I really remembered and I`m trying to remind myself even now – be teachable and work hard and you`ll do well. To get to the USA from Bulgaria you need a visa, a flight – it’s not cheap. I gave myself no option to be unsuccessful at this crazy book thing otherwise I`d be in trouble.
So that`s what I did – I studied hard before the summer, learned what I was supposed to, went to all of the team meetings, and when I got there I just threw my whole self into the program. It was different, it was difficult, it was far away from home, it was lonely often times, it was the hardest thing I`ve ever done, and it was the first thing I realized I was not the best at.
But I did it. And because I followed my manager’s advice – if you work hard and be teachable, you`ll do well – I finished in the top 100 First Years that summer and was invited to be on the leadership team. But it was the first thing I was not the best at…
And then I realized that there was nothing more valuable for me, a young person than to find an environment that pushes me to a constant development and personal growth, where I, surrounded by successful people and role models, can realize all strengths and weaknesses of the character and decide what I want to do with my future. I am totally positive and thankful for the opportunity this young lady Teddi gave me 4 years ago – she gave me more than just improving my communication skills and earning above average money. She gave me friendships for a life-time, she gave me a chance and believed in me.
I later began working full time with the company as one of the people in charge of selecting students to take part in the program from Bulgaria. I have no doubts that in a few years time we`ll have the opportunity to offer the program to a lot more Bulgarian students and more will be able to take advantage of that kind of experience.
I still believe that the main reason I decided to continue with Southwestern is simply because I`m still not the best at it and it is still challenging! Oh, and all the places you`d go and all the people you`d meet…