Niya Stateva, who until a few months ago was a high school career counselor at a private international school in Sofia, Bulgaria, found herself at a crossroads in her career. She faced the difficult decision of whether to continue on as a counselor or embark on a new path. And then, like a twist of fate, an offer from SRT Fairs came her way. Without hesitation, Niya accepted the opportunity, driven by her immense passion for what SRT Fairs does and her admiration for their annual E-Conference.
Can you describe the SRT E-Conference in one sentence?
The SRT E-Conference is your opportunity to network, make new contacts, learn about exciting new programs and destinations that could inspire students as well as get up to date with current changes in the field of international education and become part of a community that is supportive and experienced.
What does your day look like while attending the E-Conference?
The most honest answer here is “busy”. I participated in three SRT E-Conferences and I made sure to make the best of my time. I was trying to clear my schedule as much as possible so that I can accommodate more meetings with universities. During these meetings, I always started by presenting my own school as its program was slightly different and I needed to explain this to the university representatives. Then, my goal was to learn more about the university but not so much about the admission criteria and application process, rather than the variety of degrees it offered and the career opportunities after graduation.
Apart from the meetings, I was looking forward to attending the Global Sessions and the shorter Info Sessions. The Global Sessions are an insightful way to discuss current issues in the field of education with other professionals and hear their opinions and ideas. I find them to be a great way for interaction but also a reason to continue the dialogue during the one-on-one meetings. Moreover, the Info Sessions are a very succinct way to learn more about universities (if you are a counselor or an IEC) or changes happening in schools and students’ interests (if you are a university representative).
If you schedule your time properly, which the Marcom Pro platform allows you to do, you can fill these three days with a lot of meetings and sessions, and hence, get the most of the information provided during the event.
Which part of the E-Conference is most useful for you?
Frankly, that differed during my three participations. During my first e-conference, I aimed to meet as many universities as possible as I had no network back then. I didn’t know anybody and whenever I needed to get in touch with a university in which a student of mine was interested, it was always a bit of a challenging process. On the other side, getting the practical information that is shared during the sessions was a bit left behind. However, during the second e-conference, my goal was to “confirm” the contacts I have already made, and brief them on the new profiles of my students as well as meet new universities from new destinations I had no knowledge of, but I also spent more time participating in the sessions. Finally, during the third SRT E-Conference, I found the golden medium and I managed to distribute my time very efficiently between meetings and sessions. That is why I cannot say that a single part of the event is the most useful. The most useful thing is the information a participant is going to get during the e-conference but the type of information differs from one participant to another.
What is your most memorable experience as an E-Conference participant?
The most memorable experience as an E-Conference participant was definitely my shared presentation with Dr. Daniella Schmitt from The European School RheinMain that happened during my first e-conference back in April 2021. I was a newbie back then and having the chance to work together with a counselor as experienced as Daniella was fundamental for the way I developed my counseling curriculum after that. I am extremely thankful to her for everything she has shared with me.
Another favorite moment for me was my first meeting with Mr. Russell Davis from Duke Kunshan – it was not only one of the funniest meetings I have ever had but Mr. Davis also gave me so much insight into the US application process. Everything I learned back then during these 25 minutes, saved me a lot of time researching later on.
Can you share one new thing you are going to focus on during this year’s E-Conference?
I’ve got three main things I am focusing on for this year’s E-Conference. First, my goal is to make both the Global Sessions and Info Sessions more like a discussion rather than
presentations. I’d like the community to interact more and share knowledge, experience, and ideas. Second, I’d like the universities to present their lesser-known degrees with their career opportunities. That would be of great help for the counselors who the students always ask about what career they can have with a certain university degree.
Finally, I will be happy to hear from the counselors more about the interests and aspirations of their current students. That usually is the best sign of the direction in which education is going and to which we all need to adapt.
Why did you decide to work on the organization of the SRT E-Conference?
As a high school student, I have made my share of mistakes when choosing my bachelor’s degree, my university, and my approach to the matter in general. I had no counselor back then to help me but I cherish my mistakes as a valuable experience. When I got the offer to work with high school students as a career counselor, I found it to be an opportunity to teach my students what mistakes not to make. But as a counselor, my outreach to students was minimal – I only had access to the students from the school. However, as part of the SRT Fairs team, I can indirectly reach out to many more students. I do not communicate with the students personally but I communicate with their counselors, and their future universities, and that gives me the opportunity to navigate the dialogue and suggest content that can be beneficial for the students. That is why together with the rest of the team, we worked hard on developing e-conference content that is practical, useful, and time-adequate.
What would you recommend new E-Conference participants do before the start of the event as well as during?
My recommendation for all participants would be, first, to clear their schedules. The event takes place within three days, and in order to make the most of it, you need to be free to participate in the meetings and sessions. My second recommendation would be to keep an open mind – meet with universities you don’t know, and be curious about new destinations, get to know schools you have never heard of, delve into the work of the IECs and the variety of students they have… And, finally, even though it is a virtual event, try to break the barrier and engage in conversations and discussions during the sessions!
I am looking forward to seeing you at the 5th SRT E-Conference for International Educators!