"In the MMM I study with fellow students from all over the world"

This month the series myUniMA story features Georgi Popov (25) from Bulgaria. He has almost completed the Mannheim Master in Management (MMM). This semester he is working as an intern for Lufthansa Cargo in Frankfurt. His story is the perfect example for the opportunities the MMM offers to international students.

What was your motivation for your current internship?

Georgi: I am working for Lufthansa Cargo in the Market and Network Planning department. It is quite interesting and I get to learn a lot about the aviation industry, especially about airfreight and logistics. It is a six-month internship. When I applied, I was a working student for SAP, which was really great and I still consider going back there after my current internship or maybe after graduation. My main field of work there was sales operations. But I wanted to try something new. My degree program at the University of Mannheim includes the study of operations management with a focus on supply-chain management, logistics and procurement. Therefore I wanted to gain practical experience in this area. In addition, I already interned for Lufthansa back in my home country. Lufthansa Technik has a big facility in Sofia. This is where my fascination with the aviation industry began and it is also the reason why I wanted to work for Lufthansa again.

Why did you decide to study in Mannheim?

Georgi: I was born in Sofia and I grew up in Veliko Tarnovo, which is a really beautiful town. Bulgaria is a beautiful country, but economically it is not as well developed as Germany. I always had the intention to study abroad because the education quality is higher in Western Europe. So after graduating from high school in 2010 I came to Mannheim. My school had a focus on foreign languages and my major was German with Russian as my second language. If I went to another country that was not part of the German speaking world, all those years of studying German would have been more or less wasted because language skills easily deteriorate if you don’t practice. The University of Mannheim has an exceptionally good reputation. In my field it is number one in many rankings. I also knew some friends who studied here and after I heard their positive feedback, I decided to go for it.

Since you have almost finished your studies, what is your personal summary so far?

Georgi: I think all in all I can draw a positive conclusion, but it also took its toll sometimes. The Bachelor’s program was quite tough. Especially when you come here as a young adult right after graduation, it is a huge transition. You have to learn how to manage the change from living at home, where you are familiar with everything, to living abroad, in a different country, with a different system and of course a different language. I wouldn’t say I managed it perfectly but somehow it worked out. Overall I think it was worth it. Still, when me and most of my friends finished the Bachelor’s, we thought that this would be goodbye, because we could not wait for it to be over. It was just so stressful.

So what led to your decision to pursue the Master’s program here as well?

Georgi: I took a gap year and did two internships in Sofia. At first I was not quite sure whether I would rather start working or continue with a Master’s. When I finally decided to continue studying, I also decided to come back to Mannheim. The program is renowned and very international. I study with fellow students from all over the world. You also have very good connections to companies. We have had the opportunity to listen to many guest lecturers and participate in workshops with different company representatives. In general, I like the Master’s program much better and I don’t regret coming back here. It was also an advantage that I already knew the place, which gave me a very easy start.

What are your career plans and do you think the MMM prepared you for your upcoming career start?

Georgi: Yes, I do believe the Master’s program prepared me, in combination with my student job at SAP and the internships. To gain practical experience in addition to the academic foundation is very important. The companies that I worked for so far were global players and leaders in their industry. Therefore, working there is really inspiring and it makes me proud. What I wish for myself is to work in a company that has an international environment. I don’t mind speaking German at work but I prefer English to be the language of communication and I like having international colleagues in an international field. I think working for an exclusively German company wouldn’t make me very happy.

Do you experience significant cultural differences between Bulgaria and Germany?

Georgi: There are certainly differences but I wouldn’t say that they are considerably big. Germany and Bulgaria are both EU countries. The food is a bit different and of course the languages, but I don’t think I had a cultural shock. I think within Europe there is no such thing as a cultural shock. The EU membership of Bulgaria is still pretty young and we really appreciate the opportunities. Sometimes I don’t really realize the advantage that I have as a student from an EU country but when I compare myself to friends from non-EU countries, like India for example, I can see how much easier it is for me to study here.

Do you know many other students from your home country in Mannheim?

Georgi: There is a relatively big Bulgarian student community at the university. We even have a student society, named Bai Ganyo. Its purpose is, on the one hand, to support Bulgarian students throughout their studies. On the other hand, we want to convey a better understanding of Bulgarian culture and improve Bulgaria’s image. It serves as a bridge between Bulgarian students and others and we are actively trying to get our international friends and fellow students involved in our activities. This is mirrored in the organization’s name: Bai Ganyo is the character of a novel who symbolizes the prejudices against Bulgarians. This lead to the slogan: Our name is our challenge. There are prejudices against Bulgarians, especially in Mannheim. But I personally never had negative experiences with prejudices against my home country.

Interview: Lina Vollmer  |  Photo: Elisa Berdica  |  September  2016