We would like to present one of the impressive teams gathered to work and develop together during the 2019/2020 academic year, in the context of two of the programs that the Trust for Social Achievement manages within the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria - "Scholarship support for Roma students enrolled in medical studies” and “Mentorship support for Roma students enrolled in medical studies”. We asked our scholar Metodi Metodiev and his mentor Dr. Diana Assenova a few questions in order to learn more about them. Their stories help us understand the significance of young Roma who are committed to the mission of studying and working hard in order to contribute to society by taking care of others.
The Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria is implemented with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021.
About Metodi Metodiev
Metodi is a scholarship holder in the program for Scholarship support for Roma students enrolled in medical studies. He told us about his experience as a health mediator prior to focusing on his studies, choosing the to study to become a nurse and working with his mentor Dr. Diana Assenova during what was a very unusual for all of us academic year of 2019/2020.
Tell us about yourself - where are you from, why did you choose to study for a "Nursery" degree?
I am Metodi Metodiev, from the town of Razlog, 25 years old. I chose this degree program, driven by my love of medicine. Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed of helping people while working in a hospital setting.
Society perceives this as more of a "female" profession. What would you say to the people who have a similar thinking?
This is a profession that is misunderstood by society. Quite often, a lot of strength is required while tending to patients! If a new term is introduced that allows men to be called nurses in the Bulgarian language, I think will become a predominantly male profession. That way, many more men would be interested in this profession. Being a nurse is labor-intensive.
How is the learning process going?
In the conditions of a state of emergency and the coronavirus pandemic, we are studying online. I can't wait to go back to university and to the clinical environment.
You have valuable experience as a health mediator prior to embarking on your university journey. What did that teach you that is useful to you now in the learning process and you hope to use in the future?
Before I started working as a health mediator, I was a very closed person, uncommunicative. The 5 years as a health mediator taught me to be a communicative, creative, positive thinker. Communication with patients in the nursing practice is of paramount importance. Sometimes patients just want attention and caressing of the ego.
Tell us a story that made you smile and one that made you sad during your work as a health mediator?
The feeling after a job well done is indescribable. In 2015, during which I was appointed, I had to organize a campaign for free medical examinations for members of the Roma community who did not have health insurance. I did not encounter any problems in my community - during the information campaign for the upcoming examinations they embraced the idea and some were very happy. I encountered problems at the institutional level - as the town of Razlog is difficult to access for trucks and lorries, the hospital tasked with the examinations refused to conduct them. I consulted with my colleagues, they gave me advice on how to proceed, because I was still inexperienced at the time, and conversations followed, after which there was agreement and the examinations took place. While all this was happening happening, I was afraid of misleading my community and losing their trust. This is a situation that I now remember with a smile but I was sad as it was happening.
How is the interaction with your mentor going? What do you expect from your work together and what do you rely on your mentor for?
My mentor - Dr. Assenova is a great person and professional. Communicating with her is a pleasure. I expect a constant reminder, a constant "nudging" for upcoming commitments. Relying on a professional like Dr. Assenova is a real pleasure, she is a good friend and a good listener.
Quite often there is talk about the difficulties that various scholarship and mentoring programs aim to help overcome. And what are the good things - interesting lessons, useful acquaintances?
Scholarship programs instill as sense of responsibility in the students, which rewards them with the successes reaped during their academic journey.
Why do you think it is necessary to have such programs which support people like you?
To aid the personal growth of a scholar, new acquaintances, new views, a new worldview are required. The Roma ethnic group is characterized by low family incomes and very often, this is an obstacle to the continuation of education.
Please share the things that help you continue moving forward.
Hope, faith in goodness, the desire to help and the indescribable feeling of holding human life in your hands.
About Dr. Diana Assenova
Dr. Diana Assenova is a worthy role model not only for the Roma, but also for all young people who continue their education through to university and as young professionals, invest time and energy in the development of the future generations of health professionals of Roma origin in the country. One of the young mentors in the program for Mentorship support of Roma students enrolled in medical studies, Dr. Assenova currently specializes in Internal Medicine at the largest emergency hospital in Bulgaria. She tells us about her own participation in a similar program as a scholar during her studies and about her role as a mentor today.
Tell us about yourself - where are you from, why did you choose to become a doctor?
My name is Dr. Diana Assenova, I was born in Kotel. I graduated from the Vocational High School of Hospitality and Tourism in Sliven. I went on to study Medicine seven years after graduating from high school, at the age of 25. I chose to become a doctor because I received a calling. I always wanted to be a student, but there was always something that didn't work out and something was always missing, until one night when I had a dream, I heard a voice clearly telling me, "You're going to study Medicine." For me it was a calling from God, I think every doctor has a calling, I heard it quite clearly, because, perhaps otherwise I would have never had the courage to study Medicine.
Then things started happening. I came across an advertisement of the Ethnic Minorities and Health Problems Foundation, which had started organizing preparatory courses for university exams for young Roma who want to study Medicine. I had missed the start of the course, which started in November, I only joined in January. At the interview I did not meet some of the requirements because I had completed my high school education a long time ago, but I had an excellent diploma and they decided to believe in me and allowed me to the courses. From studying Chemistry at school I remembered only the chemical formulas of salt and water, but I managed to prepare in six months and was admitted to the university.
Where did you study Medicine? What were your student years like - tell us about the challenges you had, for example, at a time when it was very difficult for you and why?
I studied at the Medical University of Pleven, a wonderful university with wonderful tutors and excellently kitted out. During my studies, I did not have the opportunity to work, my family also did not have the opportunity to support me financially and I relied entirely on the Scholarship Program for Roma students in medical universities and colleges, which was supported by the Open Society Institute Foundation and the Roma Education Fund.
Tell us about your experience as a scholarship holder and mentor. How do you assess this support? Why is it necessary to have such programs? Would you have succeeded without this support and what would be the difference?
During my studies I had the opportunity to receive mentoring support, which was very valuable to me, especially at one time during my studies when I dropped out of the scholarship program while it was my only source of financial support. Then my mentor stood up for me and I was allowed back in the program. This was the most difficult moment of my studies and it was the mentor who helped me. That is why I agreed to join the program for "Mentorship support for Roma students enrolled in medical studies" now, as a mentor this time. I graduated from university three and a half years ago and I can contribute to the full development of students in an academic environment, as the issues they are facing now have until recently been my issues as well.
What is it like to be on this side of the equation and to work with a student of Roma origin with a desire and ambition to become a health professional? Is there anything you have learned as a scholar that you would like to apply as a mentor?
I have no experience as a mentor, but I have the example of my mentors that I can follow. I want to help, encourage, embolden and support young university students of Roma origin - to not give up easily and to continue until they fulfill the goals and dreams they have set for themselves.
At what point in your professional development are we catching you at the moment? Can you tell us what makes you happy and motivates you to keep moving forward.
I currently work as a doctor and specialize in Internal Medicine, I’m in my third year out of a total of five. I love my profession, I feel satisfaction when I help people, seeing the smile and gratitude in their eyes fills me with new strength and gives me the confidence that being a doctor is my calling.