Name: Maria Stoyanova
Current Location: somewhere between Berlin, Bern and the Bulgarian mountains
Hometown: Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
GLOW year: 2009
Tell us about yourself – what are you doing, where are you?
I used to live and study in Berlin. A decade ago Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit tried to attract creative types to the city by declaring “Berlin is poor but sexy”. It obviously worked because Berlin is a quite a wild city now and it can make you feel “cool” and “special” even if you are a nerdy brunette like me. You can find everything you need there. Except nice weather! So after three happy but rainy years (and a bachelor degree in Anthropology) I decided that it is time for some changes. I started a distant master program in Computer Science in order to give myself a dose “digital nomadism” and enjoy a few sunny afternoons while continuing my education. Well, I had to limit my travel destinations to places with wifi so currently I am living between Berlin (where I still work and party), Bern (where I do my exams), Veliko Tarnovo (my family and my favourite dishes are always there for me), Sofia (my lovely boyfriend and his adventurous surprises), the mountains (which I desperately need to find some peace) and basically every other place on the Earth (this one depends mainly on the low cost airlines).
What do you love about your job (studies)?
Studying Computer Science after having a background in Anthropology and Journalism may seem unusual to you but it is not only logical, it is the future. Today’s questions are too difficult if we search for answers in just one academic field. Therefore researchers in the fields of Human Computer Interaction or Artificial Intelligence have to deal with problems which are situated at the intersection of computer science, media studies, behavioral sciences, anthropology and many other fields of study. And this is what I love the most about my studies and my future job: the interdisciplinarity!
Walk us through your (work) day.
I suppose I should not call it a “work day”. One of the main advantages when you do an online master program is that you do not have to get up early for the 9 a.m. lectures. I love that! I usually study or work till late at night – it is quiet, everyone is asleep, no distractions. Sometimes I even stay awake till morning and go swimming at 5 a.m. That makes my body exhausted and my already exhausted brain – fresh. That is the best recipe for a good sleep!
What “rules” do you live by?
I really try to avoid multitasking. In fact many researchers believe that the human brain is simply not designed to perform two or more task simultaneously. At risk to consider me lazy, I believe that too! I prefer to concentrate on one task and do my best. Then take the next one. And the next one.
What is the greatest thing about education?
It is everywhere and it is free! Just ask. Or google it. Or download free e-books. Or watch some tutorials on youtube. Knowledge is out there!
Who has inspired you in your life and why?
Since we had this basic neurobiological course on how the human brain works I do not really believe in talent anymore. It is all about continuous work (and building new synapses). People who work passionately and consecutively have always inspired me. It does not matter if they work on a cure for AIDS or a new bread recipe. I feel lucky to get inspired by ordinary things.
I also admire people who share their knowledge, skills or experience and do it somehow naturally and happily (like Maria Popova from Brain Pickings for example). I recently saw a documentary about the photographer Sebastião Salgado and I suppose this is the right place to mention him. If you have some free time, watch “The Salt of the Earth”!
What are you passionate about?
International documentary cinema and ginger tee with walnuts!
Which experiences in life helped you become the person you are?
By reading biographies of some of the greatest people in the world you may get the impression that you cannot create а work of genius unless you had a traumatic childhood. If I follow that logic, I should not be optimistic about my chances of success in life because I had a very happy childhood and own a lot to my family who helped me become the person I am today. I also have to admit that Berlin may be ugly but it made me a lot more open minded person than I used to be.
When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?
Lorraine Hansberry once said: „Never be afraid to sit down and think“. So when things get tough, I make myself a cup of tea with homemade honey, sit down and think. Sometimes I even write everything down and put some funny scratches or arrows around. For the really tough moments I take another spoon of honey and a good friend.
The things for which we should always find time are…? Why are they important?
This question is an easy one. We should always find time for the people who we love and who love us. You know why. And we should always find time for breakfast (in my case brunch). Your mom told you a thousand times why.
What kind of books (or which) do you consider must read?
Books are something personal and I could not say what kind of books one should read. But I could recommend you to get an e-reader. That it is how you could be able to carry the entire library with you (especially if you travel only with hand luggage).
What has GLOW given you?
I met some of my best friends there! I also built some self-confidence which we all need at the age of sixteen.
Tell us something interesting that very few people know about you!
I hate ice cream and I had a conversation with President Obama once.
What is your advice for the young people?
Never stop googling the things you do not know. And do not always trust google – be critical and find two independent pieces of evidence.
Share with us your favourite most inspirational piece – article/ story/ talk/ video!
It is an interesting and funny TED-“metatalk”: