March 30, 2009
Igor Pokryskevskiy Finds his Way to Bulgaria

Igor Pokryskevskiy in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, home to the American University
Igor Pokryskevskiy, one of the five outstanding students who comprise our first cohort of Seidenberg Scholars, elected to study abroad this spring. Originally from Ukraine, Igor wanted to study somewhere that was "somewhat familiar, yet different" and opted for Bulgaria. Both Bulgaria and Ukraine have Slavic roots but are decidedly different in terms of language and culture. He was also looking for some place quiet and off the beaten path where he was hoping to shed some of his ethnocentric tendencies and gain a new perspective on people and a different culture by attempting to assimilate, if only for a few months. In his own words, "Learning doesn't stop at the university walls, because, at this point in my life, the world is my classroom."

Igor is presently enrolled in the American University in Bulgaria located in the city of Blagoevgrad, a two-hour drive from Sofia, the capital. It is a pretty, quiet place devoid of fast food and chain stores. Classes are taught entirely in English by American expatriates and professors from Western Europe as well as native Bulgarians. The student body, however, is primarily from Bulgaria, neighboring countries, and the former Soviet Union. There are hardly any students from the West although one of Igor's roommates is British. The other is Bulgarian.

He doesn't find his courses - Level II Bulgarian, Microeconomics, Quantitative Methods in Economics, 20 th Century European History, and Algorithms - particularly difficult but is reserving judgment until after final exams. Dorm life is pretty much the same as in the U.S. Bulgarian students, like students everywhere, like to party and frequent the local bars and clubs. They tend to start out late - generally around midnight - and often continue on until dawn. The food is plentiful and cheap but rather plain. Pizza is available but doesn't compare to pizza back home.

Although students tend to form cliques based on ethnicity or their native language, Igor has managed to make a number of good friends and an even wider range of acquaintances. In his quest to experience new cultures and meet people with different world views, he elected to spend his spring break in Italy where he visited Rome, Naples, Pisa, Florence, Venice and Bologna.

When asked if he misses his family and friends, including his fellow Seidenberg Scholars who he refers to as "the group," he admits that he does. He tries to keep up with them via Instant Messaging, Facebook and Skype.

The next stage of Igor's educational odyssey awaits him this summer. Shortly after returning home in mid-May, he will begin a 12-week summer internship as a Solution Architect for The New York Life Insurance Company. In this position, he will focus on problem-solving and the design, development, testing and documentation of application solutions using Java and .Net software. He couldn't quite believe his good luck in landing this exciting position because the position actually found him. Octavia Mondesir, a graduate student in our MS in Information Systems program and NY Life employee, recommended him for the internship. The two met while Igor was working as a tutor, helping Pace students, both undergraduate and graduate, with application and Web development skills.

So far, Igor's experience as a Seidenberg Scholar has been "overwhelmingly positive" and satisfying on many levels - personal, academic, and pre-professional. He has enjoyed leaving his "comfort zone" this semester and is returning with increased confidence, eagerly awaiting whatever lies in store for him during his remaining years at Pace.