Stefan Ralchev (’01): “The love for the Balkans is something I acquired at AUBG, not only reflected in my academic and professional interests but also personally.”

Name: Stefan Ralchev
AUBG Class of: 2001
Major: Political Science – International Relations; Journalism – Mass Communications
Graduate/Advanced degree: European Regional Master’s Degree in Democracy and Human Rights in Southeastern Europe (University of Bologna/University of Sarajevo)
Home country: Bulgaria
Current occupation: Chief Expert, National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings

• Where do we find you at this moment?

At work, working on a project to secure financing for a new shelter for temporary accommodation of victims of human trafficking in Sofia, among other things. Not a very relaxed August for us.

• What was your first destination after AUBG? Describe your career path.

I went to Ruse, Northeastern Bulgaria, to do my military service, which was mandatory back in 2001. In 2002-03 I did my Master’s studies in Sarajevo and Bologna, focusing on human security in the Balkans. This was arguably the most formative period in my academic career in which I mastered the knowledge and skills I started acquiring at AUBG. In 2004 I did a TV journalism specialization in Belgrade with the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe but TV was definitely not my thing. Back in Sofia, I worked five years as a journalist covering the Balkans at SeeNews news agency, with a three-month spell at the London School of Economics and Political Science doing a course and writing a dissertation on British politics. This, and London in general, was true fun. Since then I have worked at Transparency International – Bulgaria and the Institute for Regional and International Studies, a small think-tank, before joining the civil service in this very specific field: combating human trafficking. In parallel, I have been working on a private project called Vinogradi to promote little known wines from Bulgaria, the Balkans and Europe. It is basically a blog with Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to it where you can read about wines and trips to wine regions as well as watch videos. Learn more at www.vinogradi.bg and in the social networks!

• How have the years at AUBG prepared you for your career?

The love for the Balkans is something I acquired at AUBG, not only reflected in my academic and professional interests but also personally. This is what shaped my life afterwards: my decisions to study in Sarajevo, to focus on the Balkans in my work and, indeed, to write about Balkan wines all came from this love.

• What class had the most significant impact on you?

POS 102 Introduction to International Relations, taught by Prof. Giannakos.

• Knowing what you know now, what would you want to tell your student self? If you could change something back what would it be?

“Don’t ever promise yourself not to do certain things because in the end you might end up doing just them, and happily.”

• What are the things that make you tick? What is your greatest passion or motivation at present?

My wine project with Vinogradi is my current inspiration and challenge. I have big plans for it, but all in due time. At the same time, my work in devising and implementing Bulgaria’s policies to fight the hideous crime of human trafficking is a noble and rewarding experience to me, one which also makes full use of all knowledge and insights acquired during my studies.

• Future projects and plans that you look forward to with anticipation?

Well, I am expecting my first child soon, which is definitely a project I look forward to! Apart from that, I hope that the Vinogradi wine project unfolds as planned.

• May fellow alumni keep in touch with you for mentorship and career advice? (optional)

Yes.

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