Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Mariya Stoilova

Research Postgraduates | 2004 to 2009

Journey started at the University of Leeds

Originally from Bulgaria, I have now spent the last seven years living in the UK. I joined the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds in 2004 to pursue a PhD on gender and post-socialism in Bulgaria. Prior to this, my background was in public relations: I have a master degree from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” (Sofia, Bulgaria) and had been working as a PR and international communications expert for a few years.

Becoming a postgraduate student at the University of Leeds was rather challenging but also very enjoyable. My growing experience of academic research helped me win two important scholarships, the Overseas Research Students Award (ORSAS) from Universities UK and the Soros Global Supplementary Grant Award from Open Society New York, during two consecutive years (2005/6 and 2006/7).

Alongside my PhD training and research, I was involved in teaching various undergraduate courses and I also completed two M-level modules in learning and teaching for higher education (NDLTHE). I used the great opportunities provided by the School of Sociology and by the Staff and Department Developing Unit (SDDU) to expand not only my research and teaching skills but also to strengthen a variety of transferable career-related abilities. Most importantly, I was greatly enjoying making new friends and establishing important networks within the academia.

I feel that my time at the University of Leeds has been very important both personally and professionally and has helped me a lot to move in the direction I was hoping. The great support and guidance from my supervisors Professor Sasha Roseneil and Dr. Sarah Irwin has been particularly valuable for my successful journey as a postgraduate student and an early career academic.

The final two years of my degree were filled with exciting events: giving birth to my daughter, being awarded my PhD degree, and starting my first job as an academic. These fantastic memories are all part of my joyful experiences in Leeds.

During the last year of my PhD, I started working as a research fellow on a EU-funded project “Intimate Citizenship in a Multi-Cultural Europe: the impact of contemporary women’s movements” (FemCit, www.femcit.org), based initially at the University of Leeds and later at the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (Birkbeck, University of London), with project leader Professor Roseneil.

Over the four years of the project, my work focused on intimate citizenship in Bulgaria and explored contemporary policy and legal landscape in relation to intimate citizenship; the demands and actions of various social movements for gender and sexual equality; and individual experiences of transformation in intimate life using the biographical-narrative interpretative method. During that time, I was also involved in collaboration with the technology company “Intel” and took part in a research project focusing on “Couples Living Apart and the Use of Technology”.

Very recently, I have been appointed as a research fellow on a new ESRC-funded research project, Living Apart Together: a multi-method analysis, working with Professor Sasha Roseneil (Birkbeck, University of London) and in collaboration with Professor Simon Duncan (University of Bradford) and Alison Park (National Centre for Social Research, London). The project employs a multi–scale quantitative and qualitative analysis to research the increasingly socially significant phenomenon of relationships in which the couple is “living apart together” (LAT). I am also currently involved in teaching biographical narrative interpretive method (BNIM) with Tom Wengraf.

Leeds: the university and the city

I chose the University of Leeds because of its reputation of intellectually stimulating environment with extensive learning and training opportunities. I found out that it offered much more than that:  very welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, comprehensive support for international students, world-leading scholars and cutting-edge research, opportunities to build a strong portfolio for a career.

The city itself only added to my very positive experiences by offering various options for recreation and an atmosphere of ethnic and cultural diversity. The most enjoyable aspect of my life in Leeds is definitely having contacts with lovely people, both academics and students, and the friendships that I have found there will stay with me for a long time.

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