Interview with Petya Burneva
Petya Burneva is a second year PhD student at the Department of Business Studies. She originates from Bulgaria and has lived in both Germany, where she did exchange studies during her Bachelor’s degree, and in Brussels, where she did a traineeship for the European Commission.
Tell us a little about your academic background.
- I studied for my Bachelor’s degree and my first Master’s degree in Bulgaria (Sofia University). The Master Programme there was very practically oriented and I wanted to get more theoretical knowledge. I found a great Programme in Business and Management in Lund that I studied. During my time in Sweden I felt that I wanted to continue within the academia so I applied for a PhD position here in Uppsala. I knew about the work of some of the researchers, so that’s why I wanted to come here.
How is it being a PhD student at the Department?
- The PhD student occupies a very special dual role – you are a student, but you are also an employee, part of the faculty. Usually, you go through a process of emancipation in order to feel equal to senior faculty members. Luckily, this process is welcomed and encouraged at our department.
- The culture, with open offices and a big lunch room, makes people meet and it is easy to get to know each other. This has been especially good for me since I came to a new city where I didn’t know anyone. The Department is big enough for you to be able to be around people when you want to, and be by yourself when you prefer that.
- There are six of us in my cohort, but it really is a group feeling among all the PhD students. Since the older PhD students are further along in the process they know what we are going through and that is really helpful.
What research project are you working on?
- When I applied for a PhD position I applied to a specific project that I’m now working within. The project is HERA - Higher Education and Research Administration, and within its borders I am constructing my own research. I am looking into early-career scholars in Sweden and issues of temporality, professionalism and insecurity. I haven’t really started collecting my data yet, but I’ve done a few pilot projects that helped me develop my ideas further. I’m mainly doing qualitative research, so I’ll mostly be doing interviews and observations.
How is it working within a Swedish speaking organisation when you don’t have Swedish as your first language?
- I understand Swedish but it depends a little on the accent and academic Swedish is a bit difficult. But I learn from talking to friends and I watch movies and documentaries with subtitles. I can read fairly well, but talking is still a bit hard. The University offers a course in Swedish for foreign academics that I’m finishing up now and then I will continue with SFI (Swedish for immigrants) or some other course in Swedish.
What are your plans after you get your PhD?
- I want to continue doing research. I like the environment and the work within the academia. In a way you are your own boss. That can sometimes be very stressful, but when you are in a flow it is really great.
- I also want to teach. I’ve been observing a course this last semester, Organisational Behaviour 7,5 credits. It is a good starting point and the students are a mix between exchange students and Master students. I’m really looking forward to teaching. There are a lot of firsts coming up for me – first time being a seminar teacher, first time to give a lecture and hopefully the first time to give a lecture in Swedish.
Do you have any advice to those who want to become a PhD-student?
- Being an academic is a creative job, but you need to be very structured too. In a way you are like an artist, you need the inspiration but in order to move ahead you need to do the work.
- It is perhaps not as noble and romantic as people sometimes imagine, it has its ugly and “strategic” sides. But in the precious “Aha!” moments when you feel the thrill of discovery you are the child that imagined they are Einstein, Marco Polo and Marie Curie altogether. Those moments make everything sane and meaningful and that’s why I personally do what I do.