We are nearing the end of this strange and special year, 2020. Time to reflect on the status quo. 20 people with links to Ghent University were selected at random. They tell us what 2020 meant to them, what they will carry over to next year and above all: what they hope for in 2021.
Miglena Dikova-Milanova teaches Bulgarian in the faculty of Language and Literature at Ghent University. She has Bulgarian roots, but has been living in Belgium since the 1990’s. “I have rediscovered nature and myself during this period.”
What did 2020 mean to you?
“Last year began like any other year, but nothing could be further from the truth. We learned new rituals, such as disinfection, washing hands, keeping a distance and wearing a mouth mask. I’ve got into a routine now, but it took me a while. Most of all, I found it a challenge to work from home all the time. Being constantly in front of my computer, I experienced the concept of time in a completely different way. It made me do some thinking. I realised I was no longer moving in space, but only in time. It seemed as it my life could simply be uploaded on a USB stick. However, the silence was perhaps not such a bad thing, because I rediscovered nature. Although I live close to the Bois de la Cambre park in Brussels, I never went there in the past. Now it feels like my back garden. And I have a new daily ritual: every day, I go and buy a cappuccino at the local coffee bar. It feels like something important, also a big event.”
What did you accomplish this year?
“One of my main goals was to continue giving proper lessons and good assistance to my students. I think I managed. I tried to keep the classes interesting and light. For example, I used various memes from Bulgaria about Vencislav Mutafchiyski, the professor in charge of the corona team. Even so, it is still strange to give lessons behind a screen. I miss having contact with the students. This year, I also began writing poetry in Bulgarian and my poetry compilation will soon be published in Bulgaria. I never thought I would take poetry writing so seriously, as it was only a hobby at first. I once sent a few poems through to friends, and their reactions were very positive. Shortly afterwards, as chance would have it, I came into contact with a publisher, who was keen to publish my poems in a book. I am rather proud of that.”
Who do you most admire at Ghent University in 2020?
“The students, without a doubt. They are forced to study at home and have hardly any social contact, yet they still keep going, respect their deadlines and produce wonderful work. They deserve much more praise.”
Last year was like no other, but it was also filled with warmth. We supported each other and shared in each other’s ups and downs. Now this is your chance to thank everyone who was there for you. Not in the usual way, but with a virtual projection of your best wishes onto the Book Tower.
Which plans were you forced to change this year?
“I was planning to do a lot of travelling. I was normally going to Denver, and then on to Finland to give a seminar. Everything was cancelled. Fortunately, I still managed to visit family in Bulgaria between the two waves of corona. I also spent a few days at the coast where I met up with some old student friends. It was wonderful to see each other again, after more than twenty years. We all live in different countries and it was a very last minute decision to meet up. It was so spontaneous and even felt a little surreal, but we were really keen to see each other.”
What would you like to carry over to next year?
“The opportunity to think and the tranquillity. That, plus the contact with nature, the option to do things more calmly. I now appreciate the peace and quiet more, and it even feels like a new way of life.”
Imagine you could return to 1 January 2020. What would you change?
“Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I am currently living in an apartment in Brussels, but maybe I would have preferred to live in the country during the two lockdowns. Luckily, I live on the top floor, so I have a wonderful view. Although, now I come to think of it, maybe it’s not such a good idea to live in the country. Do they have cappuccino there (laughs)?”
What do you wish other people at Ghent University in 2021?
“I wish everyone good health, which is more important than ever. On top of that I’d like to add a large dose of optimism. Don’t give up, and keep up that creativity.”
20 people with links to Ghent University were selected at random. They tell us what 2020 meant to them, what they will carry over to next year and above all: what they hope for in 2021.