Simona Torotcoi

Nationality: Romania
Program: One-year MAPP
Graduated: 2013
Current job: PhD student at Central European University
Location: Budapest, Hungary

Beyond Work

+1. Which is your favorite Hungarian expression?

My favorite is vigyázz [watch out]. It seems to follow me everywhere.

+2. What is your favorite city in the world?

I took my first trip to Prague only two years ago, but I love it!

+3. What was your dream job when you were 10 years old?

I wanted to be a teacher. My cousins and I used to play teacher and student in my grandparents' yard. We wrote with white chalk on the iron gate, took our roles seriously, and engaged in extra classes after a full day in school.

+4. Who is your role model?

My big brother. He is hardworking, honest, open minded, and very charismatic.

1. What led you to study public policy at CEU?

I learned about the Roma Access Programs (RAP) at CEU while I was in the final year of my bachelor's studies at the North University of Baia Mare [in Romania]. By the start of the next academic year, I was enrolled in CEU's Roma Graduate Preparation Program and was taking additional coursework in public policy. During my time as an RAP student, I applied to the one-year MAPP program and to other graduate programs abroad. I received more than one offer, but chose CEU. To be honest, I am not sure whether it was my tutor's passion for teaching public policy, the master's courses I took for audit, or my strong interest in education that prompted me to apply for the master's program.

2. What do you remember most about your time at CEU?

This is now my fourth year at CEU, so I have plenty of memories. What I have been enjoying most is being part of the CEU community. As another student once said, at CEU your colleagues are your professors and your professors are your friends. I think this speaks for itself. I also remember our group assignments, the richness of our discussions, and the debates and strong opinions – all of which were hard to summarize in the reports professors expected from us. Whenever I was away from CEU for a short while, I missed the academic and social events the university organizes.

3. What have you been engaged in professionally since graduating from CEU?

Even before graduating from the MAPP program, I became involved with an NGO in Brussels advocating for Roma in the European Union. I worked with them for over a year. The internship that was part of the master's program helped me a lot in my career. I interned at the Roma Education Fund and learned a lot from the staff there (including another CEU alumna). Among many other things, I helped to propose a project targeting Roma students in Romania. A few months later the project was approved, and I was offered a part-time job, during which I conducted research with my supervisor. All in all, it was a great experience. While at CEU, I also applied for the CEU-Leiden Praesidium Libertatis Scholarship. With its support, I did a second MA in public administration in the Netherlands. I then decided to come back to CEU and get a PhD in public policy. As a PhD student, I focus on the implementation of the Bologna Process in a comparative perspective.

4. How have your policy studies at CEU contributed to your career?

CEU provides plenty of opportunities for students to develop academically and professionally. It taught me how to think critically, analyze policies, contextualize them, and address their weaknesses. I also developed my writing and learned how to work efficiently. These skills helped me a lot while working with the two Roma NGOs, during my studies in the Netherlands, and now back at CEU.

5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

My interest is in designing educational policies for minorities, especially for Roma, in order to increase their access to education and to improve the quality of education and learning outcomes. I might be ambitious, but in five years I see myself back in Romania working for the ministry responsible for education as a policy advisor in the higher education unit.

6. Do you have any advice for current students?

Give 100% to whatever you do at CEU. Take advantage of the opportunities the university offers to its students, and of the faculty. Enjoy the community and do not forget why you chose to be there.

7. What is your favorite thing to do in Budapest?

From time to time I enjoy going to the thermal spas. Sometimes I just take a book and read in the park for hours.

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