Mila Chuncheva jurk van aantekeningen

Dress of notes to remember student days

Campus Shot 2 min. Lea Körber

Alumna Mila Chuncheva from Bulgaria recently graduated from Tilburg University. She made a dress from her notes. These were only notes from her first year, because after that she switched to the laptop. Still, she managed to make a dress with her lecture notes and namely those of four of her least favorite subjects. Read more about Mila's experiences at Tilburg University and about 'the making of' the paper dress with which she ended her time as a student at Tilburg University.

Why did you decide to make a dress from your notes?

"Well, one downside of studying abroad is that I have different holidays from most of my friends, as many of them also study abroad and we don’t see each other that often, for example, around Christmas. This was the case during my first Christmas holiday back home, after a week or so everyone was gone or they had yet to come back, my siblings were back in school already and my parents were working, so to say that I was bored is an understatement. I desperately wanted to do something and one day I found a stack of grocery store catalogues in front of our door. I stole all of them and I made my first paper dress. Took me two days and lots of negotiations with my mom (I was occupying the entire living room), but it turned out much better than I expected. When my friends saw it, one of them suggested I make one of my summaries, since I used to take a lot of notes while studying and I promised I’d do that. Over the years I started writing fewer and fewer notes, because I had more and more other things to do, and I started typing everything on my laptop, but my first-year notes did the job. I only used the notes for four subjects (the ones I hated most) and they turned out to be enough."

mila standbeeld

I don’t believe I had a plan, I just start something and if I’m not happy with it when it’s halfway done, I ditch it or I start all over again in a different way

Mila Chuncheva

What was the plan of action for the dress? 

"I first shared my idea with the alumni office six months ago, but the truth is I only made the dress the night before the photoshoot. Kind of summarizes my entire university experience when you think about it. I was working until 1 in the morning on Sunday, then I got home and started making it. I had some friends come borrow some stuff, had a couple of beers with my best friend around 04:00, at 07:00 I was done with everything except the top part. That’s when my roommate woke up and saved my ass. It was nice having a model and an assistant. She helped me put it all together and then bring everything to uni. I don’t believe I had a plan, I just start something and if I’m not happy with it when it’s halfway done, I ditch it or I start all over again in a different way."


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mila landscape

How did it feel to let all those notes go through your hands while making the dress?

fast Fast FAST. I had already cancelled a photoshoot with the dress the previous day with one of my friends (@berkey_photography) and I didn’t want to mess up this one as well so I was LightningMcQueen going through the notes, the beers and the red bulls.

What do you hope people will think when they see the dress?

"This girl has a lot of free time. That actually could not be further from the truth, but I understand why it looks like that. My signature eye bags never lie though; I do have sleep somewhere down at the bottom of my priorities list. There were some people taking pictures of me walking around campus and I found it flattering to think that they were impressed, or at least curious enough to stop and take a pic. I personally love it when people use art to express themselves, or to cope with stuff. For me it’s more the latter, I go crazy when there is nothing going on so I make up stuff just so I can keep busy."

I personally love it when people use art to express themselves, or to cope with stuff

Mila Chuncheva

jurk van aantekeningen

What are your plans after your studies?

"To be honest, I have no idea, kind of going with the flow I guess. I plan to start my Master’s soon, sometime in February, because I really hope that by then the COVID-19 situation is manageable and we can have classes on campus again. In the meantime I’ll try to find another internship, or maybe a new job, but that’s a problem for the future Mila, and she’ll take over only after the holidays."

How do you look back on your studies in Tilburg?

"When I look back, I kind of appreciate the moments in between the studying much more. I met so many amazing people, made lots of great friends, visited some of them in their home countries and I had some guests as well. Overall I can say with 100% confidence that I made the most out of my student years, even despite the unfortunate circumstances in the last 18 months. There isn’t much that I regret or I wish I had done differently. After COVID hit, I did regret every party or event that I skipped, but I don’t think I’m the only one. Every moment I spent with my friends made for amazing memories. We grew up together, and every little thing counts. They were with me when I painted my laundry pink for the first time or when I set the kitchen on fire… multiple times. In Tilburg I found a home away from home, even though I don’t even have a living room. I think one of my favorite things were the board games or the 16-hour study sessions in the library, can’t really decide which I enjoyed more."

In Tilburg I found a home away from home

Why did you choose Tilburg?

"It’s kind of a weird story, I believe I applied only here and at University of Groningen and I did it on the 28th of April, two days before the deadlines. I wasn’t sure what I was doing but eventually it all worked out better than I could have ever hoped for. I chose the Netherlands for two main reasons - first I wanted to study abroad, and second I wanted my studies to be in English. In addition to that, I believe that the Bulgarian education system is not as developed as here, judging by the conversations I’ve had with some people who study there. I did some digging and it seemed like Tilburg University has one of the best Psychology programs in the Netherlands. I also met some Bulgarian friends who graduated right before I applied, we had a chat (they told me all about the parties) and I was hooked. In addition to that, the campus itself looked amazing, so I didn’t think about it twice. And Tilburg is a little closer to civilization than Groningen…"


Want to see Mila's dress in real life? You can! In fact, currently the dress can be found on campus. It is on display in the Academia building. Come and take a look.