A Life Reimagined
How a new country and new connections inspired an interior design degree at Tri-C
Ludmila “Lucy” Zaharieva moved to the United States from Bulgaria in 2005 alongside her husband and teenage daughter. Unemployed and unable to speak English, Zaharieva focused on reimagining life in her new country.
Times change. The 51-year-old will graduate from Tri-C this spring with an Associate of Applied Business degree in interior design. But this non-traditional student didn’t always know she wanted to be a designer.
“I started classes at Tri-C seven years ago to learn English,” she said. “Since I was older and working full time, it was difficult for me to figure out what I wanted to do.”
Her initial interest was physical therapy. After taking classes, she realized it wasn’t for her.
“I took a break for about six months,” Zaharieva said. “I lost myself and was not sure what to do, but I knew I needed to quit physical therapy.”
Throughout her schooling, Zaharieva had been working for a family as a housekeeper. She decided to circle back on her education and began browsing programs at Tri-C. Interior design intrigued her.
“I didn’t realize I was already doing interior design,” she said. “When the family would go out of town, I would decorate their home for Christmas. The family would come home, and it would all be done.”
She recalls when she became a U.S. citizen in 2013. Her housekeeping family threw a surprise party for her, decorating the entire home with American flags.
“I was crying, I was so happy,” Zaharieva said. “Those people are my family. Maybe they are the reason I started interior design.”
She began taking interior design classes in spring 2018, and the rest is history.
“The experience has been amazing for me,” she said. “It was really hard work, but I’m glad I made the decision to be in the program. It’s the best choice I ever made.”
She ties the connections she’s made to her success in the program. She received a wealth of support from her family, fellow students and instructors.
“I learned something new in every class and had support for everything,” Zaharieva said. “People were always ready to help me in any way. I was never told to figure it out on my own.”
When asked what she will pursue upon graduation, Zaharieva said she hopes to find a job.
“I want to design plans for people’s homes and then work on retirement after that,” she said. “I just hope to work as an interior designer either by myself or with a company.”
As for the connections she made at Tri-C, Zaharieva continues to stay in touch and is thankful for their support.
“I’m just lucky to have them all in my life,” she said. “They are my friends now.”
Cuyahoga Community College will celebrate the academic achievements of its newest graduates during commencement, June 9 at Byers Field at Robert M. Boulton Stadium in Parma. Check our News and Events page leading up to the event as we highlight members of the Class of 2021.
June 08, 2021
Madeline Shepherd, 216-987-4616 or firstname.lastname@example.org