Bogdan is that kind of person you definitely have to meet once in a lifetime! He wears two hats nowadays: a technical trainer who travels all over the world to make life simpler for others, and an expert in chemistry who runs his own company, working towards changing habits and improving lifestyle. He is an amazingly complex person, and everything about him revolves around the well-being of others. About his passions, his unique approach, his love for Romania and many more, in today's interview.
Name: Bogdan Copil
Abroad since: 2012
Living in: Prague
Current occupation: Freelancer / Trainer; Founder of Wellnessence
TGR: Bogdan, tell me a bit about yourself – who are you, what’s your background, why training and why Google?
BC: If I had to list the five topics that would describe my key interests at the moment, they would be Learning (Self Directed Learning), Travelling, Essential Oils and Wellness, Encouragement, Training. I did not have the typical career path - I’ve changed it several times, but all my activities were under the big umbrella of my five topics.
I was passionate about Chemistry ever since I stumbled upon a book with fun Science activities when I was 11 years. I started reading more and more about the topic, created my own (secret) lab at home. One thing led to another, and I got to participate in national and international Chemistry competitions. It was only normal for me to continue studying Chemistry at University. And having studied so much Chemistry during high school, for all the competitions, I could invest most of my time into volunteering - and that’s how I also got in touch with the training “virus.” I liked the image of the trainer that facilitates the learning process of so many people.
Google came into the picture in my second year of teaching in Prague. I was teaching at a British international school when I took part in my first Google for Education Summit in Prague. I fell in love with all the possibilities the platform opened for educational purposes: from giving and receiving immediate feedback, to online real-time collaboration on school projects and easy document sharing.
And now you teach other teachers perform better. Which personal qualities do you think make you successful?
As a big fan of Self-Directed Learning, I’m trying to bring that into my training sessions as well. Even though I have a relatively fixed structure for my sessions, I’m trying to prepare materials so that if some participants want to advance at a different pace than the rest of the group, they can do so!
Another thing that has helped me tremendously is to make the trainings about THEM and not about my material/content. I’ve had quite a few sessions in which I changed my planned structure, to better respond to participants' needs. This is particularly important when working with people from so many backgrounds and cultures. People from the Middle East will react totally different to the training materials than Europeans or Tanzanians, for example.
And last but not least, humor has proven to be my strongest ally. In many cases the training sessions are quite intense - lots of materials to cover in a relatively short amount of time. Humor helps me break the ice. It helps participants go past their fears. It makes me also look more approachable.
Self-Directed Learning - that surely requires lots and lots of preparation... What else do you bring new to this field?
I like to think that the self-directed learning component plays a big role in my training sessions. I’ve been actually working with the Alternative University of Bucharest, developing their self directed learning model. And I try to implement some principles in my training events.
Another thing I try to focus on is the follow-up. I’m trying to stay in touch with the participants in my training sessions and build a relationship with them. I’m always happy when I hear back from them months later, telling me they got a new certification or that they want us to collaborate on new projects!
And last but not least, even though my content is quite technical (how to use the platform, tips, and tricks, etc.), I’m focusing a lot on the mindset. How to streamline your workday. How to use the online tools for building a better relationship with your students/colleagues. How to unleash your creativity and turn a simple tool (like an online form) into anything from interactive storytelling platforms to outlines for whole meetings/lessons.
Is your audience local or international?
Well, I’ve been traveling a lot, especially in the past years. I have even lived the “nomad week” as I call it recently - I’ve literally had ten days in which in every single night I was either sleeping in a different city, or I was on a bus or plane to a new place. All of this in 6 countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, United Arab Emirates, Finland). Needless to say, I did need few days off after
Which is the favorite place you have seen so far?
I loved discovering Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. Whenever I go to a new place, I like to walk a lot. To feel the vibe of the place, to see how/where locals are eating. To observe how life runs. Dar Es Salaam was the only place where I felt like I was always standing out - most foreigners do not walk in all the places I’ve been to, nor go to the hidden markets.
Apart from training, you mentioned something about Essential Oils and Wellness?
Yes, it is one of my core projects nowadays. I’m working with people from all over the place, showing them how to use oils, how to eliminate chemicals from their lives and how to improve their lifestyles. It’s heartwarming to have people thanking you for helping them get rid of ailments they might have been suffering for years - and all in a natural way. For me, it’s also closely connected with the idea of learning and education, as my main activity is to inform and educate people.
Bogdan, you are an international professional who could easily manage his work from anywhere in this world. Why Prague and not any other place on Earth?
Well, for practical reasons it's a very convenient hub - with good connections to so many airports around the world. But more importantly - I fell in love with Prague ever since I got here for the first time, back in 2006. There’s just something in the air that draws me to this city. I wouldn’t have moved anywhere else in the world other than Prague. When I applied for my first teaching job in Prague I was actually not planning to leave Romania; I mainly applied because it was… Prague.
After three years of teaching in Prague, though, I went the freelancing/entrepreneurial route, and I could have just as easily changed my base. But I still love Prague - it’s called the Golden City for a reason! There’s so much history to be discovered at every step! Besides architecture and history, Prague is also a very tempting cultural city - there are events for all tastes, from classical music festivals (Prague Spring International Music Festival is just about to begin) to pop rock concerts, from opera and ballet to contemporary dance, from classical theater to alternative theater festivals, from traditional festivals and fairs to modern art ones (like the Light Festival in October).
Prague is indeed a fantastic destination. Is there anything you don't like about the city?
Prague is also popular for partying. It’s quite common to see large groups of tourists that are here just for this aspect of the city! Cheap alcohol, high density of pubs and bars and liberal lifestyle make it a perfect destination for this. Unfortunately, this also comes with all the drawbacks - lots of noise (especially in the city center), messy streets in the morning, the public property being destroyed. It’s quite painful to see some of the tourists coming here and literally behaving like they own the place and trashing it down! Having lived in the city center for over four years now, I completely understand why locals are not very fond of these groups of tourists - some even decide to move away from the flats they’ve been living in for decades, just to get away from the commotion.
Tell me about our country - how often do you travel to Romania?
Last year I was living “part time” in Romania. I had a flat there, and I’d be spending about 40% of my time in Bucharest, 40% in Prague and the rest somewhere else in the world. Now I shifted most of my work in the online environment, so I’ll be coming to Romania once every 2-3 months.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
Since spring is here… the spring herbs. I loved going to the market and coming back home with bags full of herbs
Other than that, I do miss my friends - and trying to compensate my physical absence with my online presence, on Social Media.
And of course, mom’s food. Whenever I go back to my hometown, I get spoiled like a king!
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
In most cases that would be “Forget everything you have read/might have heard about Romania.” More and more people are interested in visiting Romania, and they are surprised when I tell them about all the places they could visit. Most of them know about the main cities and maybe the seaside and a mountain range or two. When they hear about the monasteries, the Danube Delta, the fortified cities, the salt mines, the national parks, etc. etc. etc., they are glad to discover there’s more to do in Romania that one can imagine. Invariably, we end the conversation with the idea that a week or so is definitely not enough to explore all the things they could!
What’s next for you? Do you plan on staying abroad, maybe develop some further projects?
I’ll still be based in Prague for the next years - but traveling a lot. Hopefully more often to Romania again, as well. I’m really keen on developing my Essential Oils business, so I’m looking at building relationships with possible partners and customers all over the world - and Romania is one of my key focuses.
I’m also planning to invest more resources in developing educational projects - both on my own and in collaboration with other organizations. I would love to see myself contribute to the creation of self-directed communities - groups of people that take ownership of their lives and help each other develop their dreams. This is the reason for which learning plays such an important role for me - I strongly believe we can learn anything, but not just anyhow!
Any final remarks regarding our home country?
The recent events made me very proud of my fellow Romanians. The massive turnout for the street protests and the peaceful way they took place still is an example for the whole world. For the first time, maybe, I’ve had so many foreigners approaching me in the span of just a few weeks to tell me that they are proud of Romanians. While before I often had to “prove” myself and debunk myths regarding Romanians… now I can see a shift in perspective.
All I can hope is that this momentum is not lost and that the civic society sticks together and works for a durable change!
We all hope that, and we actually need opinion-makers like you, still connected to Romania and keeping enthusiasm alive! Thank you for your time, Bogdan!
The Golden Romania
All the interviews in this section, gathered in one place!
Razvan Mihai Oancea - the Regional Manager in the sewing industry whose transformation process has only started after 40, when he has moved to Hong Kong
Andrei Golesteanu - the experienced HR Manager who's in the position to develop US professionals
Radu Topliceanu, one of the top Romanian banking professionals worldwide!
Johann Stan, the Romanian who's in the position to approve a patent for any European innovation!
Andrei Lascu, the Country Manager of 750 IT Professionals in Indonesia
Mirel Baila, the first Romanian Abroad who has shared his amazing story to this platform!