Study Abroad in Bulgaria: “Life Lessons.Friends.Wow!”

Have you ever wanted to study abroad in Bulgaria or wondered what that experience would be like? Would it be similar to spending a semester abroad in Spain, Italy or France, or would it be nothing like it? What would everyday-life be like and what challenges and opportunities would you come across?

If these and a gazillion more questions come to mind, then this post is for YOU! As part of our series Bulgaria: The Land of Opportunity, we are thrilled to share with you the Bulgarian study abroad experience of someone who has been there and done it all. Please meet Liennor or as she is better known in Bulgaria – Eli!

Eli
Liennor or Eli (her Bulgarian name)

Bio: I am 23 years old and live in the very heart of Switzerland. After 6 years of primary school, I continued in High School, where, after 6 more years, I still was not sure what I wanted to study. After one year of working in a bookshop and a bar, I decided to go to art school. Soon I will start my last bachelor year in Basel, and after two more years of master, I will hopefully be an arts teacher. I know I will like this job, but I can imagine doing other things later as well. My great passions in art are video and performance.

Q: Bulgaria is definitely not one of the traditional European study abroad destinations. What made you decide to study abroad there?

When I was thinking about doing an Erasmus semester, I looked through the list of partner schools of my university. The St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo caught my eye immediately. I have always liked Balkan music and I realized that I did not know a lot about these countries. Still, I needed to think about it a while and it took me a lot of courage and a little bit of craziness to choose Bulgaria and not just go to other countries where I knew the language and have been before.

view of Veliko Tarnovo
Buildings on the top left are the dorms, on the right side the university campus & the yellow one is the sculpture-house

Q: When you found out that you were accepted into the Bulgaria program, how did you prepare for your upcoming study abroad experience? Did you find a lot of readily available information on your destination or did most of your learning happen on the go?

After being accepted in November, I began to learn Bulgarian. Although I did not come very far in the three months until my departure, it helped me a bit in the beginning and kept my nervousness lower. Otherwise I actually did not search for any information because I wanted to see and learn for myself. So yes, when I left, I still did not have an idea about life in Bulgaria.

Q: What is everyday life like for an exchange student in Bulgaria? What were the greatest challenges that you encountered? What made most sense?

Tsarevets- The Medieval Castle & Capital of Bulgaria
Tsarevets- The Medieval Castle & Capital of Bulgaria

I guess the everyday student life must be really similar in most places, for me anyway it was. The greatest challenge, however, was to figure out the lesson schedule. Because all the Erasmus students had different studies, we could not help each other and had to find teachers or Bulgarian students that could speak our languages and show us what to do. I was very lucky, a now very good friend helped me with everything. We spoke German together.

Also, for me, the beginning was a small challenge, because I did not know anyone or anything, but that changed really soon!

Q: Bulgarian as you know is a Slavic language that uses the Cyrillic alphabet. On a scale from 1 to 10 (where 1 is very easy and 10 is very difficult) how difficult was it for a Western European student like yourself to overcome the language barrier just enough to get by? Were your classes taught in English?

The art studio at the university
The art studio at the university

Actually, when I arrived, everyone found out that most of the classes were in Bulgarian. For others, this was more of a problem because they had lectures, but in art lessons, the language does not matter that much. We had Bulgarian class though, which was in English. For me, I guess the difficulty level must be around 8. It was hard for me, and I did not learn as much as I wanted, but I really like the language and still have my learning books at home…we will see what happens 🙂

Q: You took the time and explored Bulgaria from its largest city and capital, Sofia, to its smallest town of Melnik. While crisscrossing the country, did you find a favorite place? If so which one is it and what about it stood out the most to you?

Veliko Tarnovo
Every time we walk over that bridge… WOW!

I found many wonderful places, the most meaningful ones where I made friends.

But the city that will always be special to me is Veliko Tarnovo of course. After traveling, it was always just perfect to come home and cross the bridge with the awesome sight of the whole old part of the city, and of course greet all friends.

Q: While in country, you kept a blog where you shared a lot of your adventures. Looking back on those, what is the single, most important thing that your study abroad helped you learn about yourself? 

Tsarevets
Eli on Tsarevets!

I learned many things. I guess one of the most important ones is, that I’m not as shy and introverted as I always make myself believe. Also, I realized that making plans should not be that important, but that sometimes spontaneity leads to more interesting paths.

Q: How do your “before” (pre-arrival) and “after” (post-departure) image of Bulgaria compare? In what way did Bulgaria surprise you the most?

Since I practically knew nothing at all about Bulgaria, I did not have any expectations, which, I think, is a good thing. It also really helped me with the small difficulties at the beginning, because I just took everything how it came. Still, Bulgaria positively surprised me many times and makes me miss it now.

Our reliefs we left at the sculpture-house as a present..mine is in the middle
Present we left at the sculpture-house. Mine is in the middle

Q: Is there anything that you would still like to see, learn or do if you had more time in Bulgaria?

Many things! I will definitely come back.

Q: What advice would you give future exchange students looking to study abroad in Bulgaria?

Be patient, spontaneous, and open for everything. If you get into it, it will be awesome!

Q: Lastly, if you could describe your Bulgarian experience in three words, what would they be?

Life lessons. Friends. Wow!

Bulgaria
Ciao Bulgaria!

~WithLoveFromBG~

photo credit: Liennor

P.S. Crave more? Our Resources on Bulgaria page is updated regularly & features lots of interesting & useful reads. Check it out! ;)

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Gift Corner – FOR HER

Beads “I Love You” Bulgarian Love Letter from Bulgaria – Pandora Charm & Bracelet Compatible

$18.99

 

Spotted! – All About Bulgaria

On the streets of Sofia
On the streets of Sofia

Every time I spot an article on Bulgaria, I get really excited and read it in one breath. 🙂 It makes me happy to see that others are experiencing this great country and are recognizing it for all that it has to offer. Of course, it would be very selfish of me to keep all of the wonderful finds that I stumble upon to myself, so I decided to share the love with a quick roundup of where I have spotted Bulgaria as of lately.

Hope you enjoy them!

1) “How to Meet People Abroad: Sofia, Bulgaria” on Melibee Global – O.K. so maybe, I was the cause for this one to show up on Melibee Global’s page, BUT it is a great one if I must say so myself AND a part of a bigger series on how to meet people abroad. 🙂 If you are headed to Sofia, it’s a MUST read!

How to Meet People Abroad: Sofia, Bulgaria
How to Meet People Abroad: Sofia, Bulgaria

2) “Top 10 Most Beautiful Ancient Cities in the World” on Vacation Homes– This one is an olde-but-goody! Posted in early 2012, it ranks Plovdiv (Bulgaria’s second largest city) as #3 of the top 10 most beautiful ancient cities in the world!!! It is topped only by Rome and Athens, which take the #1 and #2 spots respectively.

3) “Belogradchik Fortress, Bulgaria – May 14, 2013” on Iputmylifeonashelf.com – An entertaining and candid account of one New Yorker’s visit to the Belogradchik Fortress. If you are having a not so good day and are in need of a good distraction, then read this. It had me laughing all the way to the very end. Also, while you are there, check her other posts from her time in Bulgaria. 🙂

That’s all from me for now. I will keep my eyes opened and share more as I come across it. If you see something interesting on Bulgaria and would like me to share it with everyone on here, contact me via the contact page. I would be happy to hear from you and spread the word. 🙂

Happy Monday and stay inspired!

~WithLoveFromBG~

P.S. Crave more? Our Resources on Bulgaria page is updated regularly & features lots of interesting & useful reads. Check it out! 😉

 

“Bulgaria Odyssey”: We Are Moving to Bulgaria and Starting a Business There

Warren and Silvi
Warren and Silvi

As part of Bulgaria: The Land of Opportunity series that ~WithLoveFromBG~ launched this past July, I am super excited to bring to you the story of one extraordinary couple and their Bulgarian Odyssey. What makes them so extraordinary you ask? Well, besides their rich on experiences individual backgrounds, which you will find more about in just a few seconds, there is this one other tiny little thing. They are leaving the UK and moving to the country side of Bulgaria to start a business and build a life! How is that for EXTRAordinary?!

You probably can already tell that these are not your usual Brits. In fact, one of them is not even British. She is Belgian! Born and raised in Gent, she holds a degree in Fine Arts Ceramics, speaks Flemish, Dutch, French and English, and has traveled the world (widely in Europe and briefly in Russia, Australia & Jordan). He on the other hand, he is British, born and raised. Quite the adventurer in both business and travel, he has tried his hand at the motorcycle, mountain-bike, restaurant and photography businesses in addition to backpacking for 2 years in Africa, the Middle East, India, and through a good chunk of Asia. When the two of them met in 2007, England became their permanent address.that is until Bulgaria came into the picture.

Silvi's Pottery
Silvi’s Pottery

When I caught up with them about a month ago, I was interested in finding out what motivated them to pick up and move permanently to Bulgaria. For Gods sake from all the countries in the world: Why Bulgaria?! By the end of our conversation, I had my answers.

Silvi's Pottery
Silvi’s Pottery

This is the story of Warren and Silvi, and their Bulgarian Odyssey!

Q: At nearly fifty, when most are looking for stability and predictability, you two are gearing up for the adventure of a lifetime. What motivates you to leave behind the comfort of a familiar life in the UK and relocate to Bulgaria?

When we first met, we quickly discovered that we had a mutual desire to live a life less ordinary. Almost instantly we recognized that our past professional and traveling experiences would enable us to turn this desire into reality and that is when and how the dream of creating our own business abroad was born.

We have spent the last few years researching several potential locations and only after visiting Bulgaria last year we knew we had found our future home. We fell in love with the unspoiled beauty, climate and fascinating Bulgarian culture and were overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit of the people. It didn’t take long at all to realize that we were willing and ready to spend the next 20 years building a life there.

Q: What is the Bulgaria odyssey? What are you giving up to make it happen?

Bulgaria Odyssey By definition odyssey is “an epic, life changing adventure” and that is exactly what we are doing with moving to Bulgaria, going on our own life changing adventure. However unlike Homer’s literary masterpiece, our “Bulgarian odyssey” entails building a businesses and offering a few services along the way.

We aim to provide a personal, intimate, relaxed holiday service in beautiful surroundings and at the same time offer pottery and photography workshops, bird watching and cultural day trips. This way we hope to give our guests a truly eclectic experience of Bulgaria.

In order to turn this into a reality, we are selling our home in the UK, leaving two full-time, secure jobs, and saying good-bye to family and friends.

Q: You recently purchased your new house in Bulgaria. (Congrats!) How did you go about doing it? What was the process like? And most importantly, what are your plans for it?

During our visit last year, we were on the house hunt and viewed various potential properties all over the country. With our business venture in mind, we decided that Veliko Tarnovo was the most suitable location for the life we wanted to have in Bulgaria. It’s relatively close proximity to the international airports in Sofia and Bucharest, outstanding natural beauty and depth of cultural attractions made it a perfect match.

When we returned to the UK we started exploring properties that were listed on Ebay and bought our house sight unseen. Whereas this was obviously a huge risk and a nerve-wracking experience, we are confident that the property we bought will provide both us and our guests with the experience we have dreamed of for so long.

The Bulgaria Plan We plan to renovate the place by ourselves and turn it into the focal point of our “Bulgarian odyssey”. The barn will be transformed into two double, en-suite rooms for guest accommodation. The outbuilding will become the pottery studio, while the gardens will be landscaped to include an outdoors kitchen/dining area covered with shady vines and a natural plunge pool. We plan to have an extensive vegetable and herb garden and maintain the existing orchard, in addition to keeping goats, chickens and bees. All of these will provide us with fresh ingredients that in combination with our existing cookery skills will enable us to serve our guests exciting and tasty Bulgarian dishes.

Q: With this move, you are looking to turn a few of your passions into successful businesses. As international entrepreneurs, what opportunities do you see in Bulgaria, that are not present in the UK? 

Bulgaria offers us a unique opportunity to live and work together, as a team, combining our skills and interests in a country where the limited financial resources that we have will be just enough to create our rural idyll. That would have never been possible in the UK.

We certainly did our homework, before selecting Bulgaria, and we felt that more exhausted locations such as France, Spain, Italy, etc. were simply not for us. They were either too similar to what we already had back in the UK or they lacked the financial freedom that we craved. We wanted to be in the vanguard of cultural and activity holidays in a country that is still largely unexplored and much maligned in common perception. Bulgaria fit the bill and we almost immediately felt an overwhelming desire to promote and expose the beauty and cultural traditions of this country. I guess one could say that at that moment we had found our inspiration.

Q: With which of her characteristics does Bulgaria inspire you to take a chance and turn your passions into a way of life?

The mere fact that Bulgaria can offer us an opportunity to turn our passions into a way of life is probably, the single most inspiring characteristic of this country for us. Of course its natural beauty and the overwhelming kindness that the Bulgarian people have shown us thus far in our journey are by no means to be underestimated in their inspirational qualities. We are very happy and grateful for them.

At the end, what matters most to us is that we are leaving behind a life that was deprived of creativity, excitement and yes to a great extent, inspiration, and are opening the door to a place where all we have is exactly that.

~WithLoveFromBG~

P.S. You can follow their adventures as they leave for Bulgaria in the next couple of weeks on Twitter @bulgariaodyssey or email them on odysseygate@aol.com for details of Early Bird Offers on their holidays.

Crave more? Our Resources on Bulgaria page is updated regularly & features lots of interesting & useful reads. Check it out! 😉

 

Bulgaria In Most Unusual Places: Fashion anyone?!

SURPRISE!

Look who showed up in “Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible”!!!
Bulgarian folk costume in Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible

Not only has he heard of Bulgaria, but he also referenced the Bulgarian folk costume in his latest New York Times Bestseller.

How about you? Can you place Bulgaria on the world map and name one or all of its 5 neighbors?

(Note: we are not counting the fish in the Black Sea on this one ;))

Coment bellow with your answers!

~WithLoveFromBG~

P.S. Crave more? Our Resources on Bulgaria page is updated regularly & features lots of interesting & useful reads. Check it out! 😉

Unity Day in Bulgaria

Happy Unity Day #Bulgaria!

Today Bulgaria celebrates 128 of unity and the motto “Unity makes us strong” (#СъединениетоПравиСилата) written on the facade of the Bulgarian parliament, is more prevalent than ever before.

The Bulgarian parliament  -"Unity makes us strong"
The Bulgarian parliament with the motto “Unity makes us strong” written across the facade and above the main entrance.

Hopes and wishes to stay together and by each other as one nation and one people are readily expressed throughout the day, even amongst strangers. We are all Bulgarian today despite any religious, ethnic or other diversities along which we identify ourselves. The air is charged with excitement and the feeling is nothing short of electrifying. To read the story of the Bulgarian unification —–> here.

As always head out to #Plovdiv to take part in the celebrations of the day!

~WithLoveFromBG~

P.S. Crave more? Our Resources on Bulgaria page is updated regularly & features lots of interesting & useful reads. Check it out! 😉