Why Bulgaria!?!?

Why Bulgaria…?  It’s a question I’ve received countless times over the last few months as I’ve explained my future plans to friends, co-workers, and family.  Despite many opportunities to respond, it’s still tough to find a satisfactory answer.  Most people just don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to live and teach English in Bulgaria for 10 months.  In all honesty, I wonder that myself sometimes too.
bulgaria pin map
Applicants to the Fulbright program are only allowed to apply to one country.  With over 130 countries to choose from, selecting just one becomes a daunting task.  I knew I wanted to go somewhere I had never been before, which quickly eliminated 20 or so countries I’d been fortunate enough to visit.  Numerous other countries require that you speak the native tongue; since I can only speak English and Spanish, several other countries fell out of consideration.  Once I had worked the list down to something more manageable, I started researching individual countries in a bit more detail.  Upon further research, Bulgaria stood out to me for a few different reasons:
  1. It connects Europe and Asia.  Located on the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe, Bulgaria is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.  This location, in conjunction with its access to the Danube River and Black Sea, make Bulgaria a hot spot for international trade and travel.  The movement of so many goods and people through the country has resulted in an interesting and diverse population, which leads me to point #2.
  2. It has a rich history and diverse culture.  While reading about Bulgaria, I learned that many etymologists claim “bulgar” aptly means “of mixed origin.”  This comes as no surprise when you consider the many different groups that have occupied present-day Bulgaria; Thracians, Greeks, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Slavs, and Bulgars (just to name a few) all called this region home at one point in time.  Bulgaria was also absorbed by the Ottoman empire for ~500 years and spent considerable time under Communist influence.  Even today, Bulgaria’s population is ever-changing.  For example, Bulgaria has recently seen an influx in Syrian refugees fleeing turmoil in their home country for the (now overcrowded) refugee camps in Bulgaria.
  3. It is in the midst of a transformation.  Having just adopted a democratic constitution in 1991, Bulgaria’s democracy is still in its infancy.  It became a NATO nation in 2004, and formally became a member of the European Union in 2007.  While transitioning to a market economy has been a struggle, Bulgarians are a strong, determined people.  My hope is that teaching English can help open doors for Bulgarians who now have more exposure to a global economy.

While I’m sure most of you still think I’m crazy for moving to Bulgaria, hopefully this sheds at least a little light on why I was inspired to do so!

Interested in applying for a Fulbright grant?  Check out the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.  Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions!