The architecture near the University is quite unique. Compared to the rest of the city, the dorms are built in a style that focuses on efficiency. My room is a single, with just a bed and a sink. Eight of us share two showers and two toilets. It is livable, but definitely a unique experience. Remnants of the Communist period seem to appear briefly in various degrees throughout the ex-Soviet Bloc.
A lot of things are quite different in Bulgaria. I am in Eastern Europe, and my surroundings make it quite obvious. Animals roam the city quite frequently. Packs of feral dogs are quite common, and yesterday, two horses and a foal were eating garbage, away from their owners, outside of our dorm. It would be interesting to see my sister’s reaction; Anna would like seeing the horses, but I am sure she would be upset that they were digging through the trash to find food.
I think that the students from the United States are the most surprised by things like this. Although we would probably never see such things in the US, they may happen in smaller cities in European countries. I could probably find something like that in a smaller city in the Czech Republic, but regardless, the culture here is quite distinct.
One of the greatest parts of the program is the huge variety in the participants. I am not sure what I expected, but there are representatives from around the world. I am not sure how so many people decided they wanted to study Bulgarian, but it makes quite an interesting group. I also expected the default language to be English, typical American thinking, but the tours are all given in Bulgarian. Nevertheless, when chatting with other people, the most common cross cultural language is English. It is amazing that these students have to talk to each other in their second or third language. With such language barriers, obviously things are lost in translation, but that makes this trip more exciting.
It also has given me the chance to brush up on my other languages. The first group of people I met were Czech, so I was kind of stuck in a bubble where I would speak Czech rather than Bulgarian. When the other BC students arrived, I obviously spoke more English, but I still have been speaking French, poorly, and Spanish. It is definitely an experience that I will treasure.
I just taught a fellow student how baseball and American football work. I never knew they were such complicated sports. It took about twenty minutes to explain baseball. The sport really is too complicated for its own good. But it was fun to spread a little bit of my culture to those who are teaching me some of theirs.