Abbie Hill, YES Abroad Bulgaria ’19
I’ve been in Bulgaria for, wow, has it really been five months already? As a member of the Yes Abroad program. To be honest, after all this time, I’m still not entirely sure where in the world I belong. My decision to apply here was inspired by my first international travel at the beginning of high school, a week-long scholarship to Cuba to study the effects of communism on a nation. Most of the students on the scholarship had the same expectations as I did going into that experience- After all, we had learned all about communism in every history class since the 3rd grade and our impressions were pretty much set in stone.
Basically, I learned that communism was a giant umbrella word for a series of complex political decisions and the effect of multiple parties seeking after different goals and interactions, and under that definition, it’s alike to many other political systems. But as US citizens, we’re taught to think about it in a different way. Going to Cuba was the first time that my perspective about other nations was truly altered- it was almost like stepping into a parallel dimension. They had a history and culture with people and things I’d never heard of before, and because of it, their reality was a striking difference from my own. After that experience, I knew I needed to leave my country again and get another taste for what was out there- to visit another world away from my own.
That’s what brought me out here to Bulgaria, and I’m not at all disappointed by what I’ve found. The country seems to exist in so many time periods at once. The underground is filled with the beautiful Serdika ruins dating back to the influence of the Roman empire some thousands of years ago. Monuments commemorating the recent history of the nation are scattered through the City Center, and the traffic and people both move at a progressively higher pace to keep up with the modernizing world. And outside of the city, mountains and abandoned villages are shrouded by a timeless air and follow the seasons oblivious to the intentions of rapid city life. I can’t think of another place in the world caught between such a perfect balance of the past, present and future. I feel like a wanderer of another reality.
Like an Alice caught in a Wonderland, I haven’t been left without company or guides. I really enjoy the time I spend with my classmates, as we explore new perspectives to each other’s culture that we wouldn’t have been able to realize without the help of each other. Seeing all of the cultural heritage through landmarks and embroidery patterns and even the music that we listen to is too overwhelming to identify it all at once, but we spend a lot of time breaking it down and going over it together. Art, language, and history are the branches that all lead down to a single root that we all share, from which we are all connected.
Perhaps that’s the most important thing I’ve come to realize, traveling between countries and through streets I’d never thought I’d get to visit, guarded by statues whose names I have yet to learn: Although we’re from different worlds and music and relationships and passions, we’re still people with a lot in common. Our language and culture our not the barriers that keep us apart, but rather, more opportunities for us to connect and understand each other. And no matter where in the world I am, I do believe that this is most important, the way we’ve spent our time together: To grow, connect, and inspire each other and to stay open-minded despite the things we don’t yet understand. We are, after all, from the same world.