Appreciation level-unmatched

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laurenby Lauren Leadbetter YES abroad Bulgaria ’18

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In the past few months, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel outside of Bulgaria and see some of the places that travelers in Sofia often talk about. Outside of Sofia, it didn’t take long for me to begin reminiscing on the charm and small luxuries Sofia has. Small luxuries like streets rarely requiring a cross light giving pedestrians the right of way to cross wherever the pavement is striped. Or having a diverse collection of architecture in the city (caused by a fascinating history and recent economic growth) with the styles mixing in an informal fashion but they’re unified by the charm of incredible graffiti or small specialty shops that cover the ground floor of most central buildings. Huge mountains for hiking and skiing are only a city bus ride away. There are so many beautiful and practical fountains constantly running with mineral water for the people to use as they wish. The list of assets feels endless while strolling around the city on any day of the year.

So many of the aspects of life in Sofia and Bulgaria feel really special, especially with accompaniment by features in the infrastructure that are hard to find anywhere else in the world. Just as I encountered feelings of longing to return to Sofia, many Bulgarians share with me that they experience the same feelings for all the same reasons and more.

The most common question when meeting new Bulgarians is “How are you finding Bulgaria?” When I respond that I’m happy every single day I wake up here, most smile and talk about the best things Bulgaria has and how much it gives to Europe and the rest of the world. However, their admiration is frequently followed by how hard it is to properly promote and share the country’s facets with the rest of the world because of internal issues like a decreasing population, a shrinking workforce, and an absence of comprehensive legislation.

Bulgarians living here commonly tell me how easy and popular for Bulgarians to leave the country for university or to gain work experience, and then continue their lives outside of Bulgaria free of the difficulties present with life in Bulgaria. I have so much admiration and respect for Bulgarians for sharing with me how their lives here must be so that one day their country can be holistically incredible for visitors and residents.

It is always understood that I love Bulgaria, and it has felt like most other people here share that feeling too.  The people living here are wanting to share with the world and grant Bulgaria all of the recognition it deserves, as a country capable of seemingly everything and should compete with other global top travel destinations. The zeal for an amplified Bulgaria is unmatched by any other movement or cause I’ve ever seen, so much so that even my classmates talk about their life plans to enhance their country.

Though my short trips outside of the city were on a much smaller scale, I understand the feelings that motivate Bulgarians for their entire lives. I understand why the tram driver keeps all of the Bulgarian flags in the front windows. I see why the worker at my local market watches me place seemingly typical cucumbers in my bag, then he comes and replaces them with Bulgarian grown ones while shouting the Bulgarian national anthem.   I appreciate people that have share hidden information on the status of Bulgaria upon our first interaction. I have great admiration and appreciation for the aspects of my experiences in Sofia, from the open people to just crossing the street every day on my way home. I appreciate all of it.