The final countdown – end of year orientation for YES abroad students in Bulgaria

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By Rumyana Yotova, program and administrative assistant, AC Bulgaria
It’s been almost 9 months since the first generation YES abroad students arrived in Bulgaria. I still remember the excitement that we the AC staff together with the host families experienced while waiting for Rachel, Elijah and Sophia to arrive at Sofia airport. For these 9 months we had some hard moments together but many great moments as well. Now since there is only one month left on program, it is time for reflection on the exchange experience and lessons learned.
On May 26-27th, 2017 YES abroad students Rachel Freeman and Elijah Septoff had their final end of year orientation preparing them for returning home in the beginning of July. The orientation went very well, participants ware reflecting on the changes in their self-perception and perceptions of the host country. We discussed the stages of reentry and how to recognize them and the common problems that can face when returning home as well as the possible solutions. Rachel and Elijah were able to think of people they want to thank for this opportunity and they wrote a common letter to Tammy Paltchikov, educational and Cultural Attaché in US Embassy in Sofia. At the end of the orientation students read massages from YES alumni with advice how to spend the last month on program and how stay active as part as the alumni society. Students also shared their suggestions what changes can be done in the program in order to make the exchange experience even better for the second YES abroad generation.
The orientation was held in city of Plovdiv and was combined with sightseeing and visiting festival of the Bulgarian rose in the nearby city of Karlovo. As Rachel mentioned this festival was part of her “things to visit in Bulgaria” list so she was able to put one more tick on it. Although the weather was not our friend (it was raining almost whole day) we didn’t change the plan and went to the rose gardens on the morning of May 27th. We saw where these wonderful plants are growing and smelled the aroma of thousands of roses. After the gardens we went to the city center where different products with rose water and rose oil such as cosmetics, candles, soaps, rose jam etc. were exposed. The main attraction of the festival was demonstration of traditional production of the rose oil in the History museum. Thinking of returning home students start buying gifts for their friends and family.
It’s been 9 months since we started this wonderful journey together. Thank you YES abroad for the moments we shared. Probably you have grown up, but I have changed a lot too and it is because of you.

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