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The Final Countdown
By Rumyana Yotova, Program and Administrative Assistant, American Councils Bulgaria
It’s been almost 9 months since the first generation of YES Abroad Bulgaria students arrived in Sofia. 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 the airport. For these 9 months we had some hard moments together, but many great moments as well. Now as there is only one month left on program, it is time for reflection on the exchange experience and lessons learned.
From May 26-27, Rachel F. (from Moscow, ID) and Elijah S. (from Morristown, NJ) had their final end of year orientation preparing them for their return home in the beginning of July. The orientation went very well, and participants reflected on the changes in their self-perception and perceptions of the host country. We discussed the stages of reentry, how to recognize them, and common problems that arise when returning home, as well as possible solutions to those problems. Additionally, Rachel and Elijah thought of people they want to thank for this opportunity, including a letter to Tammy Paltchikov, Educational and Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia. At the end of the orientation, the two students read messages from YES inbound alumni with advice on how to spend their last month on program and how to stay active as program alumni.
The orientation was held in city of Plovdiv, and sightseeing was built into the weekend as well. We visited the nearby city of Karlovo to attend the Festival of the Bulgarian Rose. Rachel mentioned that this festival was part of her “things to do in Bulgaria” bucket list and wanted to check it off her list. 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 27. We saw where these wonderful plants are growing and smelled the aroma of thousands of roses. After visiting 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 being sold. The main attraction of the festival was a demonstration of the traditional production method of rose oil at the local history museum. Thinking of returning home, students bought 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. You have probably grown up this year, and I have changed a lot too and it is because of you.