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Say YES to Sports!

Photo of a volleyball court

By Jake Faulkner (YES Abroad 2023-2024, placed in Bulgaria)

Like every person before going on exchange, I was very apprehensive about how I would fit into my new location. When I lived in the United States, one of the main ways I was able to connect with people was through sports. In the US, it was a huge part of my life, and I hoped it would be in Bulgaria as well.

When I first arrived in Bulgaria, I was very apprehensive as to how I would bond with my host family. When I first met my host mom, one of the first things we talked about was our enjoyment of volleyball, and she offered to take me to play with her. Throughout my time in Bulgaria, her and I have played volleyball on numerous occasions from a small little gym to the same gym where the best teams in Bulgaria play. This brought us closer together even if on the court we were yelling at each other for not taking the ball!

Additionally, sports let me get closer with my classmates. Despite a language barrier, with most sports, the only thing you need to know how to say is “mine” or “yours”. This allowed me to start getting closer with my classmates because after every point, you can go give a high five, or come together to focus on the next point. Every time we’d do something like this, we’d get a little bit closer.

Photo of Jake playing pool

Furthermore, sports provide a good opportunity to get active within your community. For me, I was fortunate enough to have one of the YES Program alumni invite me to play touch rugby with him. Through this, I was able to develop a strong community within Sofia, one that would have been very hard to replicate without the connection we had through sports.

All in all, sports have provided me with a very great opportunity to get involved within my local community and establish myself within my host family, school, and Sofia as a whole. From this, I learned that even if many things are different halfway across the world, forming connections can come from something as simple as shouting “mine”!