Hello lovely readers! I've successfully made the leap from being an Ohio State undergrad to a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bulgaria. Most of the first week went off without a hitch. I did lose luggage and panic a bit during my scarily short layover in Chicago, but I made it and life is just dandy. This first post is a brief rundown of my initial week here in Bulgaria and serves as a little introduction to my forthcoming adventures! Here we goat.
So the basics. For the next ten months, I’ll be teaching English language/ literature and American culture classes in Dimitrovgrad, a small-ish city in southeastern Bulgaria. I am one of 27 ETA’s in the country, all of whom are currently spending two weeks at the annual Fulbright International Summer Institute (FISI) in Pravets for language courses, classroom planning, and a crash course on Bulgarian culture and what we can expect of life in this lovely nation.
The language is really challenging me, but I’m plugging away like a boss. Our sessions dealing with classroom planning have been much more Sarah-friendly...lots of idea sharing and creative thinking. It seems that I’ll have a lot of freedom as an ETA; my mentor teacher, Tsvetanka (see below!), is pretty open to my ideas. Camp songs for pronunciation practice? You bet your whiskers.
The experience so far has been wonderful, but there is a certain strangeness that comes with staying in a fancy-shmancy resort for a week when you know that the current situation relates in almost no way whatsoever to what the future will hold. I’m currently eating dessert at every meal (such a glutton) and spending my evenings in a sauna or studying Bulgarian by a perfect lake. All us ETA’s are living in a little FISI bubble right now, and most of us are still waiting to get a good feel for what Bulgaria is actually like.
That being said, the past week has challenged me to become close with my fellow Fulbrighters and to get to know the little family and support system I’m sure I’ll come to rely heavily upon in the coming months. I have to say, I’ve never been part of such an open and easy-going group. Each person here brings something insightful and quirky to the program and I genuinely enjoy spending time with each of them. SIGH OF RELIEF.
Notable moments so far include an excursion to go caving and a visit to the Troyan monastery this past weekend, a wonderful welcome dinner where I learned Bulgarian folk dances and showed off my famous dance skills (taught 'em how to dance "Jules style"), lectures that introduced us to the Bulgarian education system and expanded on the recent protests in Sofia, a hike that led to a stranger's backyard, that sad moment when I learned pizza often comes with mayonnaise dollops (WHY), and meeting three Buckeyes at FISI! The past week has been so full and intriguing. All in all, I am overjoyed to be here and to see another little corner of this vast, wonderful world.