A Mainer Abroad: Bulgarian realities

The view of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria from the hilltop. Photo courtesy Chloe Dyer.

The view of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria from the hilltop. Photo courtesy Chloe Dyer.

Last week, my phone was stolen while out at a bar in Blagoevgrad. Bulgaria is actually quite a corrupt country, and theft can happen often. I live on the first floor of my dorm, and my windows will only open so far and we are advised to keep them closed as much as possible and always while leaving the room. The reason for this is the Romani (Gypsies) will often hang out near the dorms, especially at night, and there have been instances of break-ins as recent as last semester in the dorms, where students have had things such as laptops stolen. This is so different from University of Maine dorms! While theft can occur most often among students, I have never felt unsafe in a dorm or in Orono at night. Blagoevgrad is also a much bigger city.

I have had to go a week and a half without my phone, but I am very lucky because my mom is visiting me this weekend in Bulgaria, and she is bringing me a new one. I feel so fortunate to have someone visit me all the way from the U.S. while I am here.

This past weekend, I also decided to go hiking in Blagoevgrad, where I experienced my first taste of nature since being here. There is a very large cross on a small mountain that overlooks the city, as is the case in many Bulgarian cities (they are predominantly Orthodox Christian). I hiked up to this one, which took about an hour. The entrance to the hike is located near Old Blagoevgrad, which is a small section of the city that has buildings that look traditionally Bulgarian, rather than communist buildings and apartments like most of the city. The Main Building, one of the locations where I have classes, used to be the Communist Headquarters in Blagoevgrad.

Anyway, the hike was nothing special, because there is also a big problem in Bulgaria with littering. There was a lot of trash around the paths, which also tends to happen in the river. This may sound gross, which it is, but it makes me appreciate how clean most of the U.S. is, especially Maine. Bulgaria simply has a different opinion of environmental care and they haven’t come to the same level as we have with this. In addition to the litter, sometimes I also have to be very careful with what I throw away, because the Gypsies will also go through the dumpsters.
In the end, if all I lose here is a material object, then I am not devastated. It opens my eyes to some of the realities of living in a foreign country. While studying abroad, not every day is going to be perfect with amazing experiences, just like everyday life. Many people think that going abroad will be nothing but amazing, and while it provides for many life-changing experiences and great memories, it also just exposes you to a different way of life and realities.

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