Tag Archive | WAT

1519–1522/ 2013-2014

Hello from me- your WAT expert- for the 12th time now.

My last post I dedicated to my friend Tzvetan and his wonderful first time in the US. However, I did not finish the story of his adventures, as they were so many and all so different that presenting them in one post was going to be too much. Not only for me, a sophomore (suffer more), but for all of you, my faithful readers.

I promised that I am going to finish what I started last time, so let me introduce you Tzvetan Romanski..for the second time.

This post is going to be about Ceco’s second (and probably last) time in the US, when he travelled to…wait for it….10 MORE STATES and visited numerous attractions, went on numerous excursions, drank numerous shots of numerous types of alcohol…. And so on.

For his WAT in 2014, Ceco chose the same destination- Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. He worked for the same employers- Aramarck and Princess, had basically the same responsibilities, so I am not going to go in depth about this. What comes after his final days in Denali, I believe, is more intriguing.

(Seriously, I am staring at the notes I took during the interview and I really do not know where to start from…)

After they left Denali, Tzvetan and his friend Ralitsa (you remember Ralitsa, right? The girl that was working with him, the one that had the guts to fly with a helicopter and ride on a roller coaster? Yup, that Ralitsa) went to the wonderful state of San Diego. 3 days on the beach on Coronado Island, where Ceco says “The sand was so yellow, at some point I was hallucinating that it was gold” and everything was just so magnifique. They visited the famous zoo- Balboa Park, where several of the biggest museums in the world are positioned.

Then it was time for the notorious  New Orleans– the birthplace of Jazz where it is not very safe to walk the streets alone…at night.  New Orleans Ceco compared to Sofia, giving a really picturesque example of how “it smelled like the garbage cans, in the summer, when they have been under sunlight for the whole day. You can only imagine HOW that smells!” Other than the stinky air they literally had to make their way through, Ceco and Ralitsa had a pretty nice time there. They went on a tour to the gothic cemeteries, to the film set of American Horror Story (the creepy American TV series that for some reason a lot of my friends find super amazing.) Actually, while they were walking around the old neighborhoods in the French part of New Orleans, they stumbled upon a movie shooting of NCIS. Ceco told me that for some time he felt like he was actually in the movie, because everywhere around him people were wearing masks, “shooting” each other, running like crazy..you know..like in a real movie. Aaaaand because you cannot be in New Orleans and not go to a Jazz club, on the last night of their stay, Ralitsa and Ceco went downtown to listen to some real music, drank shots from cuvettes and even took a video of a black woman dancing on the bar and pouring booze over them. His memories of what happened afterwards are pretty blurry ….wonder why….

After their adventures in New Orleans, our travelers went on a journey to Orlando where they spent 8 days. “It was more of a vacation there. We went to so many places that it is hard for me to remember all of them” Ceco says. Despite the fact that during those 8 days, it did not stop raining, they really did manage to go and visit a lot of places First, they started from Epcot Park, which is one of the parks in Disneyland. Number second on their list was Wet and Wild– an Aquapark where Ceco almost drowned. Number third, according to Tzvetan, was the place most worth visiting- Disney’s Magic Kingdom. In fact, by going to this place, he made one of his dreams come true. The park was one of the most crowded ones, people everywhere. Ralitsa and Ceco had a tour on a rollercoaster, for which they waited 2 hours in a queue. After this, it got time for Universal Studios, Orlando where they got on Hogwarts Express and went to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts .

Their time in Orlando flew away real fast and it was Florida’s tuuurn to try and impress our conquerors. Their first destination was Busch Gardens– a place which Ceco defines as “for older people, not so appropriate for children.” Even though their tummies were still feeling dizzy from the last experiences on the rollercoaster, they just had to try the longest rollercoaster in the world. Ceco told me that Ralitsa almost died up there, she was screaming like crazy and he thought she won’t make it. Thank God, they are both still alive, good job, Rali! The next two places they visited were Islands of Adventures where they tried their luck again and hopped on Incredible Hulk’s Roller Coaster and Sea World which was kind of a zoo with a lot of marine animals.

The next 4 days Ceco and Rali spent in MiamiMiami….can I just go there and never come back? Ceco’s most bright memory of those 4 days in Miami was of the storms that hit the islands every night…every single night, no exceptions. He told me it was actually something really beautiful to see, because you could really see the storm coming your way. They went on a cruise around the islands and experienced in person what we all see in Florida’s video clips.

After Miami, our two friends had only one day in Chicago so they were in a bit of a rush, but still got to check out a lot from Chicago. Starting from museums, Millenium Park, the Buckingham Fountain of Married… with Children (the series, you know), ending with (as Ceco described it) The Glass Statue that looked like a bean.

Their next flight got them to West Virginia where they had a friend- a Bulgarian girl, who just got married. She and her husband took good care of them, showed them around, even went together to Kentucky and Ohio where Ceco remembers the sushi..Gosh, that sushi, I will never forget.

The end is near…the end of this veeery loooong, but so amazing journey. Their last destination was Washington DC where they accidentally crashed on a homecoming dance (that is by the way one of MY dreams…) Cute cheerleaders, sexy football players, cheap booze everywhere. After the parade and the party, they ended up in a bar with all the other college students. It looked like I was in the 80s. It was a hippie party, with all the wigs and bright colors, pot and mixed vodka. The sun was just about to set, when they “woke up” in the most famous club in town..which happened to be a gay bar. They spent 2 hours there, “enjoying” a transvestites’ shows while trying to get themselves drunk (again) so that they won’t have to remember all the nudity…

From Washington, Ralitsa and Ceco got on the plane which brought them to Amsterdam….and then to Sofia, Bulgaria.

All in all, Ceco came back with a hand full of…. $70, but with a heart full of ….memories…

And that is what is worth living for.

I have to admit, I really am envious of my friend Ceco, but in the meantime- I am so happy about him. I am happy because most of us go on Work and Travel to make money and spend it on clothes, food and clubs. Ceco did something worth his 4-month-torture. He saw the world. Even though it is just a tiny bit of it…he still saw something. Which one of us can say that for themselves? Not a lot, I can assure you of that. I really wish you, dear readers, that you, one day, will get the chance and will go and see. Will go and explore…and feel the fear to be on top of the world.

I am gonna.

Check out the storify on Twitter…It will help you picture Tzvetan’s adventures better :))

https://storify.com/ViktoriaGeo/year-2-part-2

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Away…

Away. Scary. Unknown. Mysterious. Different. Away. Challenging. Enlightening. Joyful. Beneficial. Diversifying. Uplifting. Mind-blowing…..Away.

Away from home. Away from parents. Away from friends. Away from what we are used to. Away from problems. Away from drama. Away from yourselves. Away from your hearts. Away from our hearts.

Home is where the heart is.

This quote is so famous, such a cliché and in the meantime- so true. Home is safe. Home is nice. Home is where you are accepted no matter what. Home is always there.

Gaining experience, living your life to the maximum means stepping out of your comfort zone. Stepping out the doorstep of your house and stepping in real life. Life with all its ups and downs.

One way to do this during your university time is going abroad, more precisely- on the Work and Travel program. This program not only gives you the chance to travel around the world, but also to make some money to go back home with.

I decided to dedicate my blog to this subject because this summer, the summer of 2014, was my first time as a J1 student in America. The very first moment of my 3 and half-month stay in the US that I remember vividly was when I was about to have a nervous breakdown in front of a stranger. I was feeling so scared, frustrated and lost, like never before. I wish I had asked more people about what to expect, but my stubbornness is my driving force and sometimes I can end up hitting my head against one and the same wall. The purpose of my blog is people, that have not yet experienced the fear of the unknown in the states, get an insight of what it is all about. That is why, every week and I am going on witch hunting, armed with my XI century camera and timeless questions, trying to find people who have interesting stories and valuable advice to share with me. One thing all of my interviewees agree on is that you might not get anything from WAT, but you would gain experience for sure…big time.

The first person the Inquisition (that’s me, I assume..) claimed as target for the witch hunting, was a freshman from Sofia, BulgariaGeorgi Dobrev. His time in the US was a really beneficial one, both from the side of experience and the side of earning money. Georgi simply fell in love with Alaska and America in general. He is 100% positive about going there as many times as he can because according to him:

Alaska and America in general is one of the best places to go and live, not just work, but live because that is the thing you are going to get the most of. It’s not about the work, it is not about the money, it is not about you getting there and getting over these 4 months. It is about you living and experiencing and getting the most you are supposed to get from there. That is the thing with Alaska and America…”

Thus, Georgi is strongly recommending people to go and just explore everything and anything, do not be afraid.

My second victim did not have such a mind-blowing time like Georgi. He had “one heck of an experience”  but that does not necessarily imply that it was a good one. Ventzislav Shabanski, an Alumni from Sofia again, showed, in a pretty ugly way, the mentality of a typical Bulgarian and got himself in jail for that. However, he was not disappointed, he does not regret anything because for him to this day:

I think these were the best $400 I could ever spend on myself .

So people, whatever you do- do not get drunk, especially if you are underage…or if you somehow manage to do so, do not try going back home at 3 am on a bike….Just do not.

I actually got another story related to Ventzi’s “drunk-and-ride” one but this time my source decided to stay behind the curtain and asked me not to reveal her identity. But I got my story…so I am good. Ms. A, the way I refer to the subject of my interview, did not get herself in jail, but got lucky with having to pay only a $250 ticket. The reason? Same thing, different day, different state. Ventzi got arrested in New York, Ms. A got arrested in Wisconsin for the exact same reason- underage drinking.  She says that in summer 2014 she

drank the most expensive beer in her life, but every drop of it was worth it.

A got a sense of what is like to face the real America, not the sugar-coated one, presented in Hollywood movies.

In regard to this, I somehow succeeded in finding an even shadier story, one from the really Dark Ages of history. To be honest, I was not expecting that the person I interviewed (who kindly asked me to stay anonymous, as well and no wonder…) would be actually so responsive and would not mind depicting this really colorful and vigorous picture of his time in the states. Mr. X was telling me the story of how he got detained for marijuana possession in such a detailed way as if it had happened a couple of days ago. I guess the whole experience left a really deep scar in his mind and that is why he was even mentioning dates. Exact dates. Amazing, right? And normal, as well. He had to go to court and pay a lot of money for court expenses and a lawyer, so he advises people:

Don’t get caught. Be cautious.

At a certain point, though, I felt that I am struggling with my posts and making people share their “dirty secrets” with me. And it was not only me struggling with it. You know, people were asking to stay anonymous, obviously they were not very eager to be exposed like that. I mean, they won’t get indulgences from me, I am not the Purgatory… so why bother? This is the reason I am really grateful to those who, out of good will or whatever floats their boat, decided to assist me by providing material for my blog. Thank you, people! However, as I finally realized that, I settled on finding people with positive stories, such they won’t be cautious about putting out there. Like Boyana Atanasova’s story….

Bobi, a freshman from Ruse, Bulgaria was the third person whom I made “confess” in front of me (does that make me the judge, or something?) She told me this inspiring story that would make even the most ruthless person sit down and think about it. Bobi did not only find friends in Alaska, but she found herself. Intentionally or not, does not really matter. The facts speak for themselves- those 4 months abroad changed her thoroughly. She achieved catharsis. From a “party animal” she turned into this responsible person, for whom others are wondering:“Where is Boyana and what have you, what has Alaska done with her?” She found home there, she found people who liked and appreciated her for who she was, not for who she was trying to be. That’s why Bobi says:

“It is worth it. You for sure have to experience this. It is gonna change you, especially if you do not feel good with yourself here in Bulgaria or wherever. 

See, people, it is not that hard. You can find home anywhere in the world as long as you are willing to explore. Explore within yourself, explore without yourself, explore everything and anything. Surely, you are going to gain SOMETHING from this. Life is out there, waiting for you to grab it and live it….

PS: Sorry about all of the History and Political Science-related terminology… This is what happens when you have two midterms and you try to memorize everything…

Oh, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 🙂 You can find more interesting videos, like the one beneath this sentence,…

V For Vendetta, A For Anonymous

Not many people are usually willing to share some of their deepest emotions, to put their soul out there, where it is vulnerable and everybody can get an insight of it, especially not the way Boyana Atanasova did it. Buuut… there are those people who would share their craziest memories just cause their craziness is what defines them. They are free, have no regrets whatsoever. Such a person I managed to find in the debris of Skaptopara.

Despite the honesty with which this person told HER story, despite the details SHE provided, she decided to stay anonymous (as much as she can stay anonymous because of the video…) So as the story goes on, I am going to be referring to her as Ms. A and probably some other nick names I would figure out later on. Actually, I am not quite sure if “despite” is the exact word to use as most probably BECAUSE of what she told me, is why she wants to stay in the shadows. But nobody said anything about hints…

Ms. A started her story by telling me how she got into the Work and Travel program and how she actually found her job…at a complete accident. She went to a job fair in Sofia, Bulgaria where her initial employer unpleasantly surprised her by telling her that she had to be 21 to work for their company. Basically she “was not their person”. A was so shocked at first, did not what to do, scared that she might end up having no job, thus- all the money she invested in the Work and Travel program would have had gone with the wind. Then, all of a sudden the HR of another company saw her sitting on a chair, with a frustrated look on her face. The woman called her for an interview right away and in the end….instead of going to Alaska, several months later A found herself on the plane to Wisconsin.10527357_813143745376685_5530620480554326974_n

My anonymous “victim” was working for a call center at Mount Olympus Theme Park & Water Park– “a resort for…millions”.  She had to pick up calls, reserve rooms, be at the front desk sometimes. A was living with 2 other girls from AUBG and another girl from Jamaica that “was reading the Bible every day and was probably praying”  for them. In other words, it was Skapto all over again…but even worse. “The contrast that I saw when I first entered my room nearly got me a heart attack. I almost cried…actually, one of my roommates did cry.”  Two bunk beds, four chairs, plastic shelves and nooooo Wi-Fi…. That was what all four of them had to put up with for the whole summer. But despite the “cozy” living conditions, despite the ups and downs, A said that the four months she spent in the US were the best. In fact, not the experience there was so overwhelmingly fascinating, but the people she met were

priceless…so diverse…Jamaicans, Ukrainians, Russians, Americans of course, a lot of Bulgarians… they were the biggest minority.”

Her job at the call center was not her only one, but it was extremely helpful as it was kind of an internship. It taught her marketing skills that no AUBG course can teach her. She was on the field, in the game and had to play all day every day, sometimes up to 14 hours. This she sees as something valuable.  One of the most challenging aspects of her job was not the fact that she had to deal with so many different people, having different issues and demands, but that she had to understand them…them and their accents. She ain’t no racist…but “black women, black guys, have an intriguing way of treating people on the phone.”  In the end she got very good at her job, she was training the new employees and finally felt the appreciation. At some point she “was feeling like a Queen”, feeling like she  “owned that thing.” And that is when she started enjoying it for real.

The second job A found lasted only for half the summer- she had to draw henna tattoos which was something new for her. Then she found a third job. She was “selling pictures of different things that looked like letters and people were really into that, they were inspired by that because it was actually something very original. They were like kids with candy.”

10547586_775719235781750_2780424751036378748_nAnd that is about how much she shared with me about her WORKING EXPERIENCE, because according to her… her jobs is not the thing she finds the most interesting, the most memorable time. It was what was happening after the tiring 12-hour shifts, when she would go back to her “overpriced, disgusting room”, she would go out in the yard, sit around in a circle with people, drink beer, watch the fire burn in front of them and would just have the best time of the day. After one such occasion, though, She-who-must-not-be-named, got herself in trouble.

It all started with her, her boyfriend (yes, she found herself an “American boyfriend-such a cliché, but…yeah” who could “roll a blunt while driving his car”) and a couple of his “retarded friends.”  It was his birthday, music was playing loud, everybody obviously got just a liiiiiiiiittle bit drunk and her, not being 21, not only brought her to Wisconsin, but also got her an underage drinking ticket for $200. The story, however, does not stop here. As the police officers came to see what the fuss was all about, they arrested her and 2 other dudes, put handcuffs on their wrists and threw them in the car as if they were actual criminals. A says that her confrontation with the police was not a big deal, but what happened afterwards was what really got her mad. The police officers were both guys and they were extremely rude to her especially after they realized she was a foreigner. They started making jokes about how she is going to get deported, asking her questions about “how high she was”  to which she responded bravely “160 centimeters, you figure it out on your own how much is that in inches” ….They searched her; they did not even let her go to the restroom because they thought she was “some kind of a terrorist” and that she would try to run away. This was her first clash with Americans who did not like foreigners. Usually, she told me, they were intrigued by them and by the “weird, but cute accent.”

In the end, she was not deported or anything of the sort. So Ms. Underage got her happy ending. She is definitely going to go back to the US because she made good money despite the unpredictably expensive beer she had to pay for and the fine she got for not washing her dishes (yes, the resident assistants there could even fine them for putting their lap top on the bed… bizarreee..)10463979_809616969062696_7843975587062871102_n

A had also the chance to travel a little bit. Her friends rented a car and they went to Chicago for a couple of days, visited Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, and Milwaukee– the biggest city there. So…”it was a good summer after all.”

Ms. A’s advice for all of those who have not yet been arrested in the states is:

“Don’t go with a provided housing and…be aware of Jamaicans”

And of course, follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more stories.

The Inner World In The Outer World

From the east coast of the US, we are going on a loooong journey. A journey to an unknown land. And no, I am not talking about Narnia or The Pride Lands of Africa where Simba is the king or Jurassic Park. I am talking about a place where only one person can truly live. By himself. The soul.

10723167_718482071553646_781335463_nmBoyana Atanasova is a freshman from Ruse, second semester at AUBG. We have known each other for a year now and I have always seen her as a girl that can surprise you. And she did not prove me wrong. When we both came back from Work and Travel at the end of August, we got together at Prego to share some funny stories, to have nice time. As she started talking about her experience in Skagway, Alaska, she got so….it is indescribable. Her eyes were glimmering, sparkling with excitement, her voice got higher as she was talking, she was gesticulating like a nervous politician at the national tribune. She was changed and I could see that. Everybody who knew her could see that. She was more genuine in her emotions, more free, more everything. That’s why I wanted her to talk to me and share her path to change because I know many of us would gladly hear about it.

Boyana’s main reason to dedicate 4 months of her life to working is money. Her first destination, as mentioned already, was Skagway,Alaska. I have talked to my friends and they told me it was a good place to make money, to save money because…Basically there is nothing to do there, there is nothing to spend your money on. Only bears and moose and work.”  That was what she was expecting and that was what she got. In the rare moments when she was not overwhelmed by work, she would go hiking with her friends, which she finds more fascinating than going in big cities like New York and getting stuck in traffic, while trying to reach the Statue of Liberty. Bobi, as her friends call her, is satisfied with her decision; she made enough money to support herself and pay for her tuition. She achieved her goal.

As this was her first time in America, so far away from her parents, the feeling of 10723201_718482044886982_2016485341_nmnostalgia was her constant companion. Eventually, though, she got used to it and found joy and positivism within herself. Bobi even acquired some American manners, a thing typical for everybody coming back from the US: “I was feeling like…it was nothing like Bulgarian, I was feeling like a foreigner…But since I have come back, I have noticed that I am acting kind of like an American, I am using some of their expressions, phrases, I am being more polite with people and..the small talk of course. Bulgarians do not do that and they are looking at me like I am some kind of a weirdo.”

Bobi’s first job was as a housekeeper- a position many potential participators express fear of.  10707979_718482088220311_1532996881_nmHowever, what she says about it is actually kind of encouraging and gives a new perspective:“I was not feeling as unsatisfied as I was expecting. Actually, what I noticed was that Americans had a better attitude towards me than Europeans. And they were more willing to leave tips just so that they can make you feel better for yourself. Like presents. That was stimulating, made me more willing to give more to those people, to make their stay good because that might be their only vacation for this year and they want to have good experience.”

Her second job was as a pop-corn maker and it was a lot of fun. She was making pop corn…and eating pop corn…Bobi even says that : “that was what kept me alive during the summer. Sometimes you do not have time to eat between the jobs, you are in a hurry so I would just fill half of the pack and eat the rest of it myself. “

Besides some details on her work and hikes that she provided, Bobi decided that she is ready to share her story with people. And so, the trip began.

During her first year at the university, Boyana was, as she called herself, a “party animal”. She would go to clubs every night,1383021_657305690960492_644461668_n stay there until dawn, get drunk, and dance like crazy on the bars, without care. She acted like that because she wanted people to like her. Bobi pretended to be someone she actually was not so that she can fit in the community that was surrounding her. And if something had ever gone wrong, she would put the blame on herself, thinking there is something wrong with her. That girl does no longer exist. And people around her have noticed that: “Where is Boyana and what have you, what has Alaska done with her?” Bobi, however, thinks that her change is for the best even though people’s response to it was that she just got boring. She feels more confident with herself, more confident in her relationships with people, she learned how to prioritize what is important and what is not: “I feel like I am putting more effort in the things that matter to me because going to the club…is no so important. Putting a picture on facebook and tagging yourself from 5 different clubs you’ve gone that night…it is nothing that is actually going to bring something good in your life. “

Boyana described this one time when someone called her at 6 a.m., completely drunk and wanted to hang out with her. The old Boyana would say : “Yeah, let’s do it” , but the new her told him “Are you f*****g kidding me. You should have called in the afternoon and I might have considered coming.” The most disappointing part for her was that when she tried to contact the people she was partying the previous night, they were, all of a sudden, not interested in hanging out and were just ignoring her, greeting her with a fake hello whenever they were passing by her.

Now Boyana is a different person. She knows what she wants from her future; she has a “plan” what she wants to be and how to actually achieve it.10716064_718482108220309_1085274832_nAnd it feels good.” When talking about the friends she made in Alaska, Bobi’s face lightens up. “People helped me change. Communicating with those people showed me that I can be myself and people can actually like me for who I am.” She shared a story of what happened once while she was working at her second job. She had two colleagues from Bulgaria that were extremely rude to her that day, they were making stupid jokes about how women’s place is in the kitchen, they were trying to bring her down. And since her day, as a whole, was a bad one, she felt annoyed and sad pretty easily. One of her American friends saw that, noticed that she was feeling bad and on the next day, when she was coming back from work, she found chocolate, energy drinks ”like Rockstar and a “really sweet letter from him” saying : “Boyana, you are really awesome and we are happy to have you. Do not get disappointed, it is just a bad week, things are going to get better. You are a survivor, I am sure you can make it.”  Her friends helped her change and showed her that her beauty is in who she is, but not who she is pretending to be.

Boyana’s tips for the people that have not yet gone on a work and travel program is:

“It is worth it. You for sure have to experience this. It is gonna change you, especially if you do not feel good with yourself here in Bulgaria or wherever. “

 

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Those 19 hours…

From Alaska on the west coast, we are going down to the so-called “lower 48” (the way Alaskans refer to the rest of the states) to the east coast, with Ventzislav Shabansky, whose unpredictable experience on Work and Travel will certainly stun you all. 247888_230409550305641_3453414_n

Ventzi is now an Alumni, who graduated from AUBG last year. For his 5 years at the university, he took the opportunity to go and work abroad as a participant in the work and travel program twice. His first trip was in 2009, after his freshman year, when he went to North Dakota. However, Ventzi did not choose to elaborate more on this first time of his, but decided that his second one in the US is far more entertaining and can give the readers a flavor of what is like to be in the not so sugar-coated US, which we see in movies.

Shabansky’s reasons to go on the program do not differ by a lot from what other people had stated. Even though his two main reasons were the usual ones- money and experience, he puts experience in the first place. That was his driving force. Moreover, since he loves travelling, that was “more or less a natural choice” for him, one he does not regret.

When Ventzi started describing his first moments in the US, he laughed and drew this beautiful picture of Denver at 7 o’clock in the morning, with the sky being clear and bright… So far so good, but… he had no clue where he was, he “was totally lost”.

For his first time in the US, Ventzi chose the city of Medora, North Dakota. Apart from this town, he had the chance to visit the capital city of North DakotaBismarck. In Medora, Ventzi was working as a caretaker for a cafeteria, but his job duties did not end there. Basically, he “had to do more or less everything.” However, he did not find his stay in Medora intriguing enough for a whole story to be dedicated to it so he did not illustrate any more details about it.

In 2011, Ventzi changed his destination to New YorkThe Big Apple. He was working in Up-State New York, more precisely- Lake George as a part-timer in the fast food chain McDonald’s and in a bar, as a bar-back. Ventzi had a hard-time figuring out what was the most unforgettable experience: “I gotta say, the whole experience of going twice..They were both memorable to begin with.” He had a lot of occasions in mind that he could talk about: “It will take like a few hours for me to share all of those.” However, he, in the end, decided to share a very unusual story about a very usual thing that can happen to a person in the city that never sleeps.

Ventzi was 20 of age when this happened to him. He, as typical Bulgarian, got drunk even though it was forbidden as he was not 21 (which is, by the way, the drinking age in most of the states, so, dear readers, be careful). He was “drinking happily, sloshing vodka around.” At 3-4 in the morning, our fellow friend decided to go back to his dormitory…on his bike…when a “helpful policeman” picked him up, put a pair of handcuffs on his hands, threw him on the back seat and informed him that he was going to jail. At first, Ventzi reacted in a calm way, saying “ok”, perhaps because he had not realized what was going on yet. However, his drunkenness got in charge eventually and he started “harassing” the guy, cursing him,“yadi, yadi, yadi, ya…” He finally shut up and just sat down quietly when the policeman warned him :“Vincent, shut up or it is gonna get worse.”                                                                    

GoToJailImage

Ventzi sees jail as a “pretty interesting” place; however, he decided not to shed too much light on the “glory details.” He basically cracked the image of how Hollywood movies represent jails: “it is not as brutal.” There are several procedures that one should go through, of course, which nobody would like to experience. Going on with his story, Ventzi tried not to go in depth about what do prisoners like to carry IN themselves when going to jail. The way he put things was really fascinating, his word selection and synonyms were spectacular:

“In jail I learned that criminals like to put certain containers up in their…container and the only way to understand that you have your container is by spreading your….container and cough. That was…eye-opening.”

Since the whole story was kind of vague, he then decided to amplify just a little bit what he meant and concluded that he was actually talking about how prisoners hide drugs…and where.

His experience in prison lasted for 19 hours after which a former friend of his got him out. Despite the not so enjoyable procedures he had to go through, Ventzi in fact met cool people there. He made it clear that it was not an actual prison situation, where people go for committing heavy crimes, but where one could end up for not paying taxes, or in his case- for being underage and wandering the streets drunk. 30 days later, he had to go to court. Putting all the costs together, Ventzi estimated that the whole thing cost him $400, but…. 

“to this day I think these were the best $400 I could ever spend on myself because that was a….heck of an experience.”

He does not regret anything because according to him that is not something you can experience every day.  Some of us might think “And thank God”, but for the adventurer Ventzi, it is something he would “never ever ever” repent as it was “something completely new.”

When asked if the attitude of his colleagues or employers changed towards him, Ventzi, surprisingly said that people were actually really tolerant to his mistake and he continued working at the same position. In other words, those $400 were the only thing he lost after his experience in jail.

Despite the happy ending, Ventzi’s opinion on whether or not his expectations met the reality, remained neutral. He arrived in America with the grand idea of the “shiny US, with Coca Cola and all of that” but “most of it was pretty rigorous.” One thing he found really nice about the states was that people were not treating him as he was not an American, as he was not one of them. Even on the contrary, they were receptive and had to courtesy to address him properly. In the end, Ventzi’s conclusion on his whole experience was that:

“my expectations were not what I saw, but I was not disappointed by what I saw, either.”

His tip for people who have not yet gone to the US is:

“Go to the US, whatever you experience there is going to be beneficial for you.”

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Alaska Times: Explore

Work and Travel is a program which is of great interest for many university students as it is a great way to make some money and experience new culture, explore new places, meet new people, broaden your perspective. Since this year was the first year I spend in the US as a work and travel participant and I was really frustrated in the beginning, I decided to help other people that are about to try out this thrill by providing as much information as possible. The first person who decided to share his experience abroad is Georgi Dobrev, a freshman from Sofia, studying at the American University in Bulgaria.

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For Georgi this was the first time in the US, too. What was he aiming at in beginning was what most of us aim at and that is money. He was expecting to make a lot of money and to work and work and work and that is it. But even before he went to America, his purpose changed and he thought that the most important thing he would gain from his travel is experience. Despite the fact that he was feeling anxious at first because he had to go completely alone, to a completely different place and meet a completely different culture, he then found his place and made his experience abroad a really great one.

As a destination Georgi chose Juneau– the capital of Alaska, where he worked as a lot associate for the famous chain of hardware stores, called The Home Depot. He wanted to find a job of good quality and he assessed The Home Depot as a company that would satisfy his needs. His job as a lot associate required him to help customers out with loading their purchases. However, after some time he got promoted to a sales associate and was working in the paint department. When questioned if he enjoyed his job he admitted that there was some pressure at first because of the lack of experience, but in the end he found his job really amusing as he was able to directly interact with customers. The thing he sees as mostly beneficial for him was that he not only improved his English, but he learned how to approach people and how to better communicate with them.  Above all, Dobrev really liked the people he was working with and was getting along with them pretty well. In the interview, he even refers to them as   “friends”.

As we continued with the questions, I finally got to ask him the one thing that I was really curious about, namely what he would refer to as the most memorable time he had while on Work and Travel. His tone of voice changed when he started explaining what was he doing when he had time for himself. He now sounded more excited as if he was still feeling the pleasure of his experience.   “There are plenty of things to do there, it is just a matter of choice,”  Dobrev said and what he was mainly doing was going hiking up the mountains with his friends. Another activity he found “amazing” was whale watching. Georgi also went to a hatchery where salmon was grown and he was intrigued to see how people were interacting with animals.

While being interviewed, Georgi Dobrev got more and more passionate about his time in the US. It seemed like he was in love with America. That is why when asked about whether or not he would consider going back there, it was pretty evident what his answer would be judging by how his facial expression would change when he was reminiscing about the 4 months he spend in America. As an answer to the question, Georgi said that he has already made his mind about going back to the States in the future, and that there is a big chance he would choose Alaska again, but probably a different city. He firmly believes that

Alaska and America in general is one of the best places to go and live, not just work, but live because that is the thing you are going to get the most of. It’s not about the work, it is not about the money, it is not about you getting there and getting over these 4 months. It is about you living and experiencing and getting the most you are supposed to get from there. That is the thing with Alaska and America…”

This was only Georgi’s first time in the States, and yet again he is still referring to it as a “mind-blowing experience”. What struck him the most was how different people were in terms of culture and mentality and how differently they approached their everyday problems.

Looking back at his Work and Travel experience, Georgi strongly emphasized on two things that served him well – “do not be afraid” and “explore everything and anything”. Since he followed his own advice, the reality he faced not only met his expectations, but even exceeded them.

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WAT times, WAT journey.

When I first opened my eyes in the morning, still half asleep, the look of my dorm room caught me off balance. Now, don’t get me wrong, my room is not that messy. What surprised me, in fact, was that I woke up in a dorm room, and that yes, apparently I’m back to my usual life in Bulgaria. To some it might seem weird that I still cannot get used to being in my home country, at a University I go to after spending only few months in the US. The truth is, my WAT times have been more real and remarkable to me than anything else I’ve experienced in my life so far. And even though I feel like I’m not ready to share my own story with the world just yet, I do believe that there are so many more stories worth telling out there.

The purpose of this blog is to shed some light on student’s Work and Travel experience, while avoiding the trivia and narrowing four months down to a single moment or two, the times that made WAT experience remarkable for every separate student. In other words, I’m looking for an answer to the following question: What was your most memorable time while on Work and Travel?
For the next 14 weeks, starting from today, I’m pulling out a map of the United States and going on a hunt for students and their WAT stories. My hope is that this blog is going to serve as a possible example of dos and don’ts of WAT, as well as help students who haven’t been there yet get an idea of where would they want to go to optimize their WAT experience and avoid disappointments.
Every week I will pick a random state and find as many related people and stories as possible, the culmination point being my own WATtimes, which I will share at the very end if you are still here to read them.
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