It was February 11, 2008. It was freezing outside, and I had woken up early to go to the capital with my grandfather. I was a junior in high school, and he was taking me for an interview at the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission. I had applied for Fulbright’s United States Achievers Program. I mailed in the application at 5 PM on December 31st, right before the post office was about to close for the year.
I was selected as one of the 46 high school students from 18 cities and 24 schools across the country. I was one of the 22 candidates invited to the interview. I was the only representative from my high school. My mom was working in Spain at the time. My father was unemployed. I read the email one more time in the morning before I left:
Georgi Kardzhaliyski (SEPTEMVRI)
“Konstantin Velichkov” High School of Mathematics
My grandfather came to my room and asked me if I was ready to go. I looked around the room, my brother was sound asleep. I looked at my watch, gazed at my grandfather, smiled, and grabbed my bag. We were out the door. He braced the cold with me, and we left to catch the train. Little did I know that he’ll be taking me to the Fulbright Advising Center on a regular basis during the school year.