I grew up in Septemvri, a small town in Southern Bulgaria. I will always remember sitting in the yard with my family and friends, the smell of my grandmother’s homemade bread, the fresh vegetables from our garden, and our dog’s soft barking. I had a good childhood and could find many reasons to stay in Bulgaria but knew I would have to look beyond my small town to fulfill my ambitions.
It was a cold February morning when my grandfather took me for an interview with the Fulbright Commission’s United States Achievement Program committee. This was the first time I was interviewed in English.
And so, I began the process of applying to colleges. I had to master a language, take the standardized tests, and learn to navigate a foreign application process. This was the easy part, though. I had to convince my family that applying to U.S. colleges was the best option for me. They had always instilled in me the importance of hard work but moving 4,000 miles across the ocean was a big step. However, I specifically remember my father spending his weekly wages to register me to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (#TOEFL) and driving me to the test center in Plovdiv.
Thank you, dad. Happy Father’s Day!