It was 11:59 PM in Bulgaria (4:59 PM EST) on May 1, 2009. Hesitantly, I submitted the enrollment form, along with a non-refundable $500 deposit. I had never used a debit card to make an online payment. The card got declined. I tried again: declined. Were the odds against me?
My mom called the bank, and they helped us process the payment. I was officially one of the 943 admitted students, the largest and most diverse class in Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)’s 144-year history at the time. I was a member of the WPI Class of 2013, with students from 32 states and 27 foreign countries, but I didn’t know if I was going to be on campus in the Fall.
I received a substantial financial aid (a combination of a merit-based scholarship and an international scholarship) from WPI’s Financial Aid Office, but it was not enough to cover the total cost of attendance. Unfortunately, there were additional academic expenses which my family was not able to afford. I felt deadened and did not know what to do; however, I believed that if there is a will, there is a way.
So, I went off the beaten path and reached out to famous people, companies, and non-profits to seek assistance. While my classmates were taking the standardized tests for universities in Bulgaria, I sat tacitly at home writing letters to Bill Gates, Oprah, Sergey Brin; companies such as IBM, HP, Google, General Dynamics, S&T, Musala Soft, Melon Tech; NGOs such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities, BURGER KING McLAMORE℠ Foundation, America for Bulgaria Foundation, The Economic Policy Institute.
Despite the rejections, I kept reaching out to people who were in a position to lend me a hand through a scholarship, fellowship, work-study or study-after-graduation. I was running out of ideas when a friend told to reach out to the Dimitar Berbatov Foundation. The year before, I was selected as one of the 579 talented students in the foundation’s first edition of their “Successful Children of Bulgaria” project, which goal is to help children and young people talented in social sciences, natural sciences, sports and the arts realize their full potential.
It was 11:12 AM on July 8th, 2009. I opened my email and read:
“The Dimitar Berbatov Foundation’s Advisory Board has decided to partially fund the remainder of your first-year tuition fees.”
I screamed at the top of my lungs on and went to hug my parents.
9 years later, on Monday, I went to a lecture-discussion at Sofia University following the release of Dimitar Berbatov’s autobiography book: a former Manchester United football player, who won two Premier League titles in the 2008–09 and 2010–11 seasons; he also won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2010–11 season.The lecture hall was packed with students. It was a very inspirational speech. The room was full of energy.
In a very casual setting, Dimitar Berbatov spoke about the successes and failures in his personal life and professional football career as a former Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham Hotspur F.C., and Manchester United player.
I asked him a question during the Q&A, then patiently waited to meet him in person & get his autograph.
It was a long line, but I patiently waited for about two hours. It was my turn. My heart was pounding. I was about to meet Dimitar Berbatov in person. I approached him, shook his hand, gave him my copy of his autobiography and sat next to him.
I was nervous, but I started telling him a story:
“While you’re signing my book, I wanted to tell who I am. I was one of the students selected in the “Successful Children of Bulgaria” project by your foundation back when it launched in 2008. Your foundation supported me, so that I could attend a school in Massachusetts. I hadn’t been home for 7 years. Two years ago, I saw my family for the first time. I met Didi (the CEO of his foundation) and thanked her, but I hadn’t met you in person to thank you. I wanted to thank you.”
He looked at me and smiled.
Until this day, I am immensely grateful to his foundation for lending me a hand when I needed it the most and believing in me.
Thank you. Impossible is nothing.