My journey through writing my first book & script, breaking into Product Management, learning more about the start-up world, running marathons, finding new cool projects to play around with, and everything under the sun worth telling a story about.
I travelled to Sofia on June 28th, 2009 to greet the U.S. volunteers who were going to be teaching English in the summer. I remember I arrived with Bulgarian rose oil for each of them. After a week of orientation, they were ready to travel to their placements, and that is when I met Derek and William for the first time.
They were going to be teaching at the Math high school in the town of Pazardzhik, their home for the next two months. They knew no one and spoke not a word of Bulgarian.
Derek was a New York Yankees fan; William was a Boston Red Sox. They quickly brought me up to speed on the rivalry. Despite their differences, they ended up forming a great team together.
During our trip to Pazardzhik, I was asking them endless questions about the United States: famous quotes, history, cities, and everything else under the sun. They told me what they thought was positive, as well as negative, about their culture. I participated in that same debate about mine.
For two months, they became the local superheroes. They were on the local TV and in the newspaper! They even met the mayor!
Their experience was so inspiring that upon returning to America, they continued supporting the development of Bulgarian youth from afar. More about that later.
In my high school, each class lasted 40 minutes, with a 10-minute break between classes and a 20-minute break after the third period.
I went to a Math High School 15 miles away from my town which was considered an “elite” school compared to a regular public school (think of it as a Charter School). We shared the building with a language school and took turns switching shift every term
For example, during the Fall semester (September – February), my first class started at 7:30 AM until 12:30 PM; during the Spring semester (February – June), classes started at 1:30 PM and ended around 6:30 PM.
On average, classes are about 25 students.
This varies depending on the school district. Class sizes are smaller in the towns and villages.
Students usually take Math and Literature entrance examinations at 7th grade and apply to the “elite” schools, such as Math high schools, language schools vocational training schools which are outside of their hometown.
There were seven classes, consisting of 26 students each, in my high school. Each class followed a distinctive curriculum, depending on their chosen major. Some schools, the so-called “elite” schools, have a policy of maintaining an even gender acceptance ratio.
Back home, teachers are very authoritative, and the class structure was very formal.
They give the information to the students, and there is almost no interaction/discussion.
It is mostly about memorizing and then reproducing the information.
Group work is not tolerated. Most of the assignments are individual work. Group projects are not tolerated as part of the curriculum. As an exception, one would need to go the extra mile and work with a peer and an advisor separately on a project for a specific competition. For example, a friend of mine and I worked on a project with our physics teacher for a national IT competition.
Overall, teachers would be presenting the new information and dictating the content each class, structuring everything in a bullet point format that we’d reproduce the next time we get verbally examined on the board, or in a written format.
Failure to reproduce it and expressing your own voice, especially in Literature classes, was often penalized with a lower grade, depending on the teacher.
I had to “delete my Bulgarian hardware” and evaluate the information presented, build my own views.
It was March 10th, 2011. I was with Derek in New York University’s Brittany Hall. We were organizing a “Bulgaria Night!” fundraiser for Step for Bulgaria Foundation in the evening. But more about that later.
I checked my phone. I saw an email from Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Student Activities Office and read it out loud:
“Georgi Kardzhaliyski, you’ve been nominated for the WPI Student Employee of the Year award. The Student Recognition Awards Ceremony will take place on April 11th, 2011 in the Rubin Campus Center Odeum.”
Derek winged at me and congratulated me. I smiled and wondered who could’ve nominated me.
I was scheduled to assist with A/V needs in an e-classroom on the night of the ceremony. I walked into the Academic Technology Center’s Office to pick up equipment, when Kaitlin, my supervisor, said:
“Georgi, I’ll find someone to cover your shift tonight. You’re going to the ceremony.”
I wondered why, but I didn’t question it. I went back to 14 Dover Street to change into my prom suit and headed to the Odeum.
I was sitting quietly when I heard Kris struggling to pronounce someone’s name:
“At this time, I would like to present to you, the WPI Student Employee of the Year: GEE-yor-gee KARRD-za-lisk-ee.”
I stood still. I had become the first Bulgarian to win the award!
I had just finished my first year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
(WPI). I had a return ticket to Sofia, Bulgaria on May 6th, 2010, but I
didn’t take the flight; instead, I stayed on campus and worked.
year, tuition went up and the bill was due by July 31st. And yet again,
I didn’t know if I was going to start classes in the Fall.
was saving money by living off campus, working, and spending my first
summer away from home. I remember spending late nights in Higgins Lab
106 watching TV shows to improve my English.
I saved enough to pay a portion of my tuition bill, but it was not enough. Fundraising mode was on again.
I googled all the organizations in Bulgaria that I could find and drafted a letter to each of them.
started coming in. I got an email from the Bursar’s Office addressed to
Student ID: 248177657 — “Your Tuition Bill is Overdue.”
was working at the TV studio when I checked my email. I had an email
from the Communitas Foundation, received on Aug 3rd, 7:13 AM. I opened
the email and read: “Communitas Foundation reviewed your request. We have decided to partially fund the remainder of your tuition costs.”
A loud scream of joy came out of the TV studio. I went to the front desk to share the good news with my co-workers.