A Mainer Abroad: Week of Change

Study Abroad Column

Writer Chloe Dyer (second row, second from right) and  Haley Williams, another University of Maine exchange student (to her right) with other students on exchange at the Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo courtesy Chloe Dyer.

Writer Chloe Dyer (second row, second from right) and Haley Williams, another University of Maine exchange student (to her right) with other students on exchange at the Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo courtesy Chloe Dyer.

This past week at American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) was stressful, but also full of positive changes. I visited Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria on Friday. The main reason I went was to get my laptop fixed (which was successful!) but some of the exchange students came along and we made it into a day trip. We took three taxis, and for 40 leva each person (about $22) we were driven all the way there, where the taxis stayed with us all day and brought us home at night.

I saw the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral of Sofia, which is one of the top attractions in Sofia and Bulgaria. It was beautiful, as it is right in the center of the city, but it clashes with some of the modern buildings that have sprung up around it. Nearby the cathedral is the Russian Church, one of the churches with the famous “golden onion” domes. This was also quite beautiful. In addition to these sights, we visited the Mall of Sofia, which is one of the biggest shopping centers in Bulgaria, and an “escape room” called The Three Keys Room. An escape room is a space where a group is locked in a room with a certain amount of time to find their way out, like solving a mystery. This was very interesting, as I had never done any activity like this before.

I started off the week by trying to book a plane ticket to Vienna, Austria, with some of the other U.S. exchange students, but I accidentally booked for the same flight times on a different weekend! The call lines were all closed by the time I realized this error, which was about one minute after booking the flight. After much stress and contacting my mom for help (mom to the rescue) I was able to get the flight rebooked. She called the U.S. number for Austrian Air, and I was back in business.

In addition to the trip to Vienna, I have a few other trips planned this semester. One is this weekend to Dobrinishte, a spa and bed and breakfast hotel that is near a ski mountain. Most of the students going on the trip are exchange students, either from the U.S. or ERASMUS, a European exchange program. Also, many of the exchange students are going to Thessaloniki, Greece, the following weekend, which is the largest Greek city within proximity of us. It is just over the border. We will be celebrating someone’s 21st birthday, pretending that it is significant here in Europe.

I am looking forward to all of these new experiences, and despite the mishaps with my laptop and the flight bookings, things are off to a pretty good start. This week I also moved into a different room in my dorm, Skaptopara 2,  so that I could be in a double with Haley Williams, the other University of Maine student who is on exchange at AUBG.

One last thing I had to do this week was late add-drop. I learned too late that a class I was enrolled in, which I had already switched my schedule for, would not transfer well back to UMaine. Luckily I was able to do late add-drop, so now I am taking a cross-cultural management class in Southeast European studies, which I actually think will be very interesting. I am still learning the differences between classes here and at home. I have found that my homework is picking up, but it is not too bad. I am finally learning some Bulgarian in my Bulgarian language class that I hope can get me by! Now here’s to hoping that I can learn to read some of the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet.

 

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