Bulgaria – The Hidden Gem
10th-grader Boryana Simeonova from Romain Rolland Foreign Language School in Stara Zagora talks to her English teacher Tajia Moertle – a 28-year-old American woman who is living and working in Bulgaria for two years as part of the Fulbright program.
According to the National Statistical Institute* the number of people who have left Bulgaria to study, work or just live abroad has risen up drastically for the past year. Some of the major factors for immigration from Bulgaria are better life standards or better paid jobs. But the main reasons, especially for young people, are the opportunity for personal development, the chance to find better professional realization and to make their dreams come true.
But what about the foreigners who come to Bulgaria – a country that is a little bit off the beaten track, with the hope of achieving their life goals? What about if they leave their motherland and come to Bulgaria with the belief of finding here all they need in order to realize what they want in life?
To show you a little bit more of this point of view we met with Tajia Moertle – a 28-year-old American woman who is part of the Fulbright program. The following interview will reveal what she thinks about Bulgaria – does it offer opportunities for everyone and did the country give her the chance to make her dreams come true for the past 2 years.
Boryana Simeonova: Hello, Tajia! I am really glad that I have the chance to interview you. Would you introduce yourself?
Tajia Moertle: Hello, Bory. Thank you for interviewing me. So I am Tajia Moertle. I’m an English Teaching Assistant at Romain Rolland Foreign Language High School in Stara Zagora thanks to Fulbright and America for Bulgaria.
B.S.: You have been in Bulgaria since 2016. How did it happen that you came exactly here?
T.M.: While trying to decide which country I wanted to apply to for a Fulbright scholarship, I saw that Bulgaria worked in high schools. Since I was little I have wanted to be a high school English teacher, so Bulgaria sounded like the perfect place to come.
B.S.: How did you react when you realized that you are coming in Bulgaria?
T.M.: I was SO excited! Fulbright only allows you to pick one country, so I was either coming here or going nowhere. It was my little sister’s birthday when I got the news and it was great to celebrate not just my little sister but also my incredible news.
B.S.: Did your expectations meet the reality?
T.M.: Coming to Bulgaria has exceeded my expectations. I came not really knowing what to expect and Bulgaria has just blown me away.
B.S.: Before you came here you probably have heard some things about the country. Were most of them true?
T.M.: I only ever heard good things about Bulgaria before I came here, and they have all been true.
B.S.: As soon as you arrived did you find any problems adapting to the atmosphere?
T.M.: I’m lucky that I was raised by a nomadic mother. This means that I learned how to adapt to new places, cities, and people, every year. Moving to a new country was a big deal for me, but adapting to a new environment is second nature to me at this point in my life.
B.S.: Do you think Bulgaria offers opportunity for everyone to achieve their goals?
T.M.: Like most places, Bulgaria has the potential to offer opportunities for everyone to achieve their goals. You just have to be willing to work and find those opportunities, because nothing will just be handed to you.
B.S.: Are you happy with what happened since you have been here? Did you manage to accomplish some of your planned goals? What were the results?
T.M.: Yes, I did for sure! My life has been a wonderful whirlwind for the last two years. I will always be happy with my decision to come to Bulgaria, and feel blessed with how this time passed. My time here has definitely allowed me to live my dream of being a teacher overseas. The results are pretty clear – being a successful High School teacher, coaching an incredible Bulgarian English Speech and debate Team (BEST) and being in charge of different events.
B.S.: So you say that you had everything you needed to make your dreams come true here?
T.M.: Absolutely yes! I just took advantage of everything that this country offered me and I accomplished all I wanted from life!
B.S.: Do you think Bulgaria offers as much opportunities as America does?
T.M.: I think each country has great opportunities for people to take advantage of.
B.S.: Can you say that Bulgaria is a land of opportunities for those who are trying hard to achieve their life goals?
T.M.: I fully believe that any place in the world can be a place to find opportunities, so why not Bulgaria. If a person works hard to achieve their life goals, they can make it happen.
B.S.: Why do you think most Bulgarian people immigrate to another countries thinking that they offer more than Bulgaria does?
T.M.: This is a very loaded question and hard to answer as an American that left her own country to find opportunities abroad. As an advocate for studying abroad and leaving your comfort zone, I believe that having experiences outside of your home or country is important in helping you expand and develop your mind. Maybe by leaving Bulgaria, people are better able to see and appreciate the things that went unnoticed before. But I still believe that Bulgaria is worth staying in and studying or working here because it offers a lot to those who are eager to work hard enough.
B.S.: What was the biggest culture shock?
T.M.: The biggest culture shock for me was how close students and teachers can be. In the US you’re not allowed to be friends with your teacher on Facebook, even seeing them in public is weird. Here everyone is friends on Facebook, it’s normal to see your teacher outside of school, you can even grab a coffee with your teacher and it’s not seen as inappropriate.
B.S.: What do you like most about Bulgaria?
T.M.: There are so many things to like about Bulgaria. I love being able to walk around, enjoy cafes, be surrounded by nature, enjoy quiet moments in parks, and of course I love the food.
B.S.: What are you going to miss the most from Bulgaria?
T.M.: Falling in love with Bulgaria means I will miss a lot of things when I go. Probably on the top of the list though is coaching the BEST team. And my friends of course!
B.S.: Thank you, Tajia for answering these questions! Enjoy the rest of your staying here in Bulgaria and have fun!
T.M.: Thank you, Bory!
Everyone in life draws their pathway. We explore some places, see new cultures and traditions, dive into the beauty of another countries. But our heart will always admire only one place – our motherland!