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Monday, January 6, 2014

5 Reasons to Choose Bulgaria for your Exchange Year

Going on exchange to any country is a great chance to broaden your horizons and improve your confidence! Through discovering a new place, becoming part of a new family and learning a new language, a YFU exchange program will impact on you in amazing ways, and give you life-long connections with the people you meet.

If you have decided to go abroad with YFU in 2016, then it’s likely you have already chosen your country and you’re just counting down the days until you leave. Or are you one of those students who has left your decision to the last minute… only to find that all the “good” countries have already reached their maximum intake? Or are you after a change from the more popular countries, and want to apply for somewhere a little different? Well don’t worry, because YFU Bulgaria is here!

Yantra River, northern Bulgaria (photo by Dennis Jarvis)

Here are five reasons why you should choose our little-known country for your exchange year:

1. You will learn a new and unusual language

When you come on exchange to Bulgaria you will go through a 4-week intensive language course, and then your classes at school will be in Bulgarian! It sounds daunting at first, but after spending a year here you will leave with a great grasp on the language. Bulgarian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, but the grammatical system resembles the English one.

Bulgarian is a unique language that you will definitely enjoy studying. So next time your friends are bragging about their French and Spanish skills, you can impress them all by saying you speak Bulgarian!

2. You're getting off the beaten path

How many people do you know who have visited Bulgaria? Probably very few! You might be the first person in your home country to come to Bulgaria on a student exchange, and you'll get to spend your year abroad as one of very few exchange students in our country.

We don't have a very high number of inbound students, and you will more than likely be the only exchange student in your school. This makes exchange students here very special! Everyone will want to find out more about you and why you came to Bulgaria, so you certainly won't find it hard to make new friends.

3. You can have unique outdoor experiences

If you decide to come to Bulgaria for your exchange year, you have the option of choosing our Four Seasons Outdoor Program. The program has the same features as the academic year program, plus a variety of outdoor activities that take place about once a month throughout the year.

You will go skiing and ice skating in the Rila Mountains, attend a paragliding festival in Kalofer, visit Kazanlak for the Rose Valley Festival, go horse-riding on an eco-farm, and travel around the Bulgarian countryside for mountain hikes in places like Stara Planina. You'll do seriously cool things that very few exchange students ever get to experience, and enjoy the beauty of Bulgaria in every season!

4. The amazing food

Bulgarian food is one of kind. There is no concept of organic food here, because almost everything is organic! The yoghurt and white cheese (sirene) are world-famous and found on the table at almost every mealtime. Bulgarian yoghurt has a very distinct flavour, and can be found nowhere else in the world due to the specific bacteria used to produce it.

Another uniquely Bulgarian dish is banitsa, made from filo pastry, butter and eggs. It is usually made with white cheese, but there are variations with meat, pumpkin, spinach or onion. It is usually consumed for breakfast, but it tastes good at any time of the day!

5. The unique Bulgarian culture

Bulgaria is a country steeped in traditions. Folk music and dances are a very important part of Bulgarian culture, and different regions have different traditional dances. You should try and learn the dance of your region while in Bulgaria! During the year you will also get to celebrate your city's patron holiday, as every city has a patron saint they will honour once a year.

Another important celebration for Bulgaria is Baba Marta in March, when Bulgarians make and give martenitsa to symbolise the coming of spring. You wear them until you see a tree beginning to blossom, then you take it off and tie it onto the tree. Bulgaria also has name days, so if you're lucky you might also have a day dedicated just to people with your name!

So what are you waiting for? Check out our website for more details on coming to Bulgaria, and then contact YFU in your home country to plan the trip of a lifetime!

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