Are you one of those people who love to travel but cannot find the time because you need to study for midterms or finals? Well, we have great news for you. The American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) offers the opportunity to combine studying with pleasure. With the Erasmus + program you can apply for more than 50 universities all over Europe and study there for one semester. If you are looking for a longer stay, from six months to one year, you can apply for ISEP and go to the USA. Maria Chukhlantseva and Maria-Magdalena Stoyanova shared their experience with the two programs and how these experiences transformed their lives.
Chukhlantseva is a third-year AUBG student majoring in Political Science and minoring in European studies and French. Last spring semester Chukhlantseva went on an Erasmus program in Science Po Grenoble.
Every year AUBG announces the application process for Erasmus with an email, that includes all the necessary documents for applying. Some of them include a motivational letter and a transcript of your grades. To apply, your GPA has to be a minimum of 3.00. Chukhlantseva says that the extracurricular activities matter more than the GPA:
“As long as you have very good extracurricular participation and good grades, they will accept you for sure.”
For a couple of years now, Chukhlantseva has been studying French and she was really excited to go to a country where she can practice the language. “Before I went to France, I was really scared to speak in French. I still am sometimes but it’s a little less,” Chukhlantseva said. During her exchange in France, Chukhlantseva’s classes were separate for Erasmus students, so she hardly met any local students. Instead, she made friends with other Erasmus students. At her university in Grenoble, each course had five credits and students were advised to take from 30 to 35 credits. “I took seven courses which is the average there. Each course is only once a week, so I had seven lectures a week, which was alright.”
During one of her vacations in France, Chukhlantseva traveled with her new friends. “We had a week vacation and we decided to go to Switzerland, which was about an hour and a half traveling. After that, we visited Lyon, and it was really fun,” Chukhlantseva said.
When asked if she would go back to France for one semester or travel somewhere else, Chukhlantseva said she would definitely like to participate once again. “But to be honest I don’t think I will have the chance anymore since I am a junior in my second semester. However, if I had the chance, I would have gone to see Eastern Europe, for example, Lithuania or Poland.”
Chukhlantseva encourages everyone who is interested in the program to apply. You will probably face different challenges, but once they are over, you dive into a completely new society and meet amazing people throughout the way.
“Erasmus is not really about the studying, it is more about the experience, which is life-changing – you meet all these cool people and you have the chance to travel around different countries,” Chukhlantseva said.
Maria-Magdalena or Megi, as everyone here in AUBG calls her, is a third-year second-semester student majoring in Business Administration and Information systems. Last year Megi participated in the ISEP program and went to the USA for one semester. Ever since she was a little kid, Megi’s dream was to travel around the world. After coming to AUBG, she decided to go study abroad for one semester. “For me, it was hard to decide whether to go to Spain on Erasmus or go to California via ISEP. I chose California because it was completely new for me, so I decided I’d go for it.” Before the beginning of the academic year, Stoyanova went on a Work and Travel program in the USA during the summer. She managed to get two visas before her travels and her overall stay in the country was eight months.
In California, Stoyanova lived in a small village called Claremont, which is forty minutes away from Los Angeles. The village was home to five famous colleges and Stoyanova took courses from two of them. “I took four different classes which were pretty hard. Most people think that exchange students do nothing but travel, but this is not necessarily true.” Stoyanova shared she had an extremely busy schedule, which included traveling almost every weekend and studying throughout the week. “It was intense but really nice, so I enjoyed it a lot.”
During her stay there, Stoyanova lived in an apartment with eight other people. They had a common space where they gathered together and had lots of fun. “Everyone was friendly and welcoming. For me, it was extremely easy to make friends because I am a really social person.” The diversity program in the university was well organized and all the exchange students were involved in other students’ lives.
When she had some free time, Stoyanova traveled a lot. Her two favorite places, Hawaii and Mexico, were a life-changing experience. She traveled solo, met new people and tasted all kinds of food. “The culture, the people, and the atmosphere – everything was completely different from what I am used to. And the food – one of the best ones I have ever tasted!”
Applying for a university in a different country involves a lot of self-commitment and hard work. “Believe me, it is an amazing experience. And yes, you will probably have trouble with the documents and the documentation before you leave, but it’s nothing that one can’t cope with. I know I did,” shared Stoyanova. If you let yourself get out of your comfort zone, amazing things can happen!
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