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Erasmus in Sofia, Bulgaria – Experience of a German undergraduate student of economics


Text in German


Choosing Bulgaria over western or southern European countries for Erasmus may sound strange at first. However, I decided to spend my Erasmus semester at St. Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia in 2010/11. Thereby I became somewhat of a pioneer, since I was the first student of the University of Giessen, Germany, to make use of the partnership between our universities.


The major questions I have heard before arriving in Bulgaria and that I still hear fairly often are ‘Why did you choose Bulgaria? You could have gone elsewhere!’


To give a glimpse of an answer: I had never been to any eastern European country before and I saw it as a chance to visit a country whose language I didn’t speak, but where I was assured of assistance from my home and the Bulgarian university. Since I would call myself a very open-minded person, I have always had an interest in learning about different cultures and languages. Since the University of Giessen didn’t offer a Bulgarian language class at the time, I went to Bulgaria like a real rookie, not knowing a single word of a language that I couldn’t even read as it uses the Cyrillic alphabet.


The FEBA (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration) of St. Kliment Ohridski University offers courses in Bulgarian, English, French and German language, with lecturers from the latter countries teaching classes lasting up to 10 days at the beginning of the semester. Furthermore I had the opportunity to attend a course with Professor George Mengov, who setup a course on decision-making under risk and uncertainty, even though I was the only student taking the course. I think I benefited a lot from the intense collaboration that also saw me doing a small sample study on people’s attitudes towards risk – a first experience in research to me.


To summarise, don’t be afraid of not understanding classes if you don’t know the Bulgarian language – there are many opportunities to take classes in English, French or German.


Well, in addition to life at university there is also a life apart from it, which is probably a great adventure for anyone. I spent most of my time off in the so-called Studentski Grad (Student’s City), where I shared a room in my dormitory with a French Erasmus student. Studenski Grad consists of the so-called Blocs, which are old buildings mainly remaining from the communist era. Even if you find living in such a Bloc rather frightening at first, it is impossible to avoid meeting interesting people there. Sofia University managed to send most, if not all Erasmus students to the same Bloc, so I was able to meet all the international students and establish friendships. I was happy to meet people from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Peru, Indonesia, Japan, Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Turkey…just to name a few.


As probably in every country, you also meet people who don’t speak English when you really need to communicate with them. Here I have to give credit to the Bulgarians because they always looked around and finally found someone who was happy to translate.


Moreover, there is a students’ organization, called ESN (Erasmus Students Network). Once you are accepted for your Erasmus in Sofia, the university passes your email address on to ESN. These students, who are volunteers, are welcoming and warm people speaking many languages who are always happy to help. Of course, it is useful to speak Bulgarian as it will be easier to learn about the culture, but it is not really necessary in order to ‘survive’.


I think my time in Bulgaria was a massive experience in learning from another culture – at university and beyond. I would like to thank the people at St. Kliment Ohridski University as well as the ESN Club for the fantastic support.




By Martin Hoffstadt