Katy while backpacking in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Meet Katy! She is originally from Billings and is currently a junior at the University of Montana. Katy studied in Bulgaria through ISEP exchange and attended the American University in Bulgaria studying Elementary Education. Initially she wanted to go to The Netherlands, but when Katy discovered that she had been accepted to Bulgaria, an alternative choice in her application process, she was thrown off a bit. Her feelings were due to an American perspective that Eastern Europe is scary place and unsafe. The Study Abroad Coordinator Melissa, who also attended the same program in Bulgaria, helped Katy with her anxiety about living in Bulgaria. She became more excited about the possibilities not only available in Bulgaria but also in other countries. One thing that Katy was very happy about when living in Bulgaria was that the cost of living, compared to if she had studied in the Netherlands. “A lot of bang for your buck,” Katy says. Katy also received many scholarships for her program to study in a developing country and was able to travel to over thirteen countries during her time abroad. Besides being a Globe Trotter Katy enjoys skiing and playing guitar!
A bridge in Rila, Bulgaria
What were your purpose/goals in studying abroad?
I had never been out of the country and wanted to experience another culture, and the way people live in countries outside of the United States. However, the main goal was self-exploration, seeing the world, and growing personally. I am still receiving loans and scholarships so I was able to afford to travel. Study abroad was a good idea for me because it was an opportune time to see the world.
Making a wish at the Trevi Fountain in Italy over Katy’s spring break in 2014.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment for you?
Before I left for Bulgaria I was visiting friends on the east coast so I ended up arriving in Bulgaria three days early by myself and was not only adjusting from my time on the east coast but also to the major culture shock of being in a different country. The Bulgarian language looks really intense, so I felt intimidated and isolated myself in my hotel room.I realized later, that many people in the community speak English so I would have been fine venturing out on my own a bit more! After the initial shock of being alone, and being in a country where I didn’t speak the language, I was perfectly fine. The people at AUBG work really hard by providing orientations, helping you become acclimated to the environment.
Bulgarian beauty at the Rila Monastery
Where was your favorite place you were able to travel to and would you say that traveling within Europe was fairly accessible?
It is impossible to claim a favorite country but there are some places you never hear about or would expect in the eastern region of Europe like Croatia and Macedonia that were very beautiful places and staying there was very cheap. Some of the places I recommend to travel to if you ever go to Europe, specifically Eastern Europe are Istanbul in Turkey, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia and Hungary. Don’t worry about traveling around Europe because are some really cheap airlines like Ryan Air and EasyJet which, if you’re traveling to Eastern Europe, might cost like 20 euros which is around 25 dollars. Bus transportation, which is how I did a majority of my travel, is cheap also but takes longer.
Exploring Budapest, Hungary
What would you say was the most important lesson you would pass on to other students going abroad?
What made my experience so wonderful were the friends I made. I would say forming relationships with not only the students that are in the same program as you, but also from the country you’re studying in or from other countries as well, is critical. I know it sounds cliché toencourage potential study abroad students to make friends with people from all over the world, but it really helps make your study abroad experience incredible and unique. You should also try to have an open-mind and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Yes, the language barrier can be tricky but don’t just hang out with other Americans all the time! I made really good friends with the locals and with western Europeans as well who were studying abroad there. I would also state that making international friends changes your perspective on the States and about the way you do things- not necessarily in a negative way though. But you come back home with a more global view on life and the world around you.