Expat Life: Onwards and Upwards in Bulgaria
By Luisa Kearney
As I sat in my classroom at school, having just told my teachers and friends that I was moving to Bulgaria after the Christmas holidays, halfway through my GCSEs, I began to hear and sense the criticism around me. I often heard people asking me, "What will you do about your GCSEs?" and saying, "You are making such a big mistake moving to Bulgaria!" But it was not as if I was being forced into moving to Bulgaria, and I wasn't missing out on anything in England, either.
I arrived in Bulgaria with my parents and younger sister as we moved in to our new home there. Initially, it was hard to establish a routine in my life, but I started having lessons in Bulgarian and also studying to take the GCSEs I had missed.
There was never a point at which I thought, "This is the difficult stage of the move", because every part was an experience and I loved every moment of it. But I was having problems making friends, as language lessons seemed to hold me back from practising Bulgarian beyond the safety of the classroom.
I decided to stop going to lessons and integrated more with the local people. I began to pick up the language more quickly and in a more relaxed way than in those set lessons.
Within four months of living in Bulgaria, I had picked up some basic phrases, met a few people and settled into the way of doing things. What I didn't have at this point was friends or career prospects. In fact, I didn't know where to get either of these things from. Luckily an English couple that lived near to us gave me the number to a private language school that wanted a native speaking English teacher. Although I was just 16, the manager of the school liked my new ideas and way of working with the students of all ages.
The head teacher hired me to teach various classes and I began to make lots of friends and earned decent money. I eventually moved into an apartment nearer to where I worked and lived there for about a year on my own. By this point I was just 17 and had already spent a year working as teacher of English as a second language and was living in an apartment where I could afford to pay all the bills and the rent. I spent two-and-a-half years teaching for the school and had lots of fun, learnt new things and most importantly, I met some great people.
But unfortunately, the financial crisis hit the school hard and many of the younger students who also took English lessons at their state school decided that that was enough. This resulted in me either having fewer hours or not working at all, so I decided to leave.
I moved out of my apartment and back in with my parents and sister. Initially, I didn't like the idea of giving up everything I had worked for but I was happy to be around the people who lived near to my parents and who I had known since I moved to Bulgaria. Within a year of finishing my teaching job, I had started doing interpreting and translation for various English-speaking expats in the area. I would have never have thought about going in to work as a translator or interpreter, but I loved the thrill that I could help people and communicate with both the English and Bulgarian speakers. The work was very fulfilling and rewarding. I was getting paid well and was quite busy with work, even though I was only working for friends and people I already knew.
Then, after speaking to someone, they told me that I should pursue a career in interpreting/translating, as there is a huge shortage of English people who understand Bulgarian and therefore there is a shortage of Bulgarian-English translators. Not only that, but I found that many British people and companies preferred to deal with an English person who spoke Bulgarian, rather than a Bulgarian who speaks English, because it makes them feel more comfortable in the situation.
I loved translating and interpreting and decided that I would find work doing that, rather than the English teaching that I had also enjoyed doing. I spent money investing in my translation business here in Veliko Turnovo in central Bulgaria.
I had a website made, I had business cards and flyers printed and I also invested in some specialist dictionaries. Within a week of the site going online, I had already got my money back and made a profit, too.
I work from home and sometimes travel out to do various interpreting jobs. Some projects mean that I have to spend more of my time working on one subject, where as other times I can complete the translation within a day and have time to do something else. Every day is different and I never do the same type of project twice.
As for my life in Bulgaria, I really enjoy all aspects of it.
I was lucky that I was young enough to settle into life here, because it could have been more difficult if I had been older.
In my free time I enjoy spending time with my friends, going out to coffee shops, visiting Bulgaria's amazing shopping malls and also going to the beach.
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