Interview with Nadia Rinaldi
Name: Nadia Rinaldi
Host country and university: Sofia University, Bulgaria
What was your motivation for doing your semester abroad?
My motivation for going abroad was that I had never had the opportunity to live abroad before. Being surrounded by my international friends, I felt like I lacked the international experience. So that’s why I wanted to experience it myself.
What was your motivation for applying for this country and university?
Personally, I am interested in Eastern Europe. So going to Bulgaria was an interesting choice for me, as it is still an EU member but is still the furthest away from my country, the Netherlands.
Did you have any expectations before leaving?
Before leaving I purposely tried not to have any expectations and just let myself be surprised.
Did you find the application procedure difficult?
No, it was quite self-explanatory. Although it was quite confusing whether you had to be at your study advisor for certain things, and to the mobility office for other matters.
What were the requirements for doing your semester abroad in that country and university?
Being an EU country as well, the other country must accept the level of English which is guaranteed by my home university. So the requirements were not really applicable for my application.
Where there any initiatives of supporting Erasmus/international students in the host university throughout your stay?
Yes, there was ESN Bulgaria which offered many programs. Ranging from the Buddy program to trips abroad or parties.
Studies: What did/do you think of the university?
The location? The buildings?
Sofia university has an impressive and beautiful building. Although for certain faculties you had to be on another campus which was rather annoying.
The study programme?
Since there were very few courses in English at Sofia university, I only did courses with other Erasmus students. A lot of courses which I wanted to go were not available upon arrival.
The teachers spoke good English and were passionate about their job.
Did you like the way of teaching and studying?
The method of teaching was not the best according to me. However, this depended on the course as well of course. Most courses were just done without much interaction between the students and the professor.
How was the workload compared to IRIO?
The workload was definitely way less than to IRIO. We did not have any weekly assignments or preparation for our classes. The only thing which we had to do was make a final exam or assignment for the semester.
Social contact: What about the people in the university?
Did/do you meet many international students?
All my classes were only with Erasmus students, so I did meet many international students.
Did you rather stay with locals or other international students?
It was pretty hard to get to know many locals, since the level of English of most local students was not that great. Furthermore, we also did not have any classes with local students. So the integration was not the best.
Did you get to know people outside the university?
I got to know people by traveling and going out.
Finances/Logistics: How did it go financially?
Did you aquire a fund?
I received a Erasmus scholarship.
Did you have to experience a difference in lifestyle compared to living in Groningen?
Yes, I definitely had more free time which I spend traveling and partying.
Was it hard to find an accommodation? Was it affordable?
Finding an accommodation was not that hard. The university did offer dorms, however you had to share it with at least 1 other person. I had a private apartment which I got via a real estate agency. The paper work was a lot since it was hard to get an accommodation for only 1 semester. For the rest there was a landlord which was the partner of ESN, however all the money had to pay cash. My friends had bad experiences with the housing via this ESN partner.
What about spendings on food, public transports and leisure?
The prices were almost half of Dutch prices, which was great. As a student it is possible to get a public transportation card for only 11 euros a month.
Did you go out a lot? Can you give any recommendations?
If I wasn’t traveling in the region, I was going out. I did not like the parties organized by ESN personally. I went out to this techno bar called “Tell Me” a lot. Furthermore, there was hambarra was which is a candle light bar.
Did you practice any sports there?
What was your favourite place there?
I enjoyed the Vitosha mountain which was really close to Sofia.
Where you able to do some sightseeing and/or travel within the country?
Yes, I had plenty of time to do so. When traveling throughout the country public transport was not really that much available. But you were able to rent a car quite cheaply. Furthermore, Erasmus Bulgaria organized trips inside and outside the country.
What was your favourite local food there?
As a vegetarian trying local food is not that great as the majority is based on meat. However, I did go to some traditional restaurants in which they had nice dishes with vegetables and potatoes. The Bulgarian bread was also definitely nice.
Did you experience something similar to a culture shock? How and in which sense was it different to living home/in Groningen?
I did experience a culture shock. Upon arrival I was not that informed about the level of English spoken in the country. Taxi drivers generally do not speak much English at all. People are not that helpful or friendly when you ask for some question on the street. Part of this is because of the language barrier.
How was the communication? Were you able to improve your language skills?
No, I was doing all my courses in English so it was nothing new for me.
With whom did you speak the language?
With everybody as I did not know any Bulgarian.
What is the most funny word you learned in the new language?
I did enrol in a Bulgarian language course offered by Sofia university. However, I dropped out after 3 weeks as I was only doing it for fun and not credits. It was quite hard and demanding. But I did learn the word “goru-dole” which means so-so.
Do you have an interesting story to tell about your stay?
Being aware of history in Eastern Europe is quite essential in order to understand how matters are in the current days.
Something you have learned/grown with thanks to the experience?
I’ve learnt how to still try to communicate with people despite the language barrier.
Is there something you want to tell students who will go to that country and university in the future?
Do not worry too much about the courses at the beginning.