A Fulbright in Bulgaria

It has always been a dream of mine to work abroad; however, I never thought it would be a reality. Thanks to Hastings College, especially Dr. Rob Babcock, and their support, I was accepted into the Fulbright program in Bulgaria. This year, I have the opportunity to teach for 10 months in Sofia, Bulgaria. I have officially completed my first month, and I am beyond excited to continue my adventures abroad.

This piece by Grace Sinsel and the first part of her Fulbright experience originally appeared in HC Today. You can read the announcement of her receiving he Fulbright here.

I graduated from Hastings College in 2023 with a secondary education English language arts degree and an emphasis on English language learners. The skills that I learned from Hastings College and my student teaching semester are aiding me as I teach abroad.

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A selfie of Grace Sinsel ’23 with the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

I am placed in a foreign language high school in the capital of Bulgaria. Throughout the week I see students from 9th-12th grade with varying levels of English proficiency. My classes focus on cultural exchange, and I talk about my experiences in the United States, and they share their own experiences from Bulgaria. We accomplish this through speaking and writing activities.

I am also a coach for the BEST speech team, which stands for Bulgarian English Speech and Debate Tournaments. My students will be giving speeches in English at different tournaments in Bulgaria throughout the year. I am excited to work with these students and watch them grow their speaking skills.

My students have also been a great help in telling me all the foods to try and the best places to visit in Bulgaria. One of their recommendations was to try the Banitsa, which has quickly become my favorite Bulgarian food. It is a traditional pastry dish with a variety of fillings, sometimes savory and sometimes sweet. I will be trying to master the recipe so I can make it when I get back to the United States!

They have also given me a list of places to visit in Sofia and other places in Bulgaria. Sofia has many museums, historical sites and hiking trails that I have explored. Recently, I visited Plovdiv, Bulgaria which is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has ancient Roman ruins throughout.

Since I have gotten to Bulgaria, it has been all about trying new things. I am taking a traditional folk dancing class which is also known in Bulgaria as horo. Every day, I try new foods, try my best to speak to people in Bulgarian and navigate the city. I have never lived in a large city before so learning how to use the transportation system took a while to get used to. As a native Nebraskan, I am used to driving my car to get where I need to go! All of these things have kept me on my toes, but they have given me a whole new perspective on Bulgaria’s culture and way of life.

Bulgaria is a wonderful place to explore with amazing people and a rich history. I am excited to continue to visit new places and work with my students. Thanks to Hastings College my dreams of teaching abroad have become a reality.

By Grace Sinsel ‘23

Sinsel received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award for an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Bulgaria for the 2023-24 academic year. Sinsel is from York, Nebraska.

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