Time to wrap up

It’s been a long and eventful semester here at AUBG. I began my Journalism and Mass Communications experiment to see what this particular field had for me. To say that it’s been great, engaging and inspiring would be like saying nothing. Personally, taking journalism courses for the first time ever was an eye-opening experience. Staying awake in class, dedication and excitement about my studies became a reality. Multimedia Journalism course taught by Professor Melody Gilbert was a part of this experience and gave an opportunity for this blog to exist.

I was overloaded with exciting information about blogging, different tools used to communicate your ideas better and ways to make a subjective writing more interactive.

The first step for me was to learn how to approach people in order to get an interview from them. As for me, this seemed like a tough step to take, considering the intimidation I had with people that I barely knew. I was a shy kind of guy, not a bad listener and it helped. Here are my first stories that helped me to get started.

Ana Ukleba

Ana Ukleba

 

“As Foreign as China”

My first interviewee who opened up about life adventures she had to go through living in various places due to her father’s diplomatic job.

 

 

Toma Tetimov

Toma Tetimov

 

“Back and Forth”

Great story coming from current AUBG employee who had a luck in a “life lottery” that changed his understanding of home. Some audio editing tools were discovered.

 

 

Finding an interesting story for a post every week seemed like an impossible task. However, later on I came to realization that home is something that applies to everyone, and AUBG is the place with such a massive diversity of students that I could proceed with the blog for years to collect all the stories.

Met in the library for the random picture-taking

Heidi Pullyard

“The Product of Both”

An overwhelming and exciting story of being a combination of two absolutely different cultures. I’ve never met a person who got to live in so many different countries. It was quite a surprise that my character is still monolingual. Photo slideshow was used for the first time.

 

“Random”

More of a technical post to show my excitement about learning how to make a five shot videos.

That was the time when dynamic visuals were taught and discovered. It became a whole new experience for me, and I hope for my readers too, to learn more about the person I was writing about.

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Martin Georgiev

 

“I’m home”

A story of a townie who stayed in Blagoevgrad to get his education.

 

 

 

 

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Maria Teresa López Cerdán

 

“Teresa’s Home”

Fun exchange student from Spain talks about her love for the place where she lives in her country.

 

 

 

Igor Myakotin

 

“Bad news for LGBT Asylum Seekers in Australia”

It was a midterm time and I was given the opportunity to experience what is it like to be a backpack journalist.

 

Dumitrita Pacicovschi

Dumitrita Pacicovschi

 

“Home is nowhere, It is everywhere”

Confusing but extremely personal story about travelling experience and thoughts about home.

 

 

“Eye-opening experience”

A story of an attempt of immigration that taught an entire family that there’s nothing more valuable for them than to be with relatives.

 

“Two Homes”

I saved this story for the end of the semester for a reason. Story of a tough life and happiness.

To sum up my semester-long journey, I made a video.

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Two homes

Today I am writing about a very interesting person that I got to meet at AUBG this fall semester. Minka Dorer, an exchange student from Pulaski, Tennessee (US), agreed to talk me about her perception of home. She’s is a 19 year old sophomore this year studying business.

Minka started her story by telling that the decision to do a year long exchange in Bulgaria was necessary. Opening up to me, she told that Bulgaria is her birth country in the first place. When she was 6 years old, she lived in the orphanage and that’s when her American family adopted her.

“I wanted to come back and get to know my culture better.”

To my question about where is home, Minka replied that there are 2 homes for her in this world. The most important one is back in the US, where her family and friends are. She feels loved, being taken care of and accepted for who she is there.

“Home is when you can be yourself and where you’re not afraid of judgments too.”

She believes that real home is the place where you can go through hard times and some really good moments, get in the fight and quickly recover and return back to normal. But where is the second home? Minka is sure that it is here, in Bulgaria.

Despite the fact that she had some really tough times in this country living in the orphanage all the time, her heart is geographically set here. She knows how many struggles orphans have to go through, her goal is to be able to care and help those in the same position as she was once in. Minka feels blessed to be lucky enough to get a loving family after she felt lonely and lost.

“I am here to support kids, volunteer in Roma schools and orphanages and make them feel like home. The place where you get love is a real home.”

She doesn’t believe that people have to be blood related, anyone can be a family to you, even friends. Minka’s plans are quite fascinating and far going. Her goal is to eventually end up living in Bulgaria, restore her citizenship and work as a director of one of the orphanages.  Finding loving families for kids would be her number one priority, give every child a home that we all deserve.

It’s truly fascinating how strong of an emotional bond one can have for a place where you went through so many struggles. In many ways, struggles go on. Minka is of a Roma descent herself, therefore she doesn’t feel the same level of acceptance  in Bulgaria. There are many social issues that the modern society here has. She intends to be the wind of change and do her best to transform the country into a better place.

“Roma people do not get any acceptance at all from Bulgarian people. I feel strong enough to not feel accepted and be able to help the others who are not as strong. I am ready to give back!”

Minka knows that she wants to establish herself in this country, get a family and raise her kids here. On the other hand, if nothing will work out for her, risks aren’t too high because she always has a second home to go back to.

“They [ family] will be there for me if I feel overwhelmed in Bulgaria.I will grow up so I am getting this early picture of how life will be in the future.”

It is a truly inspiring story and it’s a great pleasure to be allowed to hear it. Minka gets homesick, misses her family, friends and dogs and describes her experience as tough. On the other hand, she is here for a bigger reason than just caring about her comfort. With this amount of dedication and enthusiasm, I believe she will do great things to reach her final goal.

Eye-opening experience

For this week’s post I approached a good friend of mine that has an interesting story to tell. It never crossed my mind until now to interview Merlin Demirdzhieva even though I knew she would be perfect for the topic that I am writing about.

Meri is 22 years old and she comes from Ruse, Bulgaria, a town in northwestern part of the country. She is studying Math and Economics, as well as Journalism and Mass Communications at AUBG. Born in town next to Ruse, she got to live in many different places starting from her parents’ university town, then moving to the village where her grandparents live and eventually moving to Ruse. That was all before the actual dramatic changes that happened in her life. When she was 17, her parents decided to move to Toronto, Canada. Meri and her younger brother were placed in a whole new world. The new life on a different continent didn’t last for very long and 2 years later they moved back to Bulgaria.

“It was my parents’ decision to move to Canada and I supported both, to move there and then come back.”

Her family moved there pursuing a better life and self-development. Later on it became clear that it was too radical of a decision. First thing that bothered every family member was the lack of close people around. They missed their relatives that normally would live withing the close proximity. There were many more things that bothered Meri and her family.

“It was like living a robotic life. Just going to work, to school and to the mall. That’s all.”

Her personal reflection on her Canadian part of life is an eye-opening experience, as she described. Meri has never been to such a different place compared to Bulgaria. It was first of all beneficial to her ability to speak English, but besides that, she learned that this big world is not that different when it comes to basic values. Even if people have different ethnicity or speak different languages, underneath it’s all the same.

“It made me very tolerant after all and not so keen about the American Dream anymore. I saw it and it’s not attracting me.”

Canada, according to Merlin, is a very nice and organised place. However, it is very sterile. She missed her friends and the rest of the family and if they were there, then she would’ve enjoyed living there to the fullest.

Going Back to Bulgaria wasn’t easy on her too. Too many dramatic changes that take place in a short period of time. Moving back and forth also interfered with her education, constantly interrupting it. But after all, it was a happy moment when she could reunite with all the family members back home. Meri was 19 and it was time for her to apply to University and AUBG seemed like a great option.

“Home is the place where the close ones are around.”

It’s a broad definition when it comes to home, but according to Meri, it’s the place with the highest density of the ones dear to her heart, which is Ruse. She also considers Blagoevgrad to be her home, there can be more than one.

If she will be able to find great opportunities for herself in Bulgaria, she would never consider going anywhere else far from what she believes to be her real home.

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Home is nowhere, it is everywhere

https://storify.com/tomnaglis/what-is-home

It’s been a long time since the last update of my blog. Today I’m returning back with a new story that I happened to record during our little get-together that me and my friends had in one of the restaurants. It was a natural conversation with a lot of wine when suddenly Dumitrita Pacicovschi brought up the exact topic that I am writing about. All I could do was to pull out my recorder and listen.

“Home is nowhere… everywhere. Yeah!”

That was the first thing she told us. Everyone was confused and silent for a few seconds. As she explained right after, nothing ties her to her home country – Moldova. Her brother and mother are in Italy and only her grandmother remains in Moldova. Dumi says that she always knows that after leaving one place she will always have somewhere to go. So for her it’s always about looking forward to leaving. It seems that settling down is not for her.

As for her future, she doesn’t see herself in Moldova. Dumitrita has a theory that she sacrificed a lot and went through a lot of struggles, it’s not worth to give that up and return to where it started.

“For me it would be like going back to ground zero.”

Where would she like to go? Somewhere where it’ll feel like home. How would she define home? It’s where she is. What a confusing story, right? But let’s go on. Dumi compared herself to a GPS system, explaining that she is good with navigating herself in new circumstances without getting into trouble. Home is where she can peacefully go to a grocery store without people shouting at her for being a foreigner. It never happened to Dumi, but she’s afraid that it only take time for this to be the case.

“Maybe I’m just good at blending in.”

And maybe she is. If you happen to know Dumi, you’ll understand how positive and open-minded this person is. She keeps all her traveling memories close to her heart, even drinking wine in the place that suited it the best.

There’s another detail that reflects on Dumi’s perception of home. She has never had her own room. So it’s never been about the narrow understanding of the concept for her, home is rather about the place as a whole – country, town or maybe even a street. Budapest was an example where she shared a room with someone but the apartment and the city was amazing, it compensates for all of the inconveniences.  There’s a hope to settle down for sure but the only thing that matters right now is to go through scenarios that work the best for her and pursue them.

Being a part of AUBG is another example of Dumi’s struggle for better life. Like many of us, she left so many things behind and found a home here until another one will be found.  She knows that here she gets her own little corner and she is only responsible for this corner and nothing else.

At the end of this unexpected interview I asked her to introduce herself since there was no time in the beginning.

“My name is Dumitrita Pacicovschi, I’m 24 years old and I come from everywhere.”

Let’s see what’s up

It’s been almost two months since I started this blog as part of my Multimedia Journalism class at AUBG. During the first class meeting everyone had to pick a topic for their blog and it didn’t take me long to come up with the idea of what I wanted to write about. The goal was to tell others in form of writing and all the tools available what interests you.

I had no idea about how the whole thing would work or who I was going to interview. Surprisingly enough, I started off with tiring but effective way of thinking of how to find some good stories. Obviously, I wanted to learn new things and interviewing someone I knew really well wasn’t an option. We all have people that we know a little due to some activities we’ve done together or having mutual friends. I decided it would be good to dig deeper and go below the surface learning about their lives.

The fascinating thing is that there are so many incredible and unbelievable stories available on campus. Students of AUBG come from different corners of the globe and have very different backgrounds. Here are some quotes to give you an idea if you haven’t read any of my posts:

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“Home is the place where you can be yourself without the mask.”

“Home is not where you were born but where you feel well and safe. I spent my summers in Provincetown and I consider it to be my second home.”

“When you’re kid it’s very easy to make friends quick. You say ‘Hi, my name is …’, and you’re best friends now and the next minute you hate each other, then you love each other. It’s fine.”

“… when something is very foreign, we call it ‘Chinese’ “

It was truly beneficial for me to be a member of such diverse community to write about “What is home? Where is home?”. Most of us (students) have big plans for the future, for most of us it means leaving our places of birth and families. It was my concern too and I hoped to get the most out of this semester-long project and learn from the experience of others.

I’m not sure if I was unconsciously biased selecting my interviewees but what I found out is that most of them believe that home is where your heart is and that there are very different factors of why people were willing or forced to find their new home. Pure luck of winning foreign documents, parent’s job or personal desire were among the reasons I heard.

Why is this class beneficial to my? Not only I got to hear all these great stories but found new ways of talking about them. I never had a blog before. Little by little I was learning about how to write and express myself. Later on, all these great tools were explained to me by our Professor Melody Gilbert. Slideshows, audio bites and videos were adding much more to our blogs and made them look much more complete. Not only that was important, but also the ways to promote yourself and be present everywhere. Twitter and Facebook were crucial in the process of learning helping us to raise awareness and gain publicity.

It is very exciting to see where my blog goes during the second half of the semester and what other useful tools I’ll discover. One idea is to step out of the campus and see what’s out there maybe hear some stories from overseas, technology makes it possible. I hope you guys enjoy what I’m doing and that you’ll continue to follow me looking for some great stories about “Finding Real Home”.

Bad news for LGBT asylum seekers in Australia

The following post is part of my Midterm assignment for Multimedia Journalism Class. We are given the opportunity to experience what is it like to be a backpack journalist. The new reforms in Australian laws will make it harder for one of the most marginalized groups – LGBTI, to seek for asylum in the country. The new legislation will force arriving refugees to prove their sexuality to an immigration officer. The methods of confirming the claim are not quite clear but might violate basic human rights. Due to often “closeted” nature of asylum seekers their emotional state and need for a safe environment won’t be taken into consideration. The new reform will not leave enough time for them to feel comfortable about proving and sharing private aspects of their life. The basic concept of the legislation will be to either ‘come out’ on spot or get deported. Same legislation was heavily criticized in other places where it existed and proved to be ineffective and inappropriate.

Source: The Guardian

Due to such an unpopular and criticized measure to protect the Australian border, I was quick to approach Igor Myakotin, a student at AUBG (American University in Bulgaria) to find out what is his reaction to such a move by the Australian government. Igor believed that even if the government had their own strong reasons to implement such a restrictive policy, such moves could be avoided and reasons could be better explained in order to justify such actions. He mentioned that the topic itself is very sensitive and controversial in many ways.

“It’s hard for the asylum seekers to ‘come out’ like that to a stranger and prove that they’re gay.”

On the other hand he noted that if someone is seeking for asylum, they have to be ready to go through certain procedures in order to qualify for protection. There are many more places in the world that allow people to claim for asylum on grounds of their sexual orientation and risk of prosecution in their home country. Therefore, Australia is not the only option and best option currently available.

“If you’re really seeking asylum and threatened in your home country, you’ll have to go through this procedures. It is what it is.”

With all the neutrality that Igor was trying to show, he admitted referring to his personal experience that the process of coming out for him was quite painful and difficult, and he sees how much harm the current reform can cause to the marginalized group. He came out in the country where at least people are not officially prosecuted for their sexual orientation and it’s hard for him to imagine how hard it can be for others to do so in the countries where such discriminative and sometimes brutal practices take place.

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Such a move from a government of a country which is considered to be developed and civilized will definitely cause harm in both, short and long run. Lives of people all around the world looking for a better ‘home’ and hoping to find it overseas might not have such bright perspectives and might cause even more harm. It’s clear that once you go public about your sexuality and get deported back to your home country, consequences might be tragic.

Teresa’s Home

Today’s post is going to be about Maria Teresa López Cerdán, 20 years old smiley ERASMUS exchange student from Spain studying Journalism and Mass Communications. She came to AUBG for the entire academic year and I felt like I wanted to find out more about her past.

Teresa got straight to the point telling me that her original home is a small town in Spain. That’s where she was born and where her family is currently living. However, she considers Madrid to be her real home and especially her flat where she lives with her friends.

“I love my family but I still prefer my flat with friends in Madrid.”

Her hometown is very small and, as she said, extremely boring. No wonder, just like many other young people, she enjoys bigger cities. Teresa described her experience in Madrid as if she can breathe freely there. It’s been only 2 years for her in Madrid but she hopes that she will stay in this city forever.

It was very clear how much she is in love with the city and her life there. I asked how would she define the concept of home.

“Home is the place where you can be yourself without the mask.”

Teresa truly feels like she does not have to pretend to be someone else. She chose her flatmates, but not her family and she believes it’s good to have a choice.

She was lucky enough to have a lot of experience in traveling, mostly around Europe. My question was if Madrid still remained as exciting for her as it was before.

“Yes! But if I couldn’t stay in Madrid, then I would choose Copenhagen.”

Things turned very unexpected when I asked her what matters the most for her about the city. The first word to come out was “theater”. Teresa believes that Madrid is a theater city and she is in love with it. She expressed that she can’t really enjoy Blagoevgrad that much, it’s tiny and there isn’t much theater culture here too.

I felt like she might be getting homesick but as she described, she knows no such thing. It’s no secret that Teresa will return to her beloved city and therefore there’s no reason to get homesick.

I’m home

I have to be honest, it took me forever to think of someone for my next interview. I was looking for a different story this time to diversify my blog. A few days ago it came to my mind that I didn’t have to go far for my next blog post.

For today’s post I met with Martin Georgiev, a junior studying Journalism and Mass Communications at the American University in Bulgaria, to hear his story and talk about the perception of home.

Martin is a Blagoevgrad resident. He was born in town and spent all his life here (just to make it clear, the town is home to often mentioned university which we all attend). He corrected my assumption that there are only a few townies attending this school.

“Not so few. I am not that unique in this sense.”

While in high school, at certain point in time he decided that attending Bulgarian universities is not an option for him. Martin was looking for schools in the UK, attended a few education fairs and was ready to start the application process. Later on he came to conclusion that paying tuition and living there will cost a fortune. No need to explain that it’s tough to start an independent life with a huge debt. Therefore, AUBG was a good back-up plan. In order to get a full scholarship, there’s a certain amount of points one needs to score on SAT exam. Martin set the goal of getting in by thorough preparation for the test. Things worked out and he reached the goal of pretty much not having to pay anything for his education.

“Going to AUBG brought me in a different part of town. It’s like a whole different side of the place.”

Martin expressed that he mostly doesn’t regret staying in his hometown. As he said, boredom might take over sometimes, familiarity with environment also contributes to it. On the other hand, after being away every summer for past two years, it’s not that big of a problem being home. In addition to that, summers might get too hot and depressing in Blagoevgrad when all the students are gone and there’s nothing to do. Martin gets to skip that part of a year. To diversify his life here, he got to travel much more since he joined AUBG. It’s always good to get away for a couple of days.

When I asked about the plans for the future, Martin said that he would like to live somewhere else but maybe not permanently.

“Home is not where you were born but where you feel well and safe. I spent my summers in Provincetown and I consider it to be my second home.”

He loved the environment and the fact that he was surrounded by friends, in other words it was his home away from home. But as for a permanent destination Martin would still love to choose Blagoevgrad. It all depends if there’ll be any opportunities for him in town.

“There are many variables in the equation.”

In order to find a good job most of the people have to go to Sofia (the capital of Bulgaria and its largest city), but if Martin will manage to find opportunities or create opportunities for himself in his hometown, he would love to stay.

 

Random

I know that it has nothing to do with the topic of my blog but since I’m writing it as part of my class in the first place, I wanted to give you an update of what we’ve been doing.

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During last class we learned and practiced making a 5 shot video, which is almost a formula for a good video. See if I got it right.

The Product of Both

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For my post this week I interviewed Heidi Pullyard, a senior at the American University in Bulgaria. majoring in Political Science and International Relations  as well as Journalism and Mass Communications. She kindly agreed to discuss her adventurous past with me today.

Heidi is half-Arab, half-American. She grew up in the Middle East, however born in Atlanta, Georgia. She spent some time there with her parents, moved to Saudi Arabia after and then returned to the US, this time to Illinois. That wasn’t her final destination as it could’ve sounded. At the age of 7 she moved with her parents to Qatar. Bahrain was the next stop in Heidi’s life and as of today her parents live in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. While telling me about her diverse geographic presence, no wonder she got confused with the order of which country comes first in her biography. Since she was a little child at this point in time, Heidi collects her memories piece by piece from each country that she lived in.

I was extremely curious why and how did she end up in Bulgaria attending AUBG. As she told me, she moved to Turkish Republic of Northern Cypress to get her education. While being in college there, Heidi was looking for American Universities across Europe, where she was aiming to live.

I looked at billions and billions of websites and came across AUBG which offered Journalism program. If not that, I wouldn’t be here.

The ease of travel and proximity to other mainland European countries seemed attractive to her and due to all these reasons I have the ability to take this interview.

We can hardly imagine how stressful it can get for someone at the young age to constantly change not only her street address, but the country, the culture and even continents. Reflecting on her experience, Heidi mentioned that it doesn’t take much to make friends as a child.

When you’re kid it’s very easy to make friends quick. You say ‘Hi, my name is …’, and you’re best friends now and the next minute you hate each other, then you love each other. It’s fine.

On the other hand, we all get older and when Heidi was about 13 years old, she moved to Bahrain and realized that it was much harder to integrate into a new school and the new culture. Things worked out after all and her family more or less settled in the country.

While listening to these fascinating timeline of her life, that not everyone can tell about, I couldn’t help myself but mention how different the West and the East are. I didn’t feel like saying that in many ways they’re almost 2 opposite cultures but Heidi brought it up anyway.

I am a product of both cultures. I really am.

She had a hard time elaborating on this particular question about her mentality. However Heidi mentioned that she is much more westernized than a typical Arab girl, but on the other hand, she is extremely fascinated by the Middle Eastern culture. After a few attempts she concluded that being moderate in everything is the best description of her personality. She loves all the places where she got to live in different ways.

Heidi more than anyone I interviewed before believes that home is where your family is and she had enough experience to know how true this belief is for her.