Student Profile: Sydney Richardson
September 28, 2016
Class of 2017, Sociology and English Double Major
Riding on trains that were manufactured during the Soviet era, having classes in the building that served as the center of Communist control in Bulgaria and studying under a professor who was a member of the KGB. These were just a few of the experiences that Sydney Richardson had during her semester of study abroad at the American University of Bulgaria (AUBG).
Studying with International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP), Sydney originally selected Bulgaria because of the classes that were offered. Upon arriving in the country, she was drawn in by the deep history and strong culture that has lasted through several generations of rule from several different powers.
While at AUBG, Sydney took four classes that count toward her degree at Bridgewater College, including two electives in her English major and one in her sociology major, as well as an ethics course. In addition, she signed up for a Bulgarian language class to aid in navigating daily life.
A sociology major, Sydney benefited from observing a culture that was different from her own. “Experiencing a culture that is so different was fascinating,” she noted. “I enjoyed being able to see how the history of the country affected the culture of Bulgaria.”
One of the cultural differences that Sydney found particularly challenging was the gestures for yes and no. In Bulgaria, people nod for no and shake their head for yes—exactly opposite of what Americans are used to. “This was a confusing difference to get used to and one that I struggled with the entire time I was there,” she said.
One of the highlights of Sydney’s study abroad experience was being joined by her mom, Stacie, in the Czech Republic during fall break. Together they visited Prague and Vienna, Austria.
Sydney said the study abroad experience has taught her to be more independent. An example of this was the time she left her purse—containing all of her money and her debit card—on a bus. Simply calling a bus station is not an option. First, the employees at the bus station do not speak English and, second, not all of the stations are connected. By going to the bus station in Sophia, the capital, she was put in contact with the bus driver who had found her purse—along with all of its contents—and was holding it for her.
“You have to figure out how to do things on your own, because the people at home cannot help you,” she explained.
For those seeking opportunities to study abroad, Sydney recommends Bulgaria, a country off the beaten path. “You will get a really different experience from America,” she commented.