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High School: Public school, 30 students in graduating class
GPA: 6.0 out of 6.0
SAT: Reading 730, Math 760, Writing 800
SAT Subject Tests Taken: Literature, World History
Extracurriculars: Tennis player, coordinator and volunteer in the Youth Parliament (non-governmental organization), class president and member of the student council, editor in chief of the high school newspaper.
Awards: Essay Competition finalist in Sustainability Debate, third place in Literary Essay Competition, first place in Bulgaria si ti! English competition, third place in English Language Olympiad, third place in Bilingual English/Russian competition
Major: Social Anthropology
As a child raised on two continents, my life has been defined by the “What if…?” question. What if I had actually been born in the United States? What if my parents had not won that Green card? What if we had stayed in the USA and had not come back to Bulgaria? These are the questions whose answers I will never know (unless, of course, they invent a time machine by 2050).
“Born in Bulgaria, lived in California, currently lives in Bulgaria” is what I always write in the About Me section of an Internet profile. Hidden behind that short statement is my journey of discovering where I belong.
My parents moved to the United States when I was two years old. For the next four years it was my home country. I was an American. I fell in love with Dr. Seuss books and the PBS Kids TV channel, Twizzlers and pepperoni, Halloweens and Thanksgivings the yellow school bus and the “Good job!” stickers.
It took just one day for all of that to disappear. When my mother said “We are moving back to Bulgaria,” I naively asked, “Is that a town or a state?”
Twenty hours later I was standing in the middle of an empty room, which itself was in the middle of an unknown country.
It was then that the “what if” — my newly imagined adversary—made its first appearance. It began to follow me on my way to school. It sat right behind me in class. No matter what I was doing, I could sense its ubiquitous presence.
The “what if” slowly took its time over the years. Just when it seemed to have faded away, it reappeared resuming its tormenting influence on me—a constant reminder of all that could have been. What if I had won that national competition in the United States? What if I joined a Florida tennis club? What if I became a part of an American non-governmental organization? Would I value my achievements more if I had continued riding that yellow school bus every morning?
But something—at first unforeseen and vastly unappreciated—gradually worked its way into my heart and mind loosening the tight grip of the “what if”—Bulgaria. I rediscovered my home country—hours spent in the library reading about Bulgaria’s history spreading over fourteen centuries, days reading books and comparing the Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts, years traveling to some of the most remote corners of my country. It was a cathartic experience and with it finally came the discovery and acceptance of who I am.
I no longer feel the need to decide where I belong. I am like a football fan that roots for both teams during the game. (If John Isner ever plays a tennis match against Grigor Dimitrov, I will definitely be like that fan.) Bulgaria and the USA are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they complement each other in me, whether it be through incorporating English words in my daily speech, eating my American pancakes with Bulgarian white brine cheese, or still having difficulty communicating through gestures (we Bulgarians are notoriously famous for shaking our heads side to side when we mean “yes” and nodding to mean “no).
As a child raised on two continents, my life will be defined by the “What…?” question. What have Bulgaria and the USA given me? What can I give them back? What does the future hold for me? This time, I will not need a time machine to find the answers I am seeking./.