‘Migrating has truly taught me that the differences between us, big and small, are the things giving that special je ne sais quoi to our experiences.’ ‘I think the pandemic has reshaped our priorities and the way we see our lives and our future.’ Short biographical story: name, age, origin, education etc My name is Lidia and I am a 24-year-old student from Spain living in Sofia with my partner, Berkan, who is a medical student from Turkey. I’m currently in the last year of my Bachelor’s in International Politics at the New Bulgarian University. I also work on my online platform, Pretty Green Lily, a blog on sustainable fashion and green living where I talk about our environmental issues and their solutions in a simple and engaging way. Why did you choose to come to this country instead of somewhere else? As a teenager, I visited Bulgaria several times. Every time I came back, it was so different from the previous one and I was able to explore different sides of the country and, of course, of Sofia. I am extremely fortunate to have had the chance to move abroad on my own terms, so when I decided to continue my studies out of my home country, Bulgaria was at the top of my list. It’s different enough from Spain to push me out of my comfort zone and help me learn about a different way of living, but it’s familiar enough to make me feel like home.
What was it like to live in Bulgaria during the pandemic?
Honestly, I’m glad I got to spend it in Sofia. The restrictions here weren’t ad heavy ad in many other countries, but ad the access to cinemas, restaurants and malls was limited, my partner and I were able to enjoy the city’s parks and gardens, and explore wonderful places we didn’t even know existed — even after living here for more than three years!
What was the biggest challenge during the pandemic in Bulgaria?
Of course, being away from my family and not knowing when it’d be safe to go back and visit them was really upsetting. Other than that, one of the hardest parts was not being able to keep up with the news, as my Bulgarian isn’t that good yet!
As a young person who decided to migrate to Bulgaria what would be your advice to cope with the challenges created by the pandemic?
Spending these past year and a half in Sofia has taught me that taking one day at a time is crucial. As I was saying, following the news and keeping up with local news is hard, not only because of the language barrier, but because it’s a heavy and upsetting topic in general. Taking things slowly, reaching out to my loved ones and connecting on a deeper level with my friends in Bulgaria has definitely helped.
Do you think that Covid pandemic created new opportunities for young migrants? What?
I think the pandemic has reshaped our priorities and the way we see our lives and our future. In the case of young migrants, I see that it has opened our eyes to alternatives that less than two years ago didn’t seem realistic, such as working from home and having more freedom in choosing where to settle.
Right now, I have a couple of friends who are considering moving abroad while working for Spanish companies, so I think there might be a silver lining to this whole thing after all.
What do you like most in Bulgaria?
In a superficial way, I am absolutely in love with Bulgarian nature. There are just no words to describe it. But on a deeper level, moving here has helped me create the most meaningful connections with the most amazing people, who have also given me a way to learn about culture and history in the Balkans from a perspective I wouldn’t have had if I had gone elsewhere.
What have been your greatest sources of joy?
Especially during the past 18 months, my partner and I have followed a morning routine that has been hands down our main source of joy and probably one of the things helping us keep our sanity in these strange times. We have been going for morning walks in Borisova Gradina, coffee in hand, and I can tell you that’s one of the places I’ll miss the most after we move elsewhere.
Can you think of times when you have felt unwelcome as an immigrant? What about when you have felt welcomed?
I can confidently say that I have never been involved in unpleasant situations for being a foreigner, which, unfortunately, I know is not always the case.
In my experience, I love how welcoming Bulgarians are when they notice I’m not from here. Sometimes, when I try to communicate in Bulgarian at stores or other public places, everyone is so patient and warm, and I think that’s incredibly sweet. And when they see me struggling, they try their best to talk in English with me, which is also a huge plus!
How do you think that migration has changed you?
I’m way more curious than before. Migrating has truly taught me that the differences between us, big and small, are the things giving that special je ne sais quoi to our experiences.
Now I know that every day I’ll learn something new while I’m here, and whenever I go back to my hometown I am able to analyze my life and the things I once held as absolute truths or as the normal from a complete different perspective.
What are you hoping to accomplish in the future?
I want to develop a career in the field of environmental politics and sustainable development.
I would like to do my bit by communicating and educating about sustainability, and this is something I’m currently doing in the framework of the European Commission’s Green Pact as an ambassador.
After my studies, I plan on working on projects focused on the link between repopulation and sustainable development. Both my upbringing in rural Spain and my current life in Bulgaria have definitely inspired this idea.