The Colgate Scene
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|The Bulgarian connection|
|by John D. Hubbard|
Thirteen of Colgate's 17 Bulgarian students gathered in the Chapel for a special group photo. Standing, from left, Sophia Georgieva '03, Dora Gicheva '04, Boyan Stoyanov '01, Viara Nedeva '02, Georgy Georgiev '02, Danail Markov '03, Kroum Sourov '04, Mira Mircheva '01, Ivo Turkedjiev '01 and Georgi Markov '02. Sitting, from left Elena Kirtcheva '03, Boris Tzvetkov '03 and Gueorgui Siakolov '04.
The first airplane Ivo Turkedjiev '01 was ever on carried him to Colgate.|
There were five Bulgarian students on campus back then, in 1997, but today, as Ivo awaits graduation, there are 17 enrolled.
"It's been exponential growth," he says with an engaging smile.
Jana Dimitrova '98 was the first to make the leap from Bulgaria to Colgate, coming as an Alumni Memorial Scholar. Her outstanding qualifications and remarkable accomplishments (she was salutatorian) set a high standard that has become a Bulgarian hallmark here. A year later Boryana Vladimirova Zamanova '99 was valedictorian.
"It's such a thrill to have the Bulgarians here because they are really excited about learning and every aspect of the Colgate experience," says Dean of Admission Gary Ross '77. "They demonstrate in countless ways something so many of us have come to take for granted -- a college education is a gift and an experience to be treasured."
Mira Mircheva '01 "fell in love with the viewbook" while investigating American institutions. "Probably 30 percent of my high school class applied to U.S. colleges. For us it is a great chance and we make the best of it."
Mircheva, who is a past president of the Colgate International Community, is active in the ALANA Cultural Center, has performed with the Latin American Dancers, Nagina and Dance Theater and was a member of the German Study Group. She is majoring in economics, "like 90 percent of the Bulgarians -- it has to do with attitudes back home." She has been hired by Tom Tyree '83 to work at Goldman Sachs.
According to Tyree, managing director of the high technology group, there is an interesting trend at a couple of the smaller schools the firm visits. "We see a continuous stream of particularly bright, ambitious, accomplished students, many of whom are interested in finance, from a common cultural background outside of the United States. At Hamilton College, for example, there is a strong network of Turkish students who, year in and year out, rank among the best candidates we see on campus. At Colgate, a group of talented Bulgarian students has similarly distinguished itself."
Tyree saw in Mircheva "the breadth and versatility afforded by a strong liberal arts education together with intelligence, drive and diversity. Mira struck us as exceptionally bright, an `outside-the-box' thinker, poised and direct. We also saw in her a great diversity of experiences, interests and culture."
Concentrations and work
Just as popular as econ majors are jobs with Information Technology Services. "I have about 15 Bulgarian students working for me, all but one, I am told," says Student Technology Administrator/ITS Claudia Servadio-Coyne. "They are very focused on their studies, work and play -- and let me stress play. I really don't know how they put in so many hours at work, get great grades and still have time to have a social life. They are a very happy and fun bunch of students."
Serious and insightful as well. Says Mircheva, "As a Bulgarian student here I have been able to reach out to any group. There are no social barriers, no prejudices. It's been a great advantage coming from a foreign country. I've been very open and other people have been open to me.
"I feel people here have great advantages and wonderful opportunities. You know what your rights are and can defend them. You have to rely on your own abilities."
Colgate made an early impression on Danail Markov '03, whose brother Georgi is a junior.
"I studied in an English school back home, so I had a lot of information about the system. I wanted to be independent, handle things myself, be responsible. Markov was also attracted by Colgate's beauty and the opportunity it offered to meet so many different people. "Back home there is not such a big variety."
Markov says his first trip home was a wonderful break, but that he realized he had become used to living here.
"Still, a lot of times I feel homesick. Most of the things I feel close to are in the other side of the world. I love my country and I hope one day I'll be able to go back and do something."
Elena Kirtcheva '03 discovered Colgate while doing a search of colleges offering financial assistance. "I decided the university would offer me so many things I have dreamt about -- access to good resources and awesome professors. I have not been disappointed by anything here so far."
The growing number of Bulgarians is both a comfort and a concern among the students. "The first-years tend to cluster and it can create another minority that is segregated," says Turkedjiev. Mircheva sees the size of the contingent "providing a comfort zone" that can be helpful during the "gradual process of getting integrated in the Colgate culture."
Adds Kirtcheva, "Sometimes I feel weird that there are so many of us here on this campus, coming from so far away. Yet, I feel like we bring something to this place that hopefully people here appreciate and enjoy. I am usually open to talk about my culture to everybody that is open to hear."
As associate dean of the college, Arlene Hunter works with international students. "The Bulgarians are the largest group within the Colgate International Community. As a group, the Bulgarian students are highly successful in the classroom and contribute to the campus in a myriad of ways. In addition to being excellent students, they are active in the residence halls and living units, in student government and extracurricular activities. A common characteristic I have seen among the Bulgarian students is their enthusiasm -- about being here, about learning inside and outside of the classroom, about connecting with their faculty. And they take a great deal of pleasure sharing their experiences with other Bulgarian students back at home."
Ivo Turkedjiev is headed to Wall Street but hasn't eased his busy routine, and he takes a break from work to reminisce about attending college so far from home.
"I've missed friends and sometimes a good Bulgarian meal. When I first got here I was way too excited to miss home. I wrote long e-mails describing everything. Now I just write that I am fine."
It's a message that applies to all Colgate's Bulgarian students.
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