Genuinely, what has been most noteworthy about my time in Sofia this year has been the kindness of strangers – the generosity with which Bulgarians have welcomed me into their lives and offered me friendship.
I love the UK. But it has its faults, and one of these is the fact that we are in general a reserved nation – which means that it can be really difficult to meet people. I lived in Bognor Regis for a year, and despite trying almost every activity I could turn my hand to (including archery, karate, netball, rollerblading and singing in a choir) in an attempt to make friends, at the end of the year I had five friends. Two of whom I’d met on gumtree.
In sharp contrast, in Bulgaria I have been overwhelmed by the way in which total strangers have tried to make me feel welcome – including the security guard who met me in my first week in Bulgaria and took me on a tour, despite us not speaking each others’ language, and the young couple who spotted me sitting alone in a bar in their neighbourhood and invited me on nights out with their friends – again, despite severe language barriers.
In addition to becoming more courageous this year, I really hope that a little of the warm-hearted nature of the people that I have spent time with has rubbed off on me too.