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Stone & Compass is excited to partner with Flagler College to offer an immersive study abroad program to Bulgaria.
Students will have a unique opportunity to explore this Eastern European country, learning more about its pivotal role in the region, meeting local government officials, NGO representatives and immersing in its culture. Students will have the chance to traverse ancient Roman roads in Sofia, visit an ethnographic open-air museum, lunch with students and faculty at a local university, climb the medieval Tsaravets Fortress, take a Buglarian language class and shop for traditional handicrafts. Students will also see Bulgaria’s nature, enjoying magnificent caves, waterfalls and mountains while studying the impact of development programs here. A highlight of the trip will be a visit to the famous Rila Monestary, 7000 feet into the mountains complete with an overnight stay at a local spa to truly immerse yourself in local life.
May 3 – 17, 2021
Flagler College Students
We will take a late afternoon/early evening flight from Orlando to Sofia Bulgaria. This will be an overnight flight with a stop in one of Europe’s large cities. Arrival in Sofia, Bulgaria is on the afternoon of day 2 considering the 7-hour time difference.
In the early afternoon we will arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria. We spend the night in Sofia and adjust to our new surroundings. You can explore in the late afternoon before heading off to a Welcome Dinner.
*A list of approved activities will be provided to you for your time prior to the “Welcome Dinner.”
Today we step back in time…we will all take a historic walking tour of Sofia! The Founder of Balkan Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization working in the field of cultural preservation will lead the walk. Traverse the Roman roads, head into the catacombs, and visit Nevsky Cathedral. At lunch we will meet with National Government officials to discuss how Bulgaria is playing a pivotal role in the region. Members of the Government and former UN officials who worked in the Security sector will join us. In the late afternoon we will head to the Stone and Compass retreat center, our home away from home.
Today we head to VTU! Veliko Tarnovo University is a prestigious University with a vibrant international student population. Our students will enjoy a cultural exchange with other students from VTU. The visit will include a class in beginner Bulgarian, a lunch with students and faculty, and an outing late in the afternoon to Nicopolis Ad Istrum, an ancient Roman complex.
Let’s get out into Nature! Hiking out in the beauty of natural Bulgaria you will enjoy these magnificent caves and waterfalls in the morning. Return to the center in the afternoon for lectures in the big barn. Local officials will visit the center and talk with students about how international non-profits are helping to revive the local villages and how sustainability initiatives are becoming a key to the future.
Today you will visit an ethnographic open air living museum “Etara” where you will get to see craftsmen working on traditional water powered machinery. A great place to sample traditional sweets and baked goods and buy handcrafts to bring home to your family and friends. We will meet with the managers of this facility and learn how Bulgaria is utilizing tourism as a way of creating new opportunities to increase economic welfare in rural areas.
Today enjoy a day trip to the 2nd Bulgarian empire’s capital city of Veliko Tarnovo. Here you will have the opportunity to climb Tsaravets Fortress which was the hub of this medieval city. Shopping, gelato, and traditional crafts make Veliko a favorite of all who visit. Meet with local officials who are working in the tourism and real estate sector. Learn why Veliko Tarnovo is going through an economic boom. We will also visit with local crafters and meet the director of archaeological excavations for the region. On this day we will also visit with a non-profit organization called AMALIPE. This is the first Roma organization run in Bulgaria to better the lives and give a voice to the Roma people
Today we get dirty. Students and faculty have an opportunity to help the local community by being involved in three projects on this day: 1. Work inside an old communist theater as we rebuild it into a local community center. 2. Take time to help the local elderly work in gardens and in the afternoon visit an elderly home in the village and meet guests and enjoy lively discussions about the past.
Enjoy a boat cruise! Yes, we will head up the Danube river and learn all about the international relations between Romania and Bulgaria; two nations who call this mighty river their “friendly border”. Students will see first-hand how two different countries can utilize the same space and co-exist while doing business.
On this day we will enjoy the center to its fullest! Take a hike, enjoy the amenities, and play in the pool. In the evening we will have traditional dancers and musicians arrive for a traditional Bulgarian cookout and celebration!
Spend one last morning enjoying a breakfast at the Stone and Compass center before we head into the mountains and stop at the famous Shipka Pass; the site of the final battle between Bulgarian and Russian forces to overthrow the Ottoman Empire. In the late afternoon we will arrive in Plovdiv! This ancient city formerly known as Philipopolis was founded by King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great.
Enjoy an incredible tour of this city and meet with local non-profit organizations and NGO’s before we head West towards the Rhodope Mountains. We will meet with the head of TRAKART; a museum that is redefining how historical objects can be utilized without removal from sites. Late in the afternoon we check into a Spa and relax as we get ready for the adventure of a lifetime the following day.
Today we start our morning with a visit to Rila Monastery! This site is the most visited place in Bulgaria. In the afternoon enjoy a true natural wonder as we head up 7000 feet into the mountains! Take a gondola to the ridge of the seven lakes and spend the afternoon hiking the glacial lakes. In the evening we head back to Sofia.
Wake today and cherish the memories you have made as we head back to the US.
Located in the Balkan peninsula next to Greece and Romania, Bulgaria has a rich history dating back thousands of years.
Bulgaria’s location near the center of the Balkan Peninsula made it an important stop for trade routes between the Near East and Europe. The Bulgarian state dates back to 691 AD. It was a part of three different Bulgarian Empires and spent over five centuries as part of the Ottoman Empire. One of the Soviet Union’s staunchest allies during the Cold War, Bulgaria transitioned from a socialist state to a parliamentary Republic in 1991 and has struggled through fits and starts to arrive where it is today, as a full member of the European Union.
Historically, Bulgaria is an Eastern Orthodox Christian country, but Sunni Islam was brought by the Ottomans, and approximately 10% of the population now practices it. Sofia is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe, and its culture is a dynamic combination of Turkish, traditional Bulgarian, Soviet, and modern European influences. The city is located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, which gives its skyline a beautiful background, this is where our trip will begin.
Bulgaria’s location makes it an excellent jumping off point for other places in Europe, if you wish to travel following the program.
While in Bulgaria you will have a “home away from home” at the Stone and Compass Retreat Center, located in the small, central village of Stolat. The Retreat Center is 2,200 acres of land, complete with a 980 square foot restored barn, 18 bedrooms, a fire pit, and a pool. The Center will be “Flagler in Bulgaria” for our program, we will come back here most nights of the program to relax, dine and enjoy each others company.
When we visit the famous Rila Monestary, we will also stay one night at Rilets Resort and Spa: https://www.riletsresort.com/en/
Payment can be made in full or following the payment schedule below. Tuition for FlagSHIP programs is provided by the college, students will not be charged for tuition, however, you will receive 3 credits.
Due: August 15, 2020
Due: November 15, 2020