Meet Axel – Our Wonderful Intern from Brussels, Belgium


Axel was sent in Varna by Actiris Brussels and did a 6 months internship at the office of Association FOR YOU. He helped us a lot with our communication, as well as with various tasks, including writing an application for a Youth Exchange! We keep our fingers crossed for his project to be approved. Until then we asked Axel to share some insights on what is to be an intern in Varna.

Can you talk a bit about you and your path before arriving in Bulgaria?

I am Axel, I am 23 years old and I come from Brussels, in Belgium. I just had finished studying at the university two months before to arrive in Bulgaria.

What made you want to be an intern?

In fact, after I finished my studies, I realized that I really didn’t want to find a stable job in Brussels and that I still needed to learn a lot. I had not worked a lot earlier, so it was the best way to develop new skills and enhance the previous ones.

I had a Student Exchange two years earlier where I spent 6 months in Chile. It was really nice and it made me want to renew the experience to go abroad. I really like to travel, but to live in another country is in my sense a totally different experience.

And why especially in Bulgaria?

I will not be original in this answer, but especially because I didn’t know so much about it. The fact that Varna was located on the seaside was a plus, and also because I gathered some information and realised that it was a really beautiful country to visit. I had some friends that travelled by it and that gave me a very positive feedbacks.

What was your first impression of Varna when you arrived?

I arrived during the early night. A French volunteer and the director of my association came to pick me at the airport. So actually, as it was dark, I could not see so much about the city, but I remember that it was hard for me to realize that I was there, even though I had already been abroad previously. I was plunging into the unknown and was trying to project me six months later. But in fact, it is totally impossible to know in advance what will happen to you.

To answer the question, I dropped my stuff at my flat, and the French volunteer that had welcomed me (and that actually lived in the same apartment) brought me to a bar where other volunteers were already present and I had the occasion to directly meet them.

They were playing table football and pool and I was directly immersed in my experience. So my first impression was about this bar, that I found really nice and I realised that young people were kind of having the same good time and way of spending the night that the youth in Belgium, which reassured me.

By going back to my place, I saw a bit of the city and I directly liked it, especially the Cathedral. I must admit that the big grey communist buildings also caught my attention, and I would lie if I said that they are my cup of tea. I realised that the city was kind of empty by night (it was in winter), but I enjoyed this atmosphere.

What was your funniest experience in here?

I had so many funny experiences here that I cannot pick one.

  • going to Galata with like 20 other people
  • travelling by hitchhiking with two other friends to join a friend living in Veliko Tarnovo
  • arriving at 1 in the morning in an empty bar while I was thinking to bring people to a nice place, considering going back home, and finally, put our own music until the early morning and spending one of my best nights in Varna
  • I have many other examples, but I will say that generally, my life here is a funny experience

What are you working on here?

I love my internship in here because my tasks are really diverse. It comes from posting on social media, taking care of the blog, to taking pictures and participate in the sales of some products made at the workshops.

I really like also some other tasks as creating visual content, as I really enjoy to unleash my creativity. Since I was a child, I was always creating visual images, but my knowledge was really limited. In here, I can improve my skills and it is part of my work.

I also had the opportunity to be the guide of the city for some French partners that came in January. I was responsible for the director of a music school in France and had a lot of meetings related to music, concerts, festivals, etc. It was really interesting for me because I sincerely love music!

What about Bulgarian people, culture and language?

About Bulgarian people, I must say that they really look rude at first sight. Not everybody, but it happened to me a lot that I entered a shop, was struggling to pronounce the few words that I knew in the Bulgarian language, and had the feeling to bother the cashier.

Actually, now, I realised by going regularly to the same shops (on purpose), I kind of created a small relationship with people as I see them often, and I really appreciate that.

About the culture, I think that Bulgarian have a very ancient, strong culture and that they are really attached to it. I am amazed by it.

About the language, I think that starting from French, it is very complicated. To learn the Cyrillic alphabet was really quick though, and I can recognize some words in a conversation, but whenever I can pronounce a sentence and be understood is a real victory for me. Even the tonic accent is really complicated because even if you do know the word but don’t put the accent on the right syllable, people could not understand you. In French, we don’t have such problems.

Did you have a cultural shock?

I did have a cultural shock, that in fact, I did not experience when I was in Chile. But it lasted less than one week. It was due to the fact that I arrived in Bulgaria, directly (5 days later) moved to Bordeaux, in France, with the association, came back to Bulgaria and went back to Brussels for the Christmas period. When I came back to Bulgaria after this, all the people I knew in the city were still in their home countries and I felt a bit alone and lost. But fortunately, as I said, it did not last long.

What do you like about Bulgaria? And what do you dislike?

What I really like is the way of living of people. I really enjoy it, because I am naturally a very stressed person. In here, I have the feeling that people take their time to enjoy the little things of life, take a coffee together and discuss, etc. It is rare to see a Bulgarian in a hurry.

The second thing that I really appreciate in Bulgaria are the traditions, which are still very present and remain for decades. I enjoyed to celebrate a few of them and was really impressed by how important they are in here. Moreover, they are very typical of here and different from the ones that I know in Belgium, France, etc.

What I dislike is still this feeling that I irritate the sellers in shops, restaurants, etc, because I always do my best to speak in Bulgarian, and to be smiling. Maybe also, I perceive a strong pessimistic mindset which is not good, though probably realistic.

What is your favourite Bulgarian word or expression?

I really like to say “Малко по малко”, which literally means “little by little”. But it is not typically a Bulgarian idiomatic expression, it is just that I like the sense of this expression.

It means to me that to you have to be patient, to work every day on your targets, your dreams, and that there are no small actions. Rome was not built in one day!

What did you learn during your internship?

I learned so many things! For example, I’ve to Bordeaux in a vocational school in the very beginning of my internship. I had my first experience with students, animate a group and lead a discussion. It was very intense for me, very difficult but plentiful experience. As I already said, I improved my digital content designing skills, I am more familiar with digital content. I created a Youth Exchange project, which is a very long and laborious process. I also learnt a lot about myself and others. It is a bit cliché but that is the case.

Would you recommend this experience?

Sure, and I always do. Wherever you go, I think to go abroad is a very rich experience and can almost always be beneficial to you. Even if it can be difficult to adapt, and the standards of living could not be the same as in your home country, it is always good to take for yourself.

As I heard many times, there is no unwelcome experience; if it is a positive one, it is just full of good memories and discussion that will always make you smile when you will think about it.  If it a bad one, it helps you to realise the good things that you had in your country, and maybe that you considered as acquired, and makes you enjoy even more back home.

In both cases, I think it makes you grow up, and it is always valuable.

What is the advice you could give to someone that is thinking about to go abroad?

I think it is good to check a bit of information before to go somewhere. Cultural, historical, information about the language, the currency, etc. It helps to not being too disoriented, even if it is also kind of what we are searching for by moving abroad.

Also, I think it is important to ensure that the job you apply for matches your skills and expectations.

The last advice would be: don’t only think about going abroad, do it!!!

And finally, what do you plan to do after your internship?

Haaa… it’s always a tough question for me when it comes about planning.

I had the choice between different possibilities, and I wanted to do a European Voluntary Service (now called European Solidarity Corps) as I heard a lot about it and met a lot of people doing it in Varna. I still don’t want to settle in Brussels, or anywhere else.

Butttt… I am finally considering to come back to Varna for at least one more semester, find a work to earn a living.

Thank you for your answers, Axel. Wish you the best for what follows, and here is a random inspiring quote:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain