Iliyan Hristov, a graduate of the Aprilov National High School, has had tremendous success in his YouTube career as a vlogger! Here is what he has to tell us about his application process and, eventually, his American dream:
Home Country: Bulgaria🇧🇬
Exchange Program: ASSIST Program🇺🇸
School during exchange year: Stuart Hall School🇺🇸
Favorite food I explored abroad: Mac and Cheese 🧀
Favorite school activity: School Plays🎭
Favorite person from my exchange year: My roommate, Thang, and my Literature teacher 👨🏫
My dream College/Major: You can succeed in any college and fail in every college, all the same. Focus on what you are truly passionate about, don’t stress about Harvard exams.
Why did I decide to apply for an exchange year?
- I knew other people had accomplished it, so this was my number one motivation. I told myself, “if they can, I can”!
How did your parents react to your bold decision?
- They realized it is all my success, my future, so nobody has ever tried stopping me to pursue my dreams. I am beyond thankful that my parents have always let me be independent. That has shaped me to be the person I am today to a great extent.
Tell me a funny moment of your adventure abroad!
- Well, once I was at Walmart and was doing some shopping, but I lost track of time, so I missed the bus back to school (I was at a boarding school). Then I had to wait for an hour and a half for the next one to arrive, and while I waited, I was freaking out, because I thought someone was going to kidnap me. 😂 Thankfully, they didn’t! Now that I am thinking about it, it is not as funny as I thought it would be, sorry, WOW.
What is one particular thing that impressed you the most?
- How open-minded people were! And how they lived on campus, so you could always go and say "Hi!". I did. Multiple times. I even cooked some Bulgarian food for my American teachers. You can check out a video on my YouTube channel.
What was the coolest new thing you tried or experienced abroad?
- When I traveled for my winter break (3 weeks), I went to the state of Michigan, specifically in a small city called Houghton. There, we did a custom where we went to people’s houses to sing Christmas songs. We were maybe 20-30 people. It felt pretty uniting and warm.
One advice about overcoming homesickness!
- It’s difficult, believe me - I know!! But think about it like this: This is a ONCE-in-a-LIFETIME opportunity that you have. And how many other kids in Bulgaria have it? Right?! You ARE special. Cheer on it. You might be in Bulgaria for the rest of your life after.
Who was your favorite teacher? Try to describe them, using 3 words!
- It was my English Literature teacher. I took the AP (Advanced Placement - college level course) class. His name - Robert Schuster. He was so open-minded!! He always listened to what I had to say, and even though my opinion would often be different from his, he gave me credit for it, as I was backing up my thesis with arguments. That truly helped me develop the quality that everyone praises (sometimes to a ridiculous amount) - critical thinking.
What was the hardest moment during your exchange year, and how did you deal with it?
- It truly was homesickness. To overcome it, I tried coming back to the “here and now” moment as much as possible. I tried following the advice I gave above. It was difficult in the beginning, but it got easier with time, and today it has made me so much stronger. Homesickness is not something that all of your friends will be able to deal with. You should be proud of being able to get over it!
How does your exchange year reflect on your choice to continue your academic career in college?
- I chose to study at home. But my decision also concerns other personal factors, which I’d rather not mention. :)
Give to future applicants and their parents one reason why kids should apply for an exchange year!
- I don’t believe they need a reason. If someone doesn’t understand how valuable and life-changing this opportunity is in the first place, my reason won’t help.
Ilko's last piece of advice: I hope my experience and opinion have been helpful! Go after your dreams and don’t let incompetent people stop you along the way. They will try!
It was an honor for me to hear Ilko's story and post it on this website! And here is a little secret about me...: in the summer before my sophomore year(10th grade, when I was eligible to apply to ASSIST) I have watched one of Ilko's videos dozens of time, so click HERE to check it out! And please GO AND FOLLOW his YouTube Chanel!