A Program Close to My Heart

30 Aug

Sofia and Philadelphia: 4805 miles and 7733 km apart, 7 hours’ difference, situated on different continents, an ocean and a few countries in between. The journey I was taking got me thinking: I was for sure out of my comfort zone. This was one of the reasons why I decided to attend the Knowledge@Wharton High School (KWHS) Global Young Leaders Academy at the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition, I wanted to meet new people, to understand what it is to study in an Ivy League school, to gain knowledge in fields that have always interested me, and to go back to the country where I spent my childhood. For 9 years I was torn between two places; although I was physically in Bulgaria, my mind was in the United States, and I often thought about going back to the place that I used to call home.


At the beginning of the program, I felt homesick; I missed Sofia, but after a couple of days something changed in me. My room started radiating the warm feeling that a home does. My roommate no longer felt like an assigned person with whom I had to share a room – she felt like family. The daily walk to the Class of 1920 Commons, where we gathered for breakfast, felt like something I had done all my life. The contagious smile of the woman who took my coupon for breakfast was an essential part of my day. The pancakes/ French toast with bacon and ginger ale not only alleviated my hunger but also provoked in me a familiar feeling of satisfaction. The slogan “Wharton; University of Pennsylvania” in Huntsman Hall triggered in me a feeling of eagerness to enter Classroom G50 and gain knowledge in subjects that I am highly interested in. The evening campus walk with my friends was crucial for my high level of happiness.


All these little details made me feel like I was home. However, I am missing out on something: the warm feeling which I associate with Philadelphia and Penn today is mainly due to the friends I made there. I found friends that are always willing to help me, friends who will always try to make me smile if I am in a bad mood and friends who will always be there for me and will always hear me out.

I believe that the friends I made in the program are for life. Every time I start missing them, I wonder whether one day our paths will cross again. I really hope they do. The daily routine that I mentioned above was what we experienced together and this is why it is so special. One of the reasons why I took this journey was to reunite with the place to which I said goodbye 9 years ago. However, I found a better home and I understood that home is not only a place; it is the people in it and the way they make you feel.


By: Ana-Elena Karlova (17 years old, student at American College of Sofia, Bulgaria)


Click here to find out more about the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy!

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