My name is Karina, I am 22 years old.I come from Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria. I came here to continue my studies, I was in high school and had to choose where to continue, I had been once to the UK and totally loved it, so I applied here to the Guildhall school of music, where I am now in my third year studying classical violin. We have academies in Bulgaria; there are specialist schools and over 15 orchestras, although it is not a very well paid job. Playing in an orchestra is possible if that is what appeals to you. So there are quite a lot of opportunities for a country our size. However I think most young musicians in Bulgaria look abroad because there are more opportunities to collaborate with other musicians, to explore. There are amazing teachers in Bulgaria - if they were in the Guildhall I would want to study with them. It was really the chance of more opportunities to develop my music that brought me here. I particularly like the vivid atmosphere here - there are so many things going on. I had the chance to compare as I have visited many major cities across Europe. I said to myself I just want to study and live here. I am amazed by the order here; everything happens with some kind of precision and is well organised. In Europe London, Vienna and Salzburg are the real musical centres of Europe. Here I have the chance to see and hear the best conductors and musicians.
British people are very polite and kind. They are understanding and friendly. That is because they are open minded, at least the ones I know. I am here with my Mum. She came at the same time as I did and she helps me a lot with my studies and financially. Thanks to her work and my teaching, we can afford to live here. When I was applying for my work permit, I needed a yellow card that allows you to work part time; there is also a green card, which allows you to work full time. I needed to have a National Insurance number to get the card but I could not get the National Insurance number without the card! This all took over 6 months so I was worried they would not give it to me. Finally they returned my passport and other important documents. I am able to study here as a UK student and pay the same fees as UK students but needed to work because the cost of living is high . We should not need the work permit from January but we don’t know what will happen, although my friend who just started at Guildhall was told she would not need it from 2014.
Young people from Bulgaria see the opportunities to study and develop businesses. I don’t think middle aged Bulgarians find it so attractive,. For one thing they might not speak English and also the lifestyle is really busy here. I am not sure that is what they want.
I plan to apply for post-graduate studies maybe in England or in another city in Europe-maybe Paris. I definitely will go where the music takes me - it is all about the music!
I don’t really follow European politics but I notice that England would like to be independent. I have the impression that they would like to leave the EU, but you are already very independent, with your own currency and driving on the right.
I didn’t know that I could vote in local and European elections here,. I did vote in the Bulgarian elections, through the Bulgarian embassy.
One thing I don’t like, is the pace of life in England,. You have no private life. If you want to succeed in England you have to give up everything. Even for a musician finding work and jobs is quite hard, lots of people want you to work voluntarily to get experience but you can get paid and acquire experience. Once you find work, freelance work, you have to work hard looking for the next gig. It is very competitive. Of course you can teach if that is what you like.
As a Bulgarian citizen I feel a bit of an outsider in this European Union, particularly here in England. When I mention I am from Bulgaria,. I know how the government feels about us and I feel ashamed to say I am Bulgarian in case people look at me differently, I am from one of these countries which is not very good and the government doesn’t want us. I do feel proud of other Bulgarians and their achievements.
As to consultations on Europe - it is good that we are members of Europe but I am not sure we have the same standards of living, the same wages. Although we can travel easily, we don’t see the same standards across Europe. Bulgarians have a positive attitude to Europe; we are geographically in Europe, we are glad to be part of this Union, which is important. There are a lot of positive things happening in Bulgaria too. In my home city we opened a second underground line and built new highways.