From Marijana’s diary: Spring Exchange Program in Bulgaria

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Hello! 🙂 My name is Marijana Ševo and I am a scholar of BH Futures Foundation since last year. From 8th to 17th March I participated in Spring Exchange Program in Bulgaria as a part of a project founded by Erasmus+ named: “Supporting Female Youth from BiH and Montenegro in entrepreneurship, employment and leadership in ICT”. I spent 10 days in Bulgaria together with 40 girls and it was a pleasure meeting all those brilliant, empowering and curious human beings with refreshing energy. It's the kind of mindset you want to be around all the time because it insensibly pulls out a better version of yourself. All the people who were part of this event deserve a big thank you for contributing and creating this opportunity.

Before I start describing all the activities, can we just for a minute appreciate how great it is to also visit another country, see a new culture, meet different people and explore a place on earth you've never been to.  Travel makes you richer in a way that money will never be able to. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it would take me a whole new article to point out all the advantages of traveling (also they say clichés are true).

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As a part of the exchange we went to see Plovdiv with its iconic hills that have been inhabited for 6 000 years, making it the 6th oldest continuously settled city in the world. That usually means a lot of history and fascinating stories for us. 🙂 There you can find vibrant modern buildings and artwork that are a beautiful complement to old architecture on which the Romans left a great mark, ancient cobblestone streets, evergreen gardens, stone walls, colorful facades, renaissance houses turned into museums, galleries, and workshops for craftsmen. One can take a single breath and delve deep into the incredible vibe of this city and we had a whole day for it. I even MAYBE managed to briefly get lost while I was taking photos and talking to one nice Belgian lady, but I didn't mind much.

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After this expedition, we went back to Sofia and continued being adventurous in a nerdier way – by working with micro:bit. It is an open source hardware ARM-based embedded system designed by BBC for use in computer education in the UK. What would you do with a small machine like this? Of course, make it do something you've imagined! To make all sorts of cool creations we used JavaScript although you can play with it through Python, Free Pascal, C++, Forth, etc. It's easy to use even if you're not familiar with coding because its purpose is to introduce people to programming and help them understand what it is all about while enjoying it. We made games like Rock Paper Scissors, Micro Chat, imitation of the phenomenon of synchronous fireflies ( I want so bad to tell you about this, but to keep the article shorter I'll leave it up to you if you're curious ) where we used the radio module to create something akin to fireflies signaling to each other, powered a fan through micro:bit and thermostat controlled it, etc.

9th day we visited co-working space CampusX where we were got familiar with concepts of making apps and then we did it, we made a few simple games which we tested on our smartphones. People from Telerik Academy made this experience very enjoyable with all the good energy. A few CEOs talked about their companies and stories how they got there and some of them were very interesting and inspiring, so we took our chance and asked for advice and more questions. This motivated me to actually throw myself at realizing some ideas I had in mind for some time.

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Final event was hackathon, held in the offices of HyperAspect, another great IT company. We went through the concept first, steps to building a successful start-up, brainstorming with technical and business mentors. And I was pretty lucky to be in a group with people that think alike. We complemented each other. We had a topic we care about and an awesome business mentor. He gave us a lot of tips and guidelines but not ideas, even though we knew he had a lot of them. He wanted it to be our own. Our subject was "Green Innovation" so we used our "raised awareness" from a few days ago about people's carelessness with plastic but we also wanted to plant trees, so it was an interesting challenge because - who'd pay for planting trees?! Actually, we came to a pretty good concept of how this could be a profitable business, so we developed it. After the program we were very tired and we saw some impressive presentations, so we assumed who will win. While waiting for our favorites to be announced, instead, they said our brand name! We needed a few seconds to process this, but we jumped right away. With these impressions, we packed and left the same night after we had dinner.

It is impossible to mention every activity I went through in just one article. Photography class, self-development workshop, engineer documentaries on Netflix, learning about digital marketing tools, robot programming, alternative energy sources, recycling and much more is behind me… I am really looking forward to implementing this knowledge in the future! 🙂