Setting Up My Life for the MSc degree

Reallocating abroad can be a daunting experience, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the language and the workings of the institutions. So, here's a list of few tips about setting up your life in Bulgaria for the duration of your studies.

Banking & Finances

If you decide to reallocate to Sofia for your MSc degree, you will probably need to open up a bank account. Here's a brief list of FAQs on this topic.

Q: How can I open a bank account in Bulgaria?

Opening a bank account in Bulgaria as an international student involves a few straightforward steps. Here is a general guide to help you navigate the process:

  1. Choose a Bank:
    • Research and choose a bank that suits your needs. Major banks in Bulgaria include Central Cooperative Bank, D-Bank, UniCredit Bulbank, DSK Bank, and First Investment Bank.
  2. Check Account Requirements:
    • Visit the chosen bank's website or contact their local branch to review the specific requirements for opening an account. These requirements may include proof of identity, proof of enrollment, and proof of address.
  3. Gather Necessary Documents:
    • Prepare the required documents, which typically include:
      • Valid passport
      • Proof of enrollment from your university
      • Proof of address in Bulgaria (such as a rental contract)
      • Personal identification number (issued by the Bulgarian authorities)
  4. Visit the Bank Branch:
    • Schedule an appointment or visit the bank branch in person. Bring all the necessary documents with you.
  5. Complete the Application Form:
    • Fill out the bank's account application form. The bank staff will guide you through the process and may provide forms in English.
  6. Verification Process:
    • The bank will verify your documents and may ask you additional questions about the purpose of the account and your source of funds.
  7. Initial Deposit:
    • Some banks may require an initial deposit to activate the account. Ensure you have the necessary funds for this purpose.
  8. Receive Account Details:
    • Once your application is approved, you will receive your account details, including the account number and any relevant banking cards.
  9. Online Banking Registration:
    • Consider registering for online banking services, which will allow you to manage your account conveniently.
  10. Activate Your Account:
    • Follow any additional steps provided by the bank to activate your account, such as setting up a PIN for your banking card.
  11. Keep Important Documents:
    • Safely store copies of all the documents provided during the account opening process.

It's essential to note that the specific requirements and procedures may vary slightly between banks. Additionally, having a personal identification number (issued by Bulgarian authorities) is often a requirement for certain transactions, so check with the bank if this is needed.

Before proceeding, it's advisable to contact the chosen bank directly or visit their official website to confirm the latest information and requirements for opening a bank account in Bulgaria.

Q: Are there restrictions on transferring money from my home country?

While there are generally no specific restrictions on transferring money from your home country to Bulgaria, it's essential to be aware of certain considerations and potential regulations that may apply. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Bank Regulations:
    • Banks may have their policies and procedures regarding international money transfers. Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your bank and inquire about any specific requirements they may have.
  2. Currency Regulations:
    • Check if there are any restrictions on the amount of currency that can be transferred in a single transaction or within a specific time frame. Some countries may have regulations to monitor large financial transactions.
  3. Verification and Documentation:
    • Depending on the amount being transferred, your bank or financial institution may require additional documentation to comply with anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) regulations. Ensure you have the necessary paperwork to facilitate the transfer.
  4. Tax Considerations:
    • Be aware of tax implications in both your home country and Bulgaria. Some transfers may be subject to taxation, and it's advisable to consult with tax professionals to understand the financial implications.
  5. Exchange Rates:
    • Keep an eye on exchange rates, as they can impact the amount you receive in Bulgarian leva. Some banks may offer more favorable rates than others, so compare options before initiating the transfer.
  6. Online Transfer Platforms:
    • Consider using reliable online transfer platforms or services (e.g. PayPal, that specialize in international money transfers. These platforms may offer competitive rates and faster processing times compared to traditional banking methods.
  7. Cryptocurrency Transfers:
    • Cryptocurrency transfers are becoming increasingly popular for international transactions. However, it's crucial to understand the associated risks and comply with any relevant regulations.

Health Insurance:

1. Is health insurance mandatory for international students?

Yes, health insurance is generally mandatory for international students in Bulgaria. It is a crucial requirement to ensure that students have access to medical services and can cover any unforeseen health expenses during their stay.

2. How can I obtain health insurance, and what does it cover?

International students can obtain health insurance through private insurance providers or through the National Health Insurance Fund in Bulgaria. The coverage typically includes essential medical services, hospitalization, and emergency care. It's important to carefully review the policy to understand specific coverage details, such as the extent of coverage for medications, dental care, and additional services.

Cultural Etiquette:

Q: What are some cultural norms and etiquette I should be aware of as an international student?

As an international student in Bulgaria, it's beneficial to be aware of cultural norms and etiquette to foster positive interactions and adapt to the local environment. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Greetings:
    • When meeting someone for the first time, a firm handshake is common. Close friends and family may greet each other with a hug or a kiss on both cheeks.
  2. Politeness:
    • Bulgarians appreciate politeness and formalities in social interactions. Using "please" and "thank you" is expected, and addressing people with titles like "Mr." or "Mrs." is appreciated though this tradition is on the decline and nowadays it is acceptable to call persons on first name basis.
  3. Respect for Elders:
    • Respect for elders is deeply ingrained in Bulgarian culture. Use formal language and show deference when interacting with older individuals.
  4. Punctuality:
    • Punctuality is valued in professional and social settings. Arrive on time for appointments and meetings to demonstrate respect for others' time.
  5. Gift-Giving:
    • When invited to someone's home, it's customary to bring a small gift, such as flowers, chocolates, or wine. Gifts are typically opened in private, not in front of the giver.
  6. Dress Modestly:
    • Bulgarians generally dress modestly, and it's advisable for international students to follow suit. In more formal settings, business attire is appropriate.
  7. Shoes Indoors:
    • It's customary to remove your shoes when entering someone's home. This practice is a sign of cleanliness and respect for the living space.
  8. Meal Etiquette:
    • When invited for a meal, it's polite to wait for the host to begin eating before you start. Keep your hands on the table, not in your lap, during the meal. Finish everything on your plate to show appreciation.
  9. Personal Space:
    • Bulgarians value personal space but may stand closer during conversations than in some Western cultures. Be mindful of personal boundaries and adjust your behavior accordingly.
  10. Religion:
    • Bulgaria has a strong Orthodox Christian tradition. While the society is generally tolerant, it's advisable to be respectful when discussing religious matters and to be aware of religious holidays and customs.
  11. Socializing:
    • Socializing is an integral part of Bulgarian culture. Participate in local events, gatherings, and celebrations to integrate into the community. Building personal connections is highly valued.

Cultural awareness and adaptability will help you navigate social interactions smoothly during your time as an international student in Bulgaria. Observing and respecting these cultural norms will contribute to a positive and enriching experience.