YES Programs



Connecting Cultures Through a Day at the Ranch


By Mariya Karaganova (YES 2018-2019, Bulgaria, host by PAX in Park City, UT)

YES Abroad Program Manager Skye Henry rides a horse

Not long after I returned from the U.S., I got to meet the YES abroad students that are living in my little country, Bulgaria, for a whole year. Knowing that they are experiencing the same excitement, laughter, fears, confusion, and love that I experienced in my host country inspired me to organize a day to celebrate American and Bulgarian cultures and connections.

I talked with the Country Director of American Councils in Bulgaria and we carefully planned something out, with the help of Vyara Nikolova (YES 2017-2018, hosted by YFU in Farmington Hills, MI) and Viktoria Panayotova (YES 2018-2019, hosted by AYUSA in Stewartstown, PA). We would spend a day at my family’s ranch, where we have American quarter and paint horses that were flown in from Texas, and we would be joined by YES Abroad Program Manager Skye Henry, who was visiting from Washington, D.C.

When the event came, we all had a great time. It was a day filled with laughter and stories. Everyone brought food they liked and we also made traditional “kiofte” (meatballs) on a wood barbecue. Everyone had the chance to try horseback riding, and some rode for the first time. We also planted trees as a way of enriching the local ecosystem. 

Participants plant trees

That evening, we returned to Sofia where the YES Abroad students gave presentations about their home states to us, their host families, and representatives of local organizations. The presentations were all very interesting and we enjoyed learning about the students’ homes.

This day was so special and unique that it felt magical. The U.S. and Bulgaria are so far apart, but in this short period it was like we had known each other for ages and lived under the same roof. And in a way, this is true: our roof is the sky and the only thing that really separates us is a big blue puddle, because we are the same human beings.


In May, write a thank you letter to your host family, host community, or favorite teacher! 

Check out this month's story prompt at and submit your story!