The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

In search of the Wild Life

Chance to experience wild life made Seward stay a dream for Bulgarian student


September 21, 2017 | View PDF

Courtesy photo

Antonia Stamatova (right) joined friends on a hike during her 4-month stay in Seward.

When it came time for Antonia Stamatova to choose where she wanted to go as part of the University of Provdiv's cultural exchange program, she had only one requirement – she wanted to experience the wild life – full of fish, bears and water

The 22-year-old Bulgarian certainly got her wish when she chose Seward.

"I wanted to come to Alaska because it was wild and beautiful. I wanted to experience the wild and to be near the water," said Stamatova, who wrapped up a 16-week stay in Seward this past weekend before heading to the Lower 48 for a tour of U.S. places such as San Francisco, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon before heading to New York City on Sept. 21 to return for her final year of college. "This is such a beautiful place, and I have gotten to meet a lot of different people and learn a lot of new things."

The daughter of Krasimir Stamatov and Vili Radeva, the Linguistics major in Spanish and French admitted she didn't enter into the culture exchange blindly. A friend, Tanya Andovova, had visited Seward two years ago and told her about the community. That talk, she said, played heavily into her decision to travel to the eastern Kenai Peninsula.

"She had come to Seward two years ago and she told me about this place and the things that were here," said Stamatova. "I talked with her about her experiences here before deciding. I knew I was coming to Alaska so I could experience the wild so it was between Denali or Seward. After talking to Tanya and some others who had gone to Denali, I chose here and I am very happy I did."

Originally from Plovdiv, one of the oldest cities in Europe, Stamatova said Seward's size was a nice change for her. Plovdiv, which is located in the southern region of Bulgaria, has a population of more than 300,000 and was originally settled about 6,000 B.C.

"I really like it here," she said, and the adjustment was easy for her. "I don't think I had culture shock or anything. I have always been very interested in meeting new people. It was always interesting for me to be here and meet people. I had so much fun."

Stamatova said she kept busy during her stay in Seward – very busy. In addition to working at the Windsong Lodge, she also held down a position as a cashier at Safeway. The jobs helped her save enough money to repay her father for lending her the money to travel to the U.S.

"I worked a lot here but it was not bad because I got to meet so many people," she said. "I had fun, learned so many new things from meeting people, and it lets me give money back to my father."

All of her time wasn't spent working, however. Twice during her stay, she took part in an excursion into Resurrection Bay with Major Marine Tours. During those outings, she managed to get first-hand sightings of sea lions, puffins and whales. Additionally, she was able to travel to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood and to the Alyeska Resort, as well as hike some of the trails near the city.

She also got to sink her teeth into Alaska seafood.

"Before I came here, I did not like fish too much, but while I was here I tried halibut and salmon," she said. "They are good here."

Courtesy photo

A 22-year-old cultural exchange student from Bulgaria, Stamatova chose Seward over Denali for her time in Alaska.

Stamatova, who goes by "Tonnie" to her friends, did have one regret from her visit to Seward. She didn't have time to do as many things as she had hoped – especially zip-lining.

"There are so many things to do here," she said. "I did not get to do everything."

She has a solution to her problem, she hopes. In March, she plans to apply to the university's cultural exchange program again in hopes of returning to Seward.

"I hope to come back," she said. "I have already told them (Windsong Lodge) that I would like to come back. In March, I will apply and then, hopefully, do my visa interview so I can come back."

After her whirlwind tour of the Lower 48, she will return home and begin classes on Oct. 1.

Planning for her return to the wild life, however, began before she ever left.

"I think it would be very fun to come back to Seward," she said. "I have so many things left I want to do."


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