Student Spotlight: Free to See the World

Castle, Veliko Turnavo, Bulgaria

VCS senior, Yoanna Petrova, went to a brick-and-mortar school until her switch to VCS in 7th grade. One of the main reasons Yoanna decided to make the switch to VCS was to travel with her family without falling behind in school.

“VCS allows a flexibility that I wouldn’t be able to get if I went to a traditional school, where I would have to worry about absences, missing out on valuable lessons, and generally missing a chunk of my education,” Yoanna explains. “While with VCS, as long as I have an internet connection, I’m able to read the lessons and complete assignments at my own pace, while being anywhere in the world.”

Yoanna has spent most of her time abroad in Bulgaria, which is one of the oldest countries in Europe. She has also travelled to Toronto, Canada and Turkey. Visiting so many cities and historical sites has allowed her to expand her knowledge of her favorite subject: History! Her travels to various countries “have fueled [her] passion for history in a way a textbook simply could never.”

Selyamiye mosque, Edirne, Turkey

“I’ve been to Sofia (the capital), Veliko Turnavo (the old capital), Varna, Plovdiv, as well as a few other small villages around the country,” Yoanna reflected. “I’ve visited some really amazing historic sites that I wouldn’t have been able to, like the Rozhen Monastery near Melnik, Bulgaria and the castle and fortress in Veliko Turnavo where I was able to climb up the fortress to the castle and see first-hand how it was built. I climbed up the (over 900) stairs to Shipka, which was the site of a famous battle between the Bulgarians and Turks.”

Although Yoanna was born in Bulgaria and lived there until she was four years old, she confessed that going back when she was 13 had her experiencing some cultural shock. She also explained that her mother is Turkish, and while most of her family is in Bulgaria, she does have some family who still lives in Turkey. Attending VCS allowed her to visit those family members and explore more of the world’s history without skipping a beat. “In Edernine, Turkey, I visited the Selyamiye Mosque which was built around the 1500’s, it was breathtaking, both inside and out,” Yoanna tells us.

Folk music festival in Nesebar, Bulgaria

Toronto, Canada is the place Yoanna can’t wait to go back to. “I loved that city, it’s architecture, especially downtown is a mix from Europe/America which caught my eye, and throughout the city you get a sense of American and European influences,” she reminisced. “Plus, the people there are incredibly friendly,” she declared. Her favorite historical site in Toronto was Casa Loma, which was built around 1914 and inside contained medals and military uniforms, which gave her a glimpse into Canadian history.


Her travels have taught her more than just history: “I’ve learned a lot about food!” she exclaimed. Eating in different countries has forced her to broaden her taste palette, leading to the revelation that she likes lamb kebabs! She also discovered various traditions, such as Bayram, or Eid as it is called in Turkey, which is Bulgarian Liberation Day and is celebrated on March 3rd.

Traveling has given Yoanna a different perspective of the world around her. “Everyone has a different concept of normal, things that people don’t blink at over here get questions over there and vice versa, so in a way there’s no real version of ‘normal’ since it changes from culture to culture! Once I realized that, I think I’ve become more understanding of things that I wasn’t before which I viewed as ‘strange’ or even ‘wrong’,” Yoanna explained.

The Black Sea in Bulgaria

The most valuable lesson she has learned through her travels was how to get along with others, even if they have opposing ideas – something that many people struggle with. Travelling has also taught her to treasure the aspects of a city that are unique to it specifically.

Where does Yoanna want to visit next? “Russia! I have always had a fascination with Catherine the Great of Russia which led me to an interest in Russian history, so being able to explore the country has always been a dream of mine since I was a freshman,” she tells us.

Here is Yoanna’s advice for anyone who wants to travel the world, but hasn’t had a chance to yet: “Don’t be afraid to get lost or not have a plan, you don’t need an itinerary of activities and sightseeing to make your trip ‘worth it’. While it’s understandable if you want to see some specific things in the country, there’s also a beauty to just walking along the streets and taking in the city itself.”