HJ/EDMay 8, 2006

Bulgarian student in Winsted this year

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Emil Stoynev has not been home for eight months.

He left Ihtiman, Bulgaria Aug. 31, the day after his 18th birthday, traveling first to Amsterdam and then to Minneapolis, a total flight time of 13 hours.

“I was so afraid,” he admits of his first-time airplane flight.

Stoynev’s destination was Winsted and the home of his host family, Ken and Kathy Schoenfelder. He is attending school at Holy Trinity High School where he is a senior this year. He will graduate with the Class of 2006 in May.

Although Stoynev had never flown in a plane until traveling to the United States, traveling is not new to him.

His father, Sasha, is a truck driver who has traveled through every country in Europe. Over the last four or five years, Stoynev has been able to accompany him on one or two week long trips to Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, and Spain.

“I got to see many things in Europe,” Stoynev said.

Coming to the United States was not just another chance to sightsee for Stoynev. He came a great distance, and said that he had some difficulty his first week getting used to things, but he did it because he feels the educational opportunities available to him in this country will give him a chance to make better and more successful career choices in the future.

Since his arrival last fall, Stoynev has kept himself very busy.

He found that he enjoys playing football, something he tried for the first time last fall when he joined Holy Trinity’s football team.

“I really like football,” Stoynev said. He intends to play again in college if he can.

Cars have always been a major part of Stoynev’s life.

“We always had cars, trucks, and anything connected with them, around us,” Stoynev added.

When Ken Schoenfelder offered to let him work on his 1962 convertible MG Midget, that had not been running for about three years, Stoynev did not hesitate. He had it running just a few weeks after he started working on it last September.

His priority right now is getting a driver’s license. In Bulgaria, drivers must be 18, so he was not able to obtain a license before he left home. He has passed his written permit and has been practicing with Ken driving in town and out. He plans to take his behind-the-wheel driver’s test in Minnesota very soon.


Stoynev is the son of Sasha and Malina Stoynev. He has one older brother, Hristo, 25, who is currently attending college in West Virginia.

His father’s truck driving occupation keeps him on the road during the week and home on weekends. His mother had previously worked for 20 years as a secretary for a wine company in Bulgaria, but now stays at home.

Stoynev’s home in Bulgaria is what he calls “a little city” with a population of 16,000 people, including some businesses and industry. It is about 20 miles away from the capital city that has approximately 2 million people.

The general population speaks Bulgarian, but the language is very close to Russian. Stoynev can understand Russian. He also speaks excellent English that has been taught to him every school day since sixth grade. In addition, he has had private English lessons the last two and one half years, twice a week, two hours a lesson, by one of his school teachers.

Stoynev feels that there are not many differences between Bulgarian students and Holy Trinity students.

The courses offered are pretty much the same, too, in both countries. However, students in Bulgaria are assigned courses to take and are not able to choose the classes they would prefer to study.

The grading system in Bulgaria is not based on the letter grade system that we are used to. It is a number grading system with six representing excellent, down to two which is poor. One means that the student cheated, and that “is very, very bad,” Stoynev said.

Future plans

Stoynev is ready to return home. “I miss the people, the mountains, everything. It is my home and I have never been gone so long away from home. When I start thinking about home and how I was bored or I did not like something, I should have appreciated it more. Now I miss everything,” Stoynev said.

Stoynev will return home to Bulgaria right after his high school graduation. His entire family is planning a big reunion in Bulgaria and he is looking forward to it.

After the summer in Bulgaria with his family, he does plan on returning to the US to attend Concord College in West Virginia.

He chose West Virginia for a number of reasons. First, it does not get as cold as in Bulgaria or Minnesota.

Also, his brother will be a senior in college there studying computer science.

Another reason Stoynev has chosen Concord College is the number of Bulgarian students that attend school there. He estimated about 40 other Bulgarian students are currently enrolled.

Like his brother, Stoynev’s major will be computer science. He is very knowledgeable when it comes to computers. “I just understand them. I spent a big part of my life sitting at a computer and working with them. I can program them, everything. Both hardware and software,” he said.

With graduation day less than a month away, Stoynev knows that he will miss his Winsted friends, and especially his host family, when he returns home to Bulgaria.

“I will miss a lot of things, my friends, the Schoenfelders. I am used to everything for nine months. I will miss them a long time after I go back to Bulgaria,” he said.

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