Iva Tokusheva’s 4,000-Mile Journey to Friends

“The pandemic was cruel to me,” says the Bulgarian junior, who waited out COVID travel restrictions to come. But “America has always been my dream.”

Erin Nicolson, Staff Writer

Taking risks and stepping out of one’s comfort zone aren’t always easy things to do – but doing so can have overwhelming benefits. Junior Iva Tokusheva learned this firsthand, by traveling over 4,000 miles from Bulgaria to America to attend Friends School of Baltimore.

“America has always been my dream,” Iva says. 

From the time she was a kid, Iva – who goes by the diminutive Ivka – knew that she wanted to study in the United States someday. So when the opportunity came, she took it.

Iva found Friends through a program called Assist, which uses the motivational letters and other documents that international students write to assign them to an American school that is deemed a good fit. Iva says Assist “thought Friends is perfect for me.” 

She was supposed to join the class of 2022 for her full junior year.  Iva says she was excited and ready to face this new adventure. But COVID-19 brought some setbacks. 

“The pandemic was cruel to me,” she says.

Lockdowns and travel restrictions pushed back Iva’s ability to travel to Baltimore until the second semester. Undeterred, she attended her first semester Friends classes online from her hometown of Silistra, in Northeastern Bulgaria, on the Danube river. 

Even online, she saw positive comparisons between Friends and the previous schools she attended.

“The main difference is that students [in Bulgaria] cannot choose which subjects they want to study,” Iva explained. “Students don’t have all these opportunities to study the innovative subjects I have at Friends.” 

She says the teachers at Friends are much more involved in the students’ success. 

The 7-hour time difference between Silistra and Baltimore, though, “was difficult in the beginning.” 

But Iva pushed through and remained positive. At last, on January 4th, she flew to the US and began quarantining so she would be able to attend school in-person. Once she landed, she was immediately excited about “visiting new places and experiencing the new culture.” 

“I look forward to seeing New York, Washington DC – and the ocean, of course,” she says.

Although Iva felt nervous about leaving behind her family and friends in Bulgaria, she says, “My host family is so nice and lovely and they make even that period during quarantine nice…I haven’t thought of a better host family.” 

Now, Iva is somewhat fearful, but mostly thrilled, to finally be able to step foot on the Friends campus. She says she is “a bit nervous that I will disappoint my new teachers.” But she is mostly focusing on the positives of “meeting new friends and forming life-long relationships.” 

“I think this is a life-changing experience,” Iva says. 

Her brave risk of living out her lifelong dream of studying in America serves as an inspiration to always seize the opportunities that come to us.