The State Department’s Summer Work Travel program brings tens of thousands of college students to the U.S. every year for a season of work, usually in tourism. The program allows them up to a month of travel within the U.S. Many nations participate in the J-1 program, but on the Outer Cape it is mostly Eastern Europeans — especially Bulgarians. Photographer Agata Storer spoke to some of them.
I chose Provincetown because I liked the name of the town. I work at a café about 15 hours a day.
It’s not easy to be far from family and friends, but I have new Bulgarian friends here who helped me in hard moments. The manager of this café, who is also Bulgarian, offered me this job. My roommate is also Bulgarian.
Everything is different here. I have so many different types of T-shirts, shorts, and sweaters. If I dress like that in Bulgaria, people would think I am strange. I like freedom here. I like that I can hold a man’s hand on the street. You can’t do this in Bulgaria.
What I miss is the real food, the taste of milk, all the dairy products, fresh cheese, also real vegetables and real meat. My favorite Bulgarian meal is moussaka. My roommate knows how to cook it but it’s not the same with products from here.
I didn’t know where to go and the agency told me that Provincetown is very fun but then I found a job in Truro. Since I have been here, I’ve been in Provincetown only two times. I just don’t have the time or the will to go. I work 80 hours a week, more or less.
People here are very different from us in Bulgaria. We are not so talkative with random people; we are not smiley. We smile, but usually at people that we know. It is very strange, walking down the street, when somebody says “Hi.” My first thought is “What do you want? Do I know you?” I am thinking, “Don’t talk to me.” I feel like someone is going to kidnap me any minute.
My boss moved me into her old house, which is like a dream American house. There are two floors, two bedrooms. An exotic cat is there, too. I also have roommates. Most of the workers here don’t live like we do; they live mostly in houses like one meter by one meter.
It’s the first time I am out of Bulgaria for so long. I miss the food. The meat in Bulgaria is so delicious, the salads, the fruits are so much better where I come from.
Alek Arsov, Yanislav Ivanov Nikolov, and Mario Lyubomirov Stanev
We mostly came to the U.S. for the adventure, because everything here is different than in Bulgaria. The mindset is totally different here.
We got advice from the company who issued our visas to go to Provincetown. They said P’town is a good choice because people here have a lot of money and are very nice.
We are working for Pedicabs. There are probably around 18 Bulgarians working for this company. Me and Yanislav also work as housekeepers. We work around 80 to 90 hours a week.
The first few weeks here were very exciting, but now we are really tired, and we miss home badly. We plan to travel in September to New York City, Miami, and Las Vegas before we go back.
We live in one house with 12 guys, three in a room. One bathroom upstairs and one downstairs. It is especially hard on the weekends.
We miss Bulgarian food, especially dairy products, fresh cheese.