Bansko: a student’s paradise?

Sep 21, 2021 No Comments by
Freddie in Bansko

The 2020/21 ski season was a memorable one for me. Firstly because we were lucky to remain open as a ski resort and secondly because my 19 year old son, Freddie, joined me in Bansko for all the season. This came about by accident — Freddie was having an early season December ski trip in the University holidays and was due to return to the UK in January to start his new University term.

A ban on flights, due to Covid restrictions, came in just hours after he landed in Bulgaria on the 22nd December. Like all his fellow students, he was compelled to undertake the remaining time of his first year studying remotely.

As it happened, this turned out rather well. Not only did he gain plenty of sunshine and fresh air with our father and son skiing adventures but he also did a marketing assistant internship here in Bulgaria for four months.

However the point of mr writing this piece came about because he also started some additional free online courses that were outside his University syllabus.

This gave me an idea: what if the future of higher education is mostly a remote endeavour? Even better why not remote study and build your personal network at the same time? This was all possible with the many Nomads, Freelancers and remote workers who increasingly see Bansko as a base to spend their time in.

Learn for free

time out in the mountains

There are many amazing free, or very nearly free courses, available from providers such as saylor.org, udemy, coursera and many others.

It then occurred to me as to why go to the expense of £9,000 per year tuition, accommodation (£500+ per month) when degree recognised courses are available for free or extremely low cost?

The opportunity cost of traditional University

Attending university when studying away from your home town is an expensive undertaking that has a huge cost and typically saddles students with debt. Put simply, the young men and women who choose to follow a path of entrepreneurship, a musician, a landscaper, a digital marketing expert, a crypto investor are probably going to end up better off than the doctors and lawyers who have to spend the next few decades paying off their student loans.

Everything we do has an opportunity cost — that is, the missed opportunity of doing something else. And in terms of education, the ability to learn for free, live cheaply (and well) whilst building a network of independent thinkers in Bansko seems to me like the smart choice for many young adults.

The monetary waste of education is astounding. In the UK, over three years study period, a typical student will spend £70,000+ . This is the cost of their course, accommodation, a University experience and a certificate at the end to prove it. It is whether that piece of paper impresses employers and whether that the cost of getting something equally as valuable to making an income is an alternative.

I think that day has arrived. The day when students have an alternative to debt and still have a fulfilling student life. Best of all, I think studying in Bansko is a way of life that is healthy both financially, mentally and physically.

Bansko: hybrid studying and work

Students living in Bansko will be exposed to many remote working opportunities to help them live a good lifestyle. There’s an active social life and there’s exposure to many different fields of work going on and, not just remotely with nomads and remote workers, but also with local businesses. These jobs could include Bansko tourism and hospitality related work, internships and apprenticeships.

A new generation of changing aspirations and opportunities

Life for a young adult has usually meant many hours studying for exams, typically learning content and proving you know it in an exam. The next step is from a University to a pod in a bank/agency. This then involves more years of effort of paying high rents and paying off that loan for the education that got your there in your pod.

The high cost is one thing but it also deters risk taking. Taking career risks when young are not only possible but also have high positive life outcome upside.

The days of a free University education and affordable rent that I enjoyed are long since gone. That seems to me like a worse deal where young people enter and debt-trap! A remote education, and almost free learning, will be an alternative way. And one that that I predict will become much more popular option very soon.

Online education may not work for medical students but, for so many other things, there is a free course available. In the digital marketing areas there is a huge amount of education on Google and Amazon as well as free / low coast online courses. These courses are up to date, relevant and actionable that will give students a great chance of financial return for their time spent learning.

Whilst there’s no traditional University experience I think that the process need not be lonely. A hybrid approach of face to face intensive study weeks, combined with zoom calls, can help fill knowledge gaps and provide useful connections with peers.

Whilst my son is set to have the University experience, he has completed other online courses. He will attend the Bansko Nomad Fest in 2021 to help expand his network, open his eyes and expand his options as much as possible.

Could there be a better way of gaining a high quality education in an environment where you are exposed to a great network?

Employers’ perspective

It has long been the case for software engineers that merit trumps paper qualifications. Indeed our company, appfactory.bg, tests candidates for skills. It bother us not that most of our staff never completed their University courses.

In fact, for most technical courses here in Bulgaria, I consider that a positive because everything they can learn can be learnt better on line and through practical application. A young person who understands opportunity cost is probably the smarter person, in my eyes.

We’ll have to wait and see if Bansko plays a critical role in the future of democratising education and providing a spring board for fulfilling careers for all.

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About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.
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