â€œIâ€™ve gotten a great education, but itâ€™s not the most important part of what Iâ€™ve learned,â€ Kelchev said. â€œIâ€™ve learned a lot from relationships built with people from all around the world. Just being here has helped me see a lot of perspectives on life and the world. That has been the most important part of my time here.â€
Kelchev arrived at USD in August of 2005 after living all his life in Bulgaria. (He is seen here in a traditional Bulgarian costume.) He was the first recipient of the the Vessela Zaykova-Smolin Memorial Scholarship, which he called a great opportunity that â€œopened a lot of doors for me.â€
â€œComing to the United States would not have been possible if not for the scholarship,â€ he said.
Life was different in Bulgaria, which he calls fairly modern, but with lots of history. He attended a high school that focused on math and science, was a â€œkeen soccer playerâ€ and enjoyed traveling throughout Bulgaria with his parents or for school.
â€œIn my hometown, I pretty much walked everywhere; here itâ€™s impossible,â€ he says.
Kelchev, who majored in computer science and minored in Spanish and mathematics, called his selection as valedictorian a great honor. He has an internship this summer and plans to work for a few years before making a decision about graduate school.
He had never been outside his country before attending USD, but has since traveled a great deal in the last four years, including studying abroad in Spain. He counts his Spanish studies as an asset and said that learning to communicate comfortably in English was an important accomplishment.
The latter will come in handy as Kelchev hosts his parents on their first trip to the United States to witness his graduation and commencement address on Sunday.
â€œI donâ€™t think they really grasp what it means to be a valedictorian,â€ Kelchev said, â€œbut I think once they see me talk, itâ€™s going to be a great feeling for them.â€
â€” Kelly Knufken