An important part of state policy in socialist Bulgaria was the temporary forced engagement of students from high schools and universities as a workforce in various sectors of the economy. During the summer months, youth ‘labour brigades’ were formed as a compulsory form of unskilled work, through which physical labor was provided and young intelligentsia was temporarily put into the working-class position. Participation in the brigade was a prerequisite for continuing education in the next academic year. This labour coercion in non-teaching months was in line with the prevailing socialist ideology of imposing total control over all spheres of public and private life. Besides this physical work, a smaller, selected, group of students were employed as seasonal guides for foreign tourist groups. This form of labour was recognised as an equivalent to the participation in a brigade but it was not unskilled work. Based on the use of acquired language skills, and following an entrance test and several weeks of training and exams, the young guides received remuneration and were not confronted with
physical force. With the core of this study being the “Orbita” Youth Travel Bureau, founded in 1958, this chapter sets out to explore if, why, and how the young students employed as tourist guides perceived this type of seasonal work as a form of labour coercion. Based on archival material and biographical interviews with former guides, it presents the working norms and obligations of the Bureau, their application, and the students’ labour practices and perceptions thereof.