By Grant McCool
TOMS RIVER, New Jersey (Reuters) - A sudden evacuation, sleeping on cots in a school auditorium, and the threat to life and property that a hurricane brings.
This is not what Bulgarian students bargained for when they took summer jobs on one of New Jersey's picturesque barrier islands.
They were among 375 people, including retirees and the indigent, who were spending Saturday night in an American Red Cross shelter as Hurricane Irene barreled toward the New Jersey coast.
"We don't get such weather in Bulgaria so it's strange," said Emiliya Ileva, 22, a child psychology student from Bulgaria staying at a shelter in Toms River, New Jersey.
Still, Ileva said she wasn't frightened.
Ileva and Stoyanka Simeonova, 24, who are both from Plovdiv, Bulgaria, were spending their second night at the shelter in Toms River, which is about eight miles west and inland from the barrier island town of Seaside Heights.
"The storm is all over the news and our families are a little bit worried," said Simeonova, a physics and computer student.
Both women had jobs serving food and ice cream on the Seaside Heights boardwalk and were among a dozen European students on U.S. work travel programs who were taken to the shelter in southern New Jersey.
They said they were keeping in touch with family and friends at home by email.
They and two retirees from the barrier island said they felt safe at the shelter inside the Toms River High School North building, where rainwater dripped from the ceiling near one of the entrances.
"I live by myself and I don't have any transportation or family to go to, it's very dangerous to be on the island," said Linda Wood, 64, who left her home in Seaside Heights.
Grace, a retiree from Ortley, New Jersey, who declined to give her full name, said her family boarded up their house on Friday and left the island.
"I didn't want to see the house left alone," she said, adding that if the house sustained damage, "we have to accept it ... I have a lot of faith in God."
(Reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by David Bailey and Tim Gaynor)