Fulbright European Staff Meeting

Sofia, Bulgaria – March 13-15, 2024


By and For Fulbright Staff in Europe

The Bulgarian Fulbright Commission is honored to host this meeting of staff members from all over Europe, representing more than 20 different countries, to foster the exchange of best practices and a foundation for continuing collaboration and knowledge-sharing. We eagerly look forward to meeting you and hearing about your well-honed strategies for success. During the sessions led by staff members across the continent, we hope that you will candidly share about any common challenges we may face together or ideas you have for coping with them. Thank you for joining us!  

Taxi from Sofia Airport

In the Arrivals halls at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 of Sofia airport, there are stands of Yellow 333 AD, the taxi operator company which is the official contractual partner of Sofia Airport. You can request their services by calling +359 291 119, online at www.yellow333.com/en/ or by following the floor markings in yellow leading to the taxi stand area. The company’s phone app can also be downloaded on Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

To avoid the risk of abuse, it is better to not accept the services of drivers who approach you in the arrivals hall. The fare must be displayed on the window of each cab – it is about 1.07/1.24 leva per kilometer (day/night). Representatives of companies that do not have a contract with Sofia airport can legally charge 3, 4, 5 – up to 10 leva per kilometre. Most taxis in Sofia also charge around 2.19/2.49 lv. initial charge, 0.3 1v. waiting charge and 0.87 lv. call-to-address charge.

Metro from Sofia Airport

The trip costs 1.60 lv, the standard ticket price in Sofia. You can use your bank or Revolut card to purchase a ticket by validating the card at the electronic readers at the entry gates. The ticket is valid to travel in the metro within 30 minutes from the issue hour. Within this time limit, the ticket also entitles you to transfer to any other means of transport.  

Please note that you have the right to transport two pieces of luggage for free if the total dimensions do not exceed 140 centimetres. If you carry more than two pieces of luggage, or if your bags are larger than 60x40x40 centimetres, you will need a standard ticket for each additional or bulkier piece. This rule applies to the whole public transportation system in Sofia (buses, trams and trolley buses). Moovit is a popular mobile app to help you navigate public transportation in Sofia.

Conference Venue


Astoria Grand Hotel, 8 Gen. Totleben Blvd.

The hotel offers an incredible panorama view of Sofia City as well as Vitosha mountain. There are 490 rooms and conference halls on 21 floors. You can use the restaurants, lobby bar, the game room, spa centre and more.


Morning: arrivals / sightseeing / free time

12:30 - 14:00 Lunch in hotel
14:00-14:45 Welcome / housekeeping

Introductions / icebreaker

Moderator: Dune Johnson (Fulbright Austria)


Session 1: Selection procedures 1 (paper-based phase; challenge statements, diversity essay; NSC recommendations):

Moderator: Dása Tako Velichová (Fulbright Slovakia)

Speakers: Sofia Wahnon (Fulbright Portugal); Dása Tako Velichová (Fulbright Slovakia); Charlotte Goodwin (Fulbright France); Antje Outhwaite (Fulbright Germany)

16:30-17:00 Coffee break

Session 2: SELECTION PROCEDURES 2 (interview best-practices; training selection committees / boards, unconscious bias)

Moderator: Jace Jasper (Fulbright Belgium)

Speakers: Duygu Kimençe (Fulbright Turkey), Jace Jasper (Fulbright Belgium)

18:30 Bus leaves hotel for reception venue (*Please be in lobby by 18:30)

Concert and Cocktail Reception

Vivacom Art Hall, 5 Oborishte Str.

21:00 Return to hotel on your own


7:00-9:00 Breakfast at Astoria Grand Hotel Restaurant


(World Café style discussion on financial, organizational, psychological support)

Moderator: Iliana Dimitrova (Fulbright Bulgaria)

Small table group moderators: Aleksandra Braumańska and Justyna Maziarska-Lesisz (Fulbright Poland); Nina Foldager Gutiérrez (Fulbright Denmark); Dora Isabel Reis Arenga (Fulbright Portugal); Leticia Ibanez and Sara Abad (Fulbright Spain)

10:00-10:30 Coffee break
10:30-11:30 Session 4: Reporting on Session 3
Presenters: Aleksandra Braumańska and Justyna Maziarska-Lesisz (Fulbright Poland); Nina Foldager Gutiérrez (Fulbright Denmark); Dora Isabel Reis Arenga (Fulbright Portugal); Leticia Ibanez and Sara Abad (Fulbright Spain)

Session 5: Diversity, equity and inclusion

Speaker: Delphine Perchec (Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for Europe and Eurasia)

12:30-13:30 Lunch at Astoria Grand Hotel Restaurant

Session 6: Updates from IIE and ECA

Speakers: Scott Righetti (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State); Roxanna Kobziar (Institute of International Education)


Session 7: Communications Best Practices

Moderator: Diana Milkova (Fulbright Bulgaria)

Speakers: Darrah Lustig-Umschaden (Fulbright Austria), Rebecca Halliday (Fulbright UK), Sonny Willems (Fulbright Belgium)

15:30-16:00 Coffee break

Session 8: Assessing the impact of Fulbright

Plenary Address: Dr. Andrew Plume, Vice President, Research Evaluation and President, ICSR at Elsevier


Intercountry Grants Info Session

Speaker: Emilia Holopainen (Fulbright Finland)


EU Schuman Grants Info Session

Speaker: Jace Jasper (Fulbright Belgium)


Rest / refresh / change clothes


Bus leaves hotel for dinner venue

* Please be in lobby by 19:30


Traditional Bulgarian dinner with dancing and firewalking


Bus leaves to return to hotel



Breakfast at Astoria Grand Hotel Restaurant


Session 9: ASPE and health-related resources

Speaker and moderator: Rada Kaneva (Fulbright Bulgaria)


Session 10: Staff burn-out and sharing self-care best practices

Speaker and moderator: Kristyna Dzmuranova (Fulbright Czech Republic)


Coffee break


Session 11: Engaging Alumni

Speakers and moderators: Maria Kostova (Fulbright Bulgaria), Nicholas Tourides (Fulbright Greece)


Closing / wrap up / feedback


Lunch at Astoria Grand Hotel Restaurant


Walking tour of Sofia (guide will pick up the group from hotel lobby)

Rila Monastery

UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site

Rila Monastery

Established in the first half of 10 century AD by John of Rila, the heavenly protector of the Bulgarian people, the monastery is a pillar and haven of the Bulgarian spirit and identity. 


An hour and 40 min drive East of Sofia.


This is the “revolutionary” capital of the Bulgarian uprising during the Revival Period around the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman occupation. You can visit the homes of prominent Bulgarian revolutionaries who sacrificed their lives during the April Uprising and Russo-Turkish War that brought about the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878. 

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The largest Orthodox temple on the entire Balkan Peninsula

Patriarchal Cathedral St. Alexander Nevsky

The cornerstone of the St. Alexander Nevsky cathedral was laid on February 19, 1882. Viewed from the outside, the length of the temple is 72 meters, and the width is 55 meters. Its height is 50.52 meters and the roof bridge is 28 meters above the main vaulted entrance with three doors and a bell tower that ends with a dome. 

Retro Tram Around Sofia

One-hour tour guided by a young Bulgarian actor

Retro Tram Around Sofia

The route of the historical tour starts from “Vazrazhdane” Square, passes by “Macedonia” Square, the Courthouse, Maria Louisa Blvd., Lions’ Bridge, Central Station, Hristo Botev Blvd. and returns to Vazrazhdane Square. This is a fun way to know more about the history of Sofia City and to make tons of awesome photos. 

Добре дошли! Welcome!

Bulgaria, a nation on the Balkan Peninsula of just over 7 million people, has marked an important crossroads of civilizations since antiquity. One of the oldest states in Europe, it has been a member of the European Union since 2007. The first Bulgarian kingdom was the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, named for St. Cyril – he is celebrated alongside his brother St. Methodius every year on the 24th of May, the day of Bulgarian enlightenment and culture. The country is well known for its folk music, warm hospitality and natural wonders, not to mention the production of rose oil, yogurt and wine. Its capital, Sofia, boasts architectural gems that reflect the country’s diverse mix of influences and are perhaps best represented by the city’s “square of tolerance. Just a few blocks from one another are a Bulgarian Orthodox Cathedral, Sephardic Orthodox Synagogue, Sunni Mosque and Roman Catholic Cathedral. 

Call us

Contact us

Get in touch with us if you have any questions or in case you might need anything during your stay in Sofia. We are excited to have you!

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