Fulbright Specialist Program

Short-term visits for US specialists to Bulgarian institutions 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Bulgaria

Country description

The Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP) awards grants to qualified U.S. faculty and professionals, in select disciplines, to engage in short-term collaborative two- to six-week projects at eligible institutions in Bulgaria.


The Fulbright Specialist Program, part of the larger Fulbright Program, was established in 2001 by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The program is a field-driven initiative in which foreign host institutions conceptualize and design projects of interest within an eligible discipline that represent a priority for their respective organizations. These projects are then paired with a highly qualified U.S. academic or professional, who shares their expertise and assists with strengthening linkages between U.S. and foreign host institutions. Participating foreign host institutions benefit by:


Gaining global perspectives from experienced U.S. academics and professionals


Executing projects that require a rapid response or flexible timeline through short-term, year-round exchanges


Building sustained relationships with individuals and institutions in the U.S.

Host a U.S. Fulbright Specialist


Eligibility requirements for host institutions

Institutions that may be eligible to request a Fulbright Specialist include, but are not limited to:
• Institutions of Higher Education;
• Government Institutions (ministries or agencies, courts, parliamentary or congressional bodies);

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Cultural Institutions (conservatories, museums, etc.);
• Non-Governmental Organizations including issue-centered institutions and think tanks; and
• Medical Institutions (public health organizations, teaching hospitals, etc.).

Eligible disciplines

Projects designed by prospective host institutions should focus on one of the below eligible disciplines:Agriculture, American Studies, Anthropology, Archeology, Biology Education, Business Administration, Chemistry Education, Communications and Journalism, Computer Science…

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…and Information Technology, Economics, Education, Engineering, Education, Environmental Science, Law, Library Science, Math Education, Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, Physics Education, Political Science, Public Administration, Public/Global Health, Social Work, Sociology, Urban Planning. If you are looking for information about the English Language Specialist program, please visit https://elprograms.org/specialist/

Program activities

The Fulbright Specialist Program encourages host institutions to tailor projects to their own needs. However, all projects should have an education or training focus. Due to the short-term nature of the exchange, projects should have concrete objectives that can be achieved …

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Due to the short-term nature of the exchange, projects should have concrete objectives that can be achieved over the course of the Specialist’s visit. Past Specialists have supported host institutions by conducting activities such as:

  • Delivering a seminar or workshop;
  • Consulting on faculty or workforce development;
  • Developing academic or training curricula and materials;
  • Lecturing at the graduate or undergraduate level;
  • Conducting needs assessments or evaluations for a program or institution.

Note: Personal research projects, including clinical medical research or projects involving patient contact, are not eligible for funding under the Fulbright Specialist Program.


Program Parameters

  • To participate in the Program, host institutions must develop and submit project proposals, and U.S. experts must apply to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster.
  • In any given year, no more than one grant will be awarded per institution.
  • All exchanges must range from 14 to 42 days in length, including weekends, holidays and travel days.
  • Projects are restricted to one country, and all project activities must take place in the country requesting the project.
  • Each project is limited to only one Fulbright Specialist grantee.
  • If a host institution would benefit by having the Fulbright Specialist visit the host institution more than once, host institutions may apply for their project to be Multi-Visit. Please note that the majority of approved projects are not Multi-Visit, and host institutions will need to provide a strong justification for why this approach would strengthen project outcomes. Multi-Visit projects cannot include more than a total of three trips, and all trips must be completed within a one-year period by the same Fulbright Specialist. The one-year period is calculated by adding 12 months from the initial start date of the first visit through the end date of the final visit. Each visit must be a minimum of 14 days, and the total number of days across all visits cannot exceed six weeks (42 days).

Identifying Fulbright Specialists

Host institutions are not required to identify U.S. academics or professionals to serve as their project’s Fulbright Specialist prior to submitting their project proposal. On the contrary, if a host institution’s project is approved, the program’s implementing partner, World Learning, will identify candidates on the Fulbright Specialist Roster whose professional experience, academic credentials and foreign language skills match the knowledge and skills articulated by the host institution in its project proposal as being critical to the project’s successful implementation.

If a host institution has identified a candidate that it would like to serve as the Fulbright Specialist, please note that the following conditions must be met:
• The individual must be approved by the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission;
• The individual must be approved to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster; and
• The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board must approve that individual to be matched with the host institution’s specific project.

For more information on the Specialist matching process and the Fulbright Specialist Roster, please visit http://fulbrightspecialist.worldlearning.org

Country Description

A mountainous country of seven million people located in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria boasts a rich archaeological heritage and vibrant artistic culture, including its unique folk music and dance traditions as well as contemporary literary and performance practices. Thanks to its striking natural landscape, rich agricultural roots, and four-season climate, Bulgaria is an increasingly popular destination for outdoor and culinary tourism.Bulgaria also has a strong ICT and start-up sector, based primarily in Sofia, and some Bulgarian companies have started receiving international recognition for their innovations. 

Bulgaria has a relatively homogenous majority population of Slavic-speakers who traditionally identify as Orthodox Christian; however, the country is also home to Turkish and Roma communities and has a sizeable Muslim minority (more than 10%). While Bulgarians are known for their warm hospitality, some communities may hold conservative views and may not have extensive experience interacting with foreigners.Younger Bulgarians often have solid levels of English-language competence thanks to access to digital and online resources, while older generations, who had limited access to English instruction under communism, may have studied Russian, German or French instead. 

Since the fall of communism in 1989, Bulgaria has been a parliamentary democracy, joining the EU in 2007. Although Bulgaria has the lowest standard of living in the EU and struggles with challenges such as emigration/brain-drain and rule-of-law issues, the country has nevertheless generally been politically and economically stable. All applicants are urged to consult the most recent State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices, which offers the most exhaustive and up-to-date description of political, social and cultural trends in Bulgaria. 

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Cost share for host insitutions

Host institutions should provide the Specialist with lodging, meals, and in-country transportation, either through monetary or in-kind contributions, throughout their full stay in country. The stipend for in-country transportation should allow the Specialist to travel to and from their lodging and project activity site as well as allow the Specialist to conduct local activities such as grocery shopping or visiting a local market, pharmacy, etc. The U.S. Department of State covers roundtrip (economy class international airfare), enrollment in a limited health benefits program, and a daily honorarium for participating Fulbright Specialists.

Application process for host institutions

Applications for the Fulbright Specialist Program are accepted three times a year via World Learning’s online portal here: https://worldlearning-community.force.com/FSPHost. Before beginning an application for the Program, prospective host institutions should contact the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission to confirm eligibility of the project. Every year, deadline for the first application cycle is June 10, for the second – October 10, and for the third – January 10.

After a project proposal is received, it will be reviewed by the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission. Only project proposals that are completed in their entirety will be reviewed. Please note that the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission often receives more project proposals from prospective host institutions than it is able to support with limited funding. Therefore, not all proposals submitted will be approved. If a project has not been approved in the respective cycle for the year, host institutions can re-apply in the next cycles, updating the dates for the visit of the Specialist.

If your project proposal is approved by the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission it must then be approved by multiple offices within the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Therefore, we recommend that host institutions allow a minimum of three months between application submission and the anticipated project start date for named requests, and a minimum of four months for open requests.

Individuals Interested in Serving as a Fulbright Specialists

Individuals interested in serving as a Fulbright Specialist must meet all eligibility requirements including:
• Be a U.S. citizen; and
• Have significant experience in one of the eligible disciplines, as demonstrated by professional, academic, or artistic achievements.

For a complete list of eligibility requirements and information on how to apply to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster, please visit https://fulbrightspecialist.worldlearning.org/.

U.S. academics and professionals interested in applying to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster, should direct all questions to World Learning at fulbrightspecialist@worldlearning.org

Rada Kaneva

Rada Kaneva

Program Officer, US Grantees

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