After two successful camps in 2019 and 2022, Fulbright Bulgaria was proud to sponsor a third Media Boot Camp for high school students in partnership with SCOOL Media (AEJ-Bulgaria) at the American University in Bulgaria from July 1-9, 2023. Staying in the AUBG dormitories and attending lectures by leading Bulgarian and foreign journalists, the 24 participants learned the basics of fact-checking, storytelling, shooting videos, interviewing, podcasting and much more. What particularly resonated with the group was hearing real professionals speak about their career paths and the future of journalism. The students produced final projects that were presented to a judging committee at the end of the week. Five teams were awarded: in first place, a critical look at the state of psychological support offered to high school students in the wake of increasing mental distress, including attempted suicide; in second place, a profile of a young woman in the top 1% of SAT test takers worldwide who decided to stay and develop innovative solutions in her hometown; third place was shared by a report on overrated private lessons and another on the local municipality’s initiative to provide free summer childcare and inject life into a decaying old town center. An honorable mention was given to a team of filmmakers who explored the new genre of analogue horror. All these will be published on the SCOOL Media website.   

The Commission also sponsored the Fulbright legacy organization BEST (Bulgarian English Speech and Debate Tournaments) Foundation’s third annual Summer Camp from July 30th to August 5th, 2023. The camp, aimed at developing participant’s critical thinking and public speaking skills, gathered almost 30 students from all over Bulgaria and took place in Bankya. Former ETA and Management Team leader Morgan Rowe returned to Bulgaria as camp director, while Program Officer Rada Kaneva, Executive Director Angela Rodel and Board Member Eric Halsey all participated as lecturers or in workshops. According to BEST, led by Executive Director Vanya Zlateva: “It was a week full of fun activities, karaoke nights, hikes and of course – plenty of debating! The campers were taught the structure of World Schools Debate by the amazing camp director Morgan Elizabeth Rowe and got to show what they’ve learned at the camp tournament at the end of the week.” The BEST Foundation celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2023 and has brought together more than 3,000 young speech and debate enthusiasts as well as community leaders through its English-language events, which continue to grow each year.   

Opportunity Funds – Bulgaria is a prestigious college application preparatory program which runs from students’ 11th grade spring semester until the fall of their senior year. Funded by the US Department of State, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the US Embassy in Sofia, it provides for the cost of college applications, testing services and preparation courses for every aspect of the university application process. Courses on the SAT and TOEFL exams, selecting colleges, demonstrating interest, filling out the application itself and writing the required essays are free for Opportunity Funds students.  

This September, Fulbright Bulgaria organized the first in-person course since the start of the pandemic, with modules on college essay writing and completing the Common App. Successful candidates who win a full tuition scholarship will be awarded an additional $5000 grant to cover airfare, visa fees and a “settling in” allowance. 

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