Bulgaria is often called Europe’s “best kept secret” and it’s no wonder why. You have the best of European culture here – cafés, bars, amazing nightlife, and wondrous nature. And unlike many western European countries that commonly host study abroad students, Bulgaria is cheap! The country is also known to be a crossroad linking western and eastern civilizations, and there’s no better place to study abroad than that.

Photo credit: akk_rus.

Bulgaria offers a rigorous academic framework according to the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG). In addition, you will have the chance to study their fascinating language in the “birthplace of Slavonic language and culture” (Kaplan).

Academic Life

The Higher Education Act of 1995 set guidelines to bring Bulgaria’s standard of instruction in line with the rest of Europe. Grades are on a 2-6 system with 6 being the highest. It can be easily equivocated to the American GPA system by subtracting 2 from the Bulgarian grade, making a 6 in a Bulgarian university class a 4.0 in the United States.

Language

The official language of instruction is Bulgarian for most schools. All of the major higher education institutions however, offers courses in English. Sofia University has Bulgarian language courses for foreigners as well as courses in various aspects of Bulgarian culture. The University of Veliko Tarnovo offers summer intensive courses in Bulgarian language and culture in August.

Housing

Many students live either on campus or in town. Bulgaria has some of the cheapest rents compared to other European countries. There is a neighborhood in Sofia known as Studentski Grad where many students from the major universities live and hang out.

Since Bulgarian is considered a Less Commonly Taught Language (LCTL) – i.e. not French, Spanish, or German – there are scholarship opportunities for undergraduates who specifically want to study this language.

  • Boren Scholarship - Up to $20,000 for study in Bulgaria. Part of the National Security Education Program.
  • The University of Maine offers scholarships to study in Bulgaria if you enroll in their program to study at the American University of Bulgaria (Blagoevgrad).

You are required to have a Type D long term visa, which costs $150 and required for all nationalities outside of Bulgaria. You will also need proof of insurance in addition to standard visa requirements (passport, passport photo, letter from school proving you are a student, fee).

Blagoevgrad: You will find the American University in Bulgaria here, a private liberal arts college based on an American model with approximately 1,000 students from 40 nations. AUBG is accredited in both the U.S. and Bulgaria and offers 10 majors. Most of the faculty is American and instruction is done in English. The AUBG main building is located in the center of town where there are cafés, restaurants, shops, cinemas, an open air market, and amazing nightlife. Blagoevgrad is in the warmest region of the country with many nearby attractions including mountains for hiking and skiing.

Veliko Tarnovo This is where the University of Veliko Tarnovo is located. It is the second largest university outside of Sofia with 11,000 students and 64 different fields of study. Veliko Tarnovo is Bulgaria’s ancient capital, a city full of historical and cultural interest. Besides a small downtown with shops and restaurants, there are also options for outdoor activities such as horseback riding and rock climbing.

Sofia: Sofia University is located in the capital of Sofia. It is the first and largest university of higher education in Bulgaria, offering 103 degree courses to 21,000 students. Sofia is an important intersection of where east meets west and as the capital of the country, there are always cultural and musical events as well as museums, cafés, and nightlife. There is also a handful of green areas in the city for relaxation. Mount Vitosha lies right on the outskirts of the city with the option of skiing in the winter.

Rila Monastery in the Rila Mountains is Bulgaria’s largest and most well-known monastery. To really take it all in, arrange to stay overnight at the monastery and see the sun rise over the mountains. This monastery has a long and interesting history, beginning in the 900s AD.

Varna is a city on the Black Sea coast and the summer residence for many Bulgarians. Besides having beautiful and relaxing beaches, there are also amazing cultural sights. In fact, Varna is in the running for the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

You can’t leave Bulgaria without trying rakia. The fruit-based brandy is important both for integrating into the culture and enjoying student life!

Contributed by Chrissie Faupel

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