One of the newest European Union members, Bulgaria sits at an ancient crossroads betweet East and West. Stroll through the quaint plazas of the Blagoevgrad city center or taste the local cuisine while relaxing at a sidewalk café. Majestic mountain ranges with picturesque lakes offer ample outdoor activities. Nearby archaelogical sites include Roman ruins, early Christian basilicas, medieval Byzantine towns, monasteries and fortresses.



Languages Spoken:

Bulgarian

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION

Educational reform has come with the political reforms of the last several years, and the entire educational system from primary school through graduate school is being reconstituted along Western lines. As of 1991, the Bulgarian educational system consists of three types of schools: state, municipal and private (including religious). Secondary school students have the choice of studying for three years at professional-vocational schools, or for four years at technical schools or general high schools. Specialized high schools teach foreign languages, mathematics and music; admittance to them is by special entrance exams. Special programs for gifted and talented children begin as early as fifth grade.

Compulsory schooling ends at age 15 to 16, but more than 80 percent of students continue their education. Bulgaria's literacy rate is greater than 98 percent, considerably higher than in the United States.

Bulgaria has 43 universities and other institutes of higher education and 45 colleges and technical schools. "College" refers to semi-higher-learning institutions for nursing, paramedical training, teaching and technical education. A new feature of the Bulgarian educational scene is the recently reestablished private schools, which receive no financial support from the state budget. Most notable among these is the American University of Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad, an American liberal arts college with a strong business school.

The American University in Bulgaria is an American-style, four-year, English-speaking liberal arts university. Courses are taught by experienced American and international faculty who teach in a multicultural, learner-centered environment. The interactive teaching found at AUBG fosters the development of intellectual reflection, effective communication, personal initiative, individual self-expression and civic responsibility. Educated in the spirit of the liberal arts tradition, AUBG graduates become competent professionals with a broad and integrated vision of contemporary society that enhances their capacity as citizens and future leaders of the region. Instruction is in English. Grades and transcripts are issued in the American-style format of A, B, C, D and F.

Visa and Residency

IMPORTANT: Students must begin the visa process immediately after accepting placement to ensure a timely delivery of the Bulgarian student visa. This process requires an in-person interview at the Bulgarian Embassy or Consulate in your area (four to five week processing time).  

For the most up-to-date Consular information, please visit the Bulgaria Consular webpage.

All international students accepted for study at the American University in Bulgaria must enter Bulgaria with a long-term student visa, type D. If you are attending AUBG for one semester, you must apply for a 180 day visa. If you are attending AUBG for a full year (two semesters), you must apply for a 360 day visa. To obtain this visa, students must apply at the Bulgarian embassy in the country of their permanent residence not earlier than three months before the travelling date and not later than one month before that date.

Bulgarian Visa Process Outline

  1. Send a scanned copy of the front page of your international passport to the International Student Services Office. The page should include your full name and your date and place of birth. Important: expiration date of the passport must be at least 18 months after the date on which you apply for a visa.
  2. After that AUBG will issue:
    • Enrollment certificate
    • Housing Letter
    • Health Insurance letter certifying that you will have insurance upon arrival
  3. All documents issued by AUBG will be express mailed to you. Please give an exact mailing address and a telephone number. This should be a street address, not a PO Box. Note that mailing fees will be charged to your student bill (approximately $40)
  4. The final step is for you to take the documents required for a long-term type D visa to the Bulgarian Embassy or Consulate for your visa to be issued. You must go to the Embassy or Consulate in person. According to an agreement between the U.S. and Bulgaria, you will not have to pay a fee for the long-term type D visa. The documents that you will need to bring include:
    • Two completed visa application forms – you may download the form here
    • Enrollment certificate from AUBG – provided by AUBG
    • Housing letter – provided by AUBG
    • Health insurance letter certifying that the student will have insurance upon arrival – provided by AUBG
    • Document proving that you will be able to cover your living expenses – valid bank account with 3,720 BGN or the equivalent in USD
    • Valid passport
    • Two copies of the information pages of your passport
    • Two current passport photos (European sized – 3.5x4.5cm)
  5. After your visa is approved at the Consulate, ask them to mail it to you by providing a prepaid envelope (FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.). If you do not hear from the Embassy/Consulate after 15 days contact them weekly for updates to make sure nothing was missing. You should go to the visa office in person at a minimum of three weeks prior to your departure to AUBG.
  6. You may travel to Bulgaria after the visa is entered in your passport. Please do not buy a nonrefundable ticket until you receive your visa.

Important: You are responsible for making sure the visa process is carried out properly as there is nothing ISEP Central can do to expedite visa processing times or ensure the arrival of visa documents. We encourage you to check in with the Bulgarian Consulate or Embassy frequently after submitting their documents to make sure nothing is missing. Please follow any and all guidelines provided directly by AUBG as they are the most accurate and up to date.



Where to Go for Your Personal Interview

Residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. should contact Consular Office of the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Residents of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont should contact the Bulgarian Consulate General in New York City.

Residents of Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming should contact Consular Office of the Bulgarian Embassy in Chicago.

Residents of Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington should contact the Consular Office of the Bulgarian Embassy in Los Angeles.


Registering with the Police

Upon entry in Bulgaria all foreign nationals will be required to fill out a form at the respective point of entry providing information about the purpose of their travel to Bulgaria and the address of stay in the country.

Within five days of arrival in Bulgaria, students must register with the police. For up to date information on the visa process you should also visit the AUBG website.

Culture

ABOUT BULGARIA

Bulgaria has the feel of a nation at a very important crossroads. After having spent five centuries under the Ottoman empire and four decades locked behind the Iron Curtain, Bulgaria is sometimes seen as a distant, enigmatic country in the eyes of much of the world. However, Bulgaria today is a vastly different country from what it was even 10 years ago.

Bulgaria’s main lure is its long, sandy Black Sea Coast. But there is so much more to this country, and so much of it remains largely untouched and unvisited by overseas tourists. Networks of well-maintained hiking trails and horse-riding routes allow you to discover Bulgaria’s lush mountainous and forested landscapes, especially around the Rila and Pirin Mountains, inhabited by bears, lynx, rare birds and other kinds of wildlife now becoming scarce elsewhere in Europe. Getting around the country is easy, with cheap and efficient public transport to ferry you between the cities and into the more remote, rural corners; where the traditional, slow pace of life continues much as it has done for centuries. The cities are often overlooked highlights, from dynamic, cosmopolitan Sofia with its lovely parks, sociable alfresco bars and fascinating museums, to the National Revival architectural treasures and Roman remains of Plovdiv and the maritime of Varna.

RELIGION

Bulgaria is officially a secular nation and the Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion but appoints Orthodoxy as an official religion. In the 2001 census, 82.6% Bulgarians declared themselves Orthodox Christians, 12.2% Muslim, 1.2% other Christian denominations, 4% other religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism) and zero percent atheists.

FOOD

Due to the relatively warm climate and diverse geography affording excellent growth-conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits, Bulgarian cuisine offers great diversity.

Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, Bulgarian cuisine also features diverse quality dairy products and a variety of wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakia, mastika and menta. Bulgarian cuisine also features a variety of hot and cold soups. Many different Bulgarian pastries exist as well, such as banitsa, a traditional pastry prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of sirene (Feta cheese) between filo pastry and then baking it in an oven.

Bulgarians eat banitsa, hot or cold, for breakfast with plain yogurt, ayran or boza. Some varieties include banitsa with spinach (spanachena banitsa) or the sweet version, banitsa with milk (mlechna banitsa or pu) or pumpkin (tikvenik).
Bulgarian lyutenitsa comprises a spicy mixture of mashed and cooked tomatoes, aubergines, garlic, hot peppers and vegetable oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and parsley. Variations of lyutenitsa exist in the national cuisines of most Balkan states.

Note: Bulgaria is a major producer of tobacco, and smoking seems to be the national pastime. Cafés, bars and restaurants are often poorly ventilated, but this is less of a problem in summer when most patrons sit outside.

CUSTOMS

Fire dancing is the most ancient mysterious ritual, which includes barefooted dancers performing on burning embers. This religious and mystical ritual for bringing health and fruitfulness and expelling illness is one that must be seen to believe it.

The Festival of Roses is a lovely festival celebrated in the Rose Valley near the town of Kazanluk (at the foot of the Balkan Range) on the first weekend of June every year. The festival is a pageant of beauty in the unique Rose Valley. In the run-up of the event, a Queen Rose beauty contest is held in several rounds. Artists, actors, circus performers, writers and singers flock to Kazanluk at the start of June. The Bulgarian oleaginous rose yields 70 percent of the world's attar of roses used by every perfume company as an essential component of its products.

LANGUAGE

The Bulgarian language, like Russian and Serbian, is based on the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet originally spread from Bulgaria to Russia, which is a source of great pride for Bulgarians. Learning foreign languages has always been stressed in Bulgaria, and the systems developed for learning language are quite effective. The level of fluency in languages such as English, French and German, often without the benefit of travel, is noteworthy.

BODY LANGUAGE

When Bulgarians nod their heads up and down, they mean NO. When they move their heads from side to side, they mean YES.

TIPPING

It is optional, but generally standard practice to tip servers in restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as hairdressers and taxi drivers. A customary tip is about 10 to 15 percent.

Daily Life

ABOUT BULGARIA

Bulgaria has the feel of a nation at a very important crossroads. After having spent five centuries under the Ottoman empire and four decades locked behind the Iron Curtain, Bulgaria is sometimes seen as a distant, enigmatic country in the eyes of much of the world. However, Bulgaria today is a vastly different country from what it was even 10 years ago.

Bulgaria’s main lure is its long, sandy Black Sea Coast. But there is so much more to this country, and so much of it remains largely untouched and unvisited by overseas tourists. Networks of well-maintained hiking trails and horse-riding routes allow you to discover Bulgaria’s lush mountainous and forested landscapes, especially around the Rila and Pirin Mountains, inhabited by bears, lynx, rare birds and other kinds of wildlife now becoming scarce elsewhere in Europe. Getting around the country is easy, with cheap and efficient public transport to ferry you between the cities and into the more remote, rural corners; where the traditional, slow pace of life continues much as it has done for centuries. The cities are often overlooked highlights, from dynamic, cosmopolitan Sofia with its lovely parks, sociable alfresco bars and fascinating museums, to the National Revival architectural treasures and Roman remains of Plovdiv and the maritime of Varna.

RELIGION

Bulgaria is officially a secular nation and the Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion but appoints Orthodoxy as an official religion. In the 2001 census, 82.6% Bulgarians declared themselves Orthodox Christians, 12.2% Muslim, 1.2% other Christian denominations, 4% other religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism) and zero percent atheists.

FOOD

Due to the relatively warm climate and diverse geography affording excellent growth-conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits, Bulgarian cuisine offers great diversity.

Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, Bulgarian cuisine also features diverse quality dairy products and a variety of wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakia, mastika and menta. Bulgarian cuisine also features a variety of hot and cold soups. Many different Bulgarian pastries exist as well, such as banitsa, a traditional pastry prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of sirene (Feta cheese) between filo pastry and then baking it in an oven.

Bulgarians eat banitsa, hot or cold, for breakfast with plain yogurt, ayran or boza. Some varieties include banitsa with spinach (spanachena banitsa) or the sweet version, banitsa with milk (mlechna banitsa or pu) or pumpkin (tikvenik).
Bulgarian lyutenitsa comprises a spicy mixture of mashed and cooked tomatoes, aubergines, garlic, hot peppers and vegetable oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and parsley. Variations of lyutenitsa exist in the national cuisines of most Balkan states.

Note: Bulgaria is a major producer of tobacco, and smoking seems to be the national pastime. Cafés, bars and restaurants are often poorly ventilated, but this is less of a problem in summer when most patrons sit outside.

CUSTOMS

Fire dancing is the most ancient mysterious ritual, which includes barefooted dancers performing on burning embers. This religious and mystical ritual for bringing health and fruitfulness and expelling illness is one that must be seen to believe it.

The Festival of Roses is a lovely festival celebrated in the Rose Valley near the town of Kazanluk (at the foot of the Balkan Range) on the first weekend of June every year. The festival is a pageant of beauty in the unique Rose Valley. In the run-up of the event, a Queen Rose beauty contest is held in several rounds. Artists, actors, circus performers, writers and singers flock to Kazanluk at the start of June. The Bulgarian oleaginous rose yields 70 percent of the world's attar of roses used by every perfume company as an essential component of its products.

LANGUAGE

The Bulgarian language, like Russian and Serbian, is based on the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet originally spread from Bulgaria to Russia, which is a source of great pride for Bulgarians. Learning foreign languages has always been stressed in Bulgaria, and the systems developed for learning language are quite effective. The level of fluency in languages such as English, French and German, often without the benefit of travel, is noteworthy.

BODY LANGUAGE

When Bulgarians nod their heads up and down, they mean NO. When they move their heads from side to side, they mean YES.

TIPPING

It is optional, but generally standard practice to tip servers in restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as hairdressers and taxi drivers. A customary tip is about 10 to 15 percent.

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

The local currency is the Lev (plural: Leva), comprised of 100 stotinki. It is almost always abbreviated to lv. For major purchases such as organized tours, airfare, car rentals and midrange and top-end hotels, prices are almost always quoted by staff in euros, although payment is possible in Lev too.

Currency notes are available in the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Lev. Coins include 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 stotinka (100 stotinka = 1 lev). TheLev is pegged to the Euro.

When arriving for the first time, bring dollars with you. It is easy to exchange them for Lev at banks and numerous change offices, whereas travelers checks are almost impossible to negotiate. Do not exchange money on the street. Bureau de Change are not allowed to charge a commission and therefore often use unfavorable exchange rates. Change your money at a bank, where rates are favorable and commissions are not charged. When changing money, make sure that the foreign banknotes you have are not torn, marked or grubby, otherwise they may be refused or you may even be given a lower rate (without being told so in advance).

CREDIT CARDS

Credit cards are still not as common or reliable in Bulgaria as in Western Europe. However, American Express, Visa and MasterCard are gaining ground and can often be used at up-market restaurants, souvenir shops, top-end hotels, car rental firms and travel agencies, but rarely anywhere else, despite signs indicating acceptance of credit cards. You cannot rely on using a credit card exclusively in Bulgaria; use it to get cash from banks and for major purchases only.

ATMs

Before you leave home, check with your bank about exchange rates and commissions (which can be about 2%). The total amount you can withdraw depends on how much your bank will allow and on how much is in your account; the maximum allowed per day by most Bulgarian banks is usually 200 lv.

If no ATM is available or you’re worried about using one, some larger branches of major banks will provide cash advances in Lev over the counter. The fee is usually about 4% and you’ll probably also be charged fees and commissions by your bank.

Foreign exchange offices can generally be recognized by the huge ‘exchange’ signs, almost always written in English. Current rates are always displayed prominently, often on notice boards outside. These offices are normally open between about 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday, but offices in the centre of cities and larger towns are often open every day.

BANKS

Bulgarian banks include the United Bulgarian Bank, Unicredit Bulbank, Bulgarian Post Bank, Raffeisen Bank and Biochim Commercial Bank. The disadvantages with banks are that they’re only open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and lines can be long.

A value-added tax (VAT) is applied on purchases of all goods in Bulgaria.

Sources of Information


LINKS

http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org
Bulgarian Embassy

http://www.online.bg/BOL_ENG.asp
Bulgaria online

http://www.sofiaecho.com/
Bulgaria's English-language newspaper

http://www.travel-bulgaria.com/
Bulgarian Travel Guide

http://www.bulgariatravel.org/
Bulgaria Travel Information

International Travel health Guide

CDC Health Information for International Travel

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