If you are a young journalist: go and learn to be a real one! In the USA for 5 weeks

от Искра Ангелова

2024 Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders from Europe on Journalism and Media
Call for Applications

The U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria is now accepting applications for the 2024 Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) for Student Leaders on Journalism and Media.  The five-week program will take place from June 25 to July 31, 2024.  The program will be hosted by Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.  Should health, safety, and travel conditions pose significant challenges, the program will pivot to a modified virtual format. The deadline to submit applications is October 31, 2023.

SUSIs for Student Leaders are intensive short-term academic programs whose purpose is to provide groups of undergraduate student leaders with a deeper understanding of the United States while simultaneously enhancing their leadership skills.  The Institute on Journalism and Media will include 20 participants from different countries. Two principal and two alternate candidates from Bulgaria (Bulgarian citizens only!) will be selected and nominated to compete for a slot on the program.

The Institute consists of a four-week academic residency with a balanced series of seminar discussions, readings, group presentations, and lectures.  Site visits, leadership development, cultural activities, and community service complement the coursework and academic sessions.  If conditions allow, the Institute will include a one-week integrated study tour in the United States.  If the program must take place virtually, participants will engage in similar activities but online from their home countries.

The Study of the U.S. Institute on Journalism and Media will provide participants with a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities for modern journalism.  The Institute will examine freedom of expression in democracy, leveraging multimedia tools, and exploring the role of journalists in promoting media literacy and preventing disinformation.  Academic sessions will examine First Amendment rights, fundamentals of multimedia journalism, compelling storytelling, editorial independence, journalistic ethics, legal constraints, civic journalism, media literacy, and digital and social media.  The Institute will encourage participants to analyze future trends in media as well as gain practical experience in the tradecraft of journalism, including building trust, interviewing, researching, writing, reporting, and editing.  Academic sessions will be complemented with hands-on sessions or workshops designed to build skills in the topics mentioned above. In addition to classroom activities, participants will meet with local news outlets. Program components may include a visit to the Phoenix courthouse for an overview of media and the legal system, a tour of the Arizona Republic newsroom, and meeting with representatives of Conecta Arizona, a local news organization that aims to combat misinformation for Spanish speakers.

Should conditions allow, the SUSIs for Student Leaders from Europe will begin with an Opening Forum in Washington, D.C. bringing together participants in different institutes for networking, foundational leadership skills development, and exploring relevant topics from multi-regional perspectives.

All participant costs will be covered by the State Department.

Program Requirements and Restrictions: The institute is an intensive and rigorous academic program and selected candidates are expected to fully participate in all aspects of the program. Participants must attend all lectures, participate in all required organized activities, and complete all assignments. Due to the intensive nature of the program, participants should not expect to fulfill professional or academic obligations, including remote work for jobs or internships, classwork, or examinations for their home university, while in the United States. Family members and/or friends may not accompany or join participants for any part of the program.

English Language Ability: English Language proficiency is required to participate in this program.  Candidates must be proficient in English so that they can actively participate in the academic program.  Therefore, candidate interviews will be conducted in English.

Housing and Meal Arrangements: Housing will be in shared or single university dorms on campus or full-service hotels within walking distance of most classroom activities. Male and female participants will be housed in separate quarters. In addition to regular group meals and a university meal plan, participants may have access to a kitchen to cook some meals on their own. All participants will be expected to respectfully share communal spaces and any necessary responsibilities.

Care will be taken to ensure that any special requirements regarding diet, daily worship, housing, and medical care are satisfied.  Special accommodations will be made available to the greatest extent possible. Should a participant need to quarantine due to positive COVID-19 test results, accommodations will follow Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

Health Benefits:  All participants will receive the Department of State’s Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE) health benefit during the U.S.-based in-person component, which provides coverage of up to $100,000 with a $25 co-pay per medical visit and a $75 co-pay per emergency room visit, for the duration of the program.  Pre-existing conditions may be covered up to $100,000, subject to policy exclusions and limitations.

Travel Policy: Participants are not allowed to arrive in the United States prior to the start date of the SUSI or remain in the United States after the end date. To avoid the logistical difficulties of delayed arrivals, participants will be expected to make accommodations with their university and exam schedules to be able to arrive on the scheduled arrival day. Similarly, participants will not be permitted to leave the SUSI to visit relatives or friends while in the United States. If a relative or friend wishes to visit a participant, it will be considered on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the ECA program officer and the host institution. Participants are required to return to their home countries immediately following the end of the Institute.

Grounds for Program Dismissal: Violations of program rules, host institution rules, or local, state, or federal laws can be grounds for immediate dismissal from the program.

Virtual Program Contingency: Should health, safety, and travel conditions pose significant challenges, the SUSI will pivot to a virtual format. The virtual program would consist of a minimum of 36 hours of required programming with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning.  To the extent possible, the virtual programming would include lectures, small group discussions, videos, readings, panels, site visits, leadership development, assignments, and individual and group activities.  Participants would be expected to fully participate in the entire virtual program from their location.

Connectivity: Should the program need to pivot to a virtual format, participants would need access to a computer and a stable internet connection. Participants will be expected to actively engage in all program activities, and therefore, they should notify immediately the host institution, post and/or commission of any issues with their online access during the duration of the program as well as any difficulties affecting their participation.


The participants are expected to be highly motivated first through third year undergraduate students from colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education, who demonstrate leadership through academic work, community involvement, and extracurricular activities.  Their fields of study may include the sciences, social sciences, humanities, education, business, and other professional fields.  Priority will be given to candidates with little or no prior experience in the United States or elsewhere outside of Europe.

Candidates applying for this program will need to:

  • be Bulgarian nationals;
  • demonstrate proficiency in English;
  • demonstrate interest in the Institute topic;
  • be between 18 and 25 years of age;
  • have at least one semester left of their undergraduate studies, and be committed to returning to their home universities following completion of the program;
  • demonstrate strong leadership qualities and potential in their university and community activities;
  • indicate a serious interest in learning about the United States;
  • have a sustained high level of academic achievement;
  • demonstrate commitment to community and university activities;
  • have little or no prior study or travel experience in the United States or elsewhere outside of Europe;
  • be mature, responsible, independent, confident, open-minded, tolerant, thoughtful, and inquisitive;
  • be willing to respectfully engage with fellow participants representing different backgrounds and different points of view;
  • be willing and able to fully participate in an intensive academic program, community service, and educational travel;
  • if the program is conducted in-person, be comfortable with campus life, prepared to share living accommodations, and able to make adjustments to cultural and social practices different from those of their home country;

In order to apply, please submit your completed application form and personal statement in English by October 31, 2023 via e-mail to: SofiaEducationPrograms@state.gov

In the subject line, please inert the name of the institute for which you are applying (SUSI for Student Leader – Journalism and Media).

Only short-listed applicants will be invited for an interview. Interviews will be held in December, 2023.

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