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Bulgaria and Norway

How to Apply

Location: Sofia, Bulgaria and Oslo, Norway

Dates: May 13th – June 24, 2018

Application Requirements:

  1. 2018 Global Service Program Application

  2. Resumè

Application Deadline:

November 15th, 2017

Financial Aid:


  1. Apply for the Nichols Humanitarian Fund

  2.  Apply for OACS Financial Aid 

    This form should be completed and submitted along with your FAFSA when you apply for the program. Please note that all students applying for financial aid assistance through OACS must also apply for aid through the Nichols Humanitarian Fund.

Financial Aid Application Deadlines:

November 15th, 2017


Introduction to the Program

Since the UN began tracking “gross happiness index” in 2012, Bulgaria has consistently ranked as one of the least happy countries in the world, while Norway has been ranked as one of the happiest.  In fact, for 2017, Norway was ranked #1 in national happiness, while Bulgaria was ranked 105.  What is it about the cultures in these two countries that produce such discrepancies in the happiness and well-being of their citizens?  The mission of OACS in Bulgaria/Norway is to examine the mechanisms of well-being in culture, with the goal of extrapolating actionable programs that could be scaffolded to work on campus and in our local schools, businesses and communities here in the US.  

Program Overview

Upon acceptance into the OACS Bulgaria and Norway program, students will begin with a series of preparatory seminars that introduce sustainable service, Norwegian culture, key constructs around mental well-being and life satisfaction, and data collection skills.  Upon arrival in Oslo in May, students will explore the relationship between cultures, social structures and happiness in a Norwegian context. Students will hear presentations from leading Norwegian experts on positive psychology as well as visit key Norwegian businesses and local schools to explore how positive psychology techniques are applied to create and maintain well-being in the workplace and in classrooms. Throughout the program, students will also be collecting data on cultural differences in well-being, and planning follow-up projects for when we return to the US.

While Norway is one of the happiest countries in the world, Bulgaria is one of the least happy. After spending 1 week in Norway, students will spend four weeks in Bulgaria to examine the cultural factors that produce such a contrast in terms of overall well-being. In Bulgaria, the program will be based in Sofia and will again work with local organizations as well as conduct research regarding cultural differences in well-being.

The final week will then be spent back in Norway making concrete plans for how to apply the techniques learned in Sofia and Oslo to campus and local communities upon return.  Students will have the option of using data collected for Honors or independent/directed study programs, and will also have the opportunity to present our findings both on campus and at professional conferences if desired.

Program Learning Outcomes

  • think critically about issues of social responsibility, what it means to lead a good life, and what responsibilities organizations have to facilitate wellbeing for their members
  • challenge preconceptions and assumptions in order to expand a multi-cultural perspective and appreciation for diverse backgrounds and viewpoints
  • develop/enhance data analytic skills, from study design to analysis and presentation
  • realize own potential to affect personal and community change while maintaining humble appreciation of the challenges of impact
  • apply learning to future projects to be carried out on campus or in the Nashville community
  • think broadly about issues of global connection, social responsibility, public policy and citizenship
  • build teamwork, intentional observation, active listening, conflict resolution and group decision making skills

Bulgaria/Norway Program Highlights

Bulgaria/Norway Pre-Trip Immersion

  1. Connect with your cohort and participate in pre-trip seminars.
  2. Attend lectures by experts in sustainable service, Bulgarian and Norwegian culture, key constructs around mental well-being and life satisfaction, and data collection skills.
  3. Engage with pre-service curriculum that provides a foundational knowledge about the community you will be serving.

Bulgaria/Norway Immersion

  1. Attend lectures and presentations from leading Bulgarian and Norwegian experts on positive psychology
  2. Visit key Bulgarian and Norwegian businesses and local schools to explore how positive psychology techniques are applied to create and maintain well-being in the workplace and in classrooms
  3. Collect data on cultural differences in well-being
  4. Reflect on your experience and develop critical thinking skills around mental well-being
  5. Plan follow-up projects for translating learning back to local communities in the U.S.

Bulgaria/Norway Post-Trip Immersion

  1. Return to Vanderbilt and serve our Nashville community by implementing the follow-up plans and engaging in similar issue areas with local partners.
  2. Use data collected for Honors or independent/directed study programs and/or present findings both on campus and at professional conferences if desired.
  3. Reunite and reflect on the transformative impact the immersion has had on your perspective of global citizenship at the OACS Global Service Immersion Dinner.
  4. Using OACS resources, translate, your experience into the fabric of your everyday life, by developing plan of action that outlines your commitment to the global community.

Program Community Partners in Bulgaria

Teach for Bulgaria

Teach for Bulgaria works to reduce education inequalities in Bulgaria, and have a number of different ongoing projects.


Agapedia Bulgaria works with displaced orphans to try to integrate them into broader society in a healthy way.

Single Step

Single Step works with LGBTQ+ youth in Bulgaria in many ways, but works to dismantle stigmas against LGBTQ+ individuals in Bulgaria.


For more information about the OACS Global Service Program in Bulgaria and Norway contact Dr. Leslie Kirby, the Program Faculty Leader, at .

Additionally, Information Sessions for all OACS Global Service Programs and OACS in Bulgaria and Norway will be held in the OACS Lounge in October and November. Students of all years interested in applying are encouraged to attend.

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Active Citizenship & Service
PMB 356308
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37235
(p): 615-343-7878

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