Western Carolina University
ENGR 365 Global Engineering and Technology (P6 ULP)
+ HIST 308 Explorations in Regional History (P3 ULP)
5/13 – 5/30, 2024
A Faculty-led Travel Course to Bulgaria in 2024
6 Credits to Ensure Your Eligibility for Financial Aid (Including Pell Program and/or Loans)
Open to all WCU students
Led by Dr. Yanjun Yan and Dr. Gael Graham
The entire class will travel together and share activities to achieve the student learning outcomes of both ENGR 365 and HIST 308. ENGR 365 is P6 Category World-Culture Upper-Level Perspective course, and HIST 308 is P3 Category History Upper-Level Perspective course. By registering 6 credits in summer 2024, you are eligible for financial aid, and get 6 credits towards your graduation (talk to Dr. Yan, Dr. Graham, and/or your program director for details). The students from various programs will gain rare opportunities to practice interdisciplinary collaborations.
The two travel courses include destinations in Sofia, Plovdiv, Kazanluk, Veliko Tarnovo, Burgas, Sozopol, etc. across various parts of Bulgaria, and from metropolitan cities to historical towns. The class will visit companies, production plants, universities, museums, and cultural sites.
The ENGR 365 course will encourage students to experience Bulgarian culture, including its unique industry such as rose oil production, within the global context.
Join the travel course in SET at WCU
Meet engineers and students in Bulgaria
Enjoy the world as your classroom!
Experience Bulgarian culture
Enjoy the world as your classroom!
Advance in your career
Open to opportunities yet to be revealed
3 P6 + 3 P3 credits (both ULP) on one trip
Enjoy the world as your classroom!
Broaden your horizons
Join the few students who study abroad!
Safety is Always First
The pandemic is mostly behind us now, and we will still be careful to ensure the health of all the travellers.
Meanwhile, we are monitoring the regional conflict situation and the nearby countries are safe.
Why are we so keen to bring the travel course back despite tremendous amount of planning efforts? See Dr. Yan’s experience in Bulgaria in Fall 2021, and what a WCU alum ’77 said about his studying-abroad experience when he commented on our Japan 2019 trip.
The itinerary is the latest plan representative of our intentions and is still under development. The hosts’ availability in 2024 may change and we may change our schedule to accommodate their availability or even switch speakers. We may also move things around depending on the situation. Think of this as an idea of what the trip will look like, and the itinerary will be continuously updated when the plans are firmed up.
Disclaimer: The budget below is a good-faith estimate of the costs incurred during this trip for courses of ENGR 365 & HIST 308. The items can change (to be only lower than the estimate, never higher) as actual costs become known. We have given our best estimate, and we will do whatever we can to minimize the costs while maximizing your experience. The cost estimates are based on 8 students on the trip. If there are more students (up to 14), the costs will be lower.
Note: WCU reserves the right to cancel or alter the course format or to change costs as situations require.
|Ground Transportation in Bulgaria (public transit, rental bus with a driver)
|Events tickets and museum admissions
|WCU Administrative Fee
|Pay to WCU
|Airfare (from AVL to SOF)
|New passport, if you don't have one yet
|Pay by oneself
Note: If you qualify, these costs (both the part you pay to WCU at OneStop and the part you pay by yourself) are covered by financial aid (6 credits from WCU in summer makes you eligible for financial aid). The local meals in Bulgaria are not as costly as in the U.S., so your total actual cost can be much lower. If you have a passport already, you don’t need to pay for its application again, but the passport fee will still be included in the self-responsible budget. We have estimated the self-responsible budget at the higher end to ensure your financial aid covers everything, and everyone’s actual costs could vary.
Contact Mrs. Carson M Cabaniss (Email her at email@example.com, call her office at 828-227-2137, go to her office in 105 Cordelia Camp M-F 8am-5pm). You can review the financial aid procedure document for more info. Be sure to email from your Catamount email and include your 92 number.
Please consider applying for the Gilman Scholarship, which has recently relaxed its trip duration requirement, so that you are eligible now. Please refer to the costs FAQ section for more details.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I apply?
The application is located in the bottom section of Application, where there are two Qualtrics survey links (the unofficial one goes to Dr. Yan directly, which helps Dr. Yan to know your background immediately, and the official one goes to WCU IPS, which is required for your admission into this travel course). A short interview will be arranged after Dr. Yan gets your unofficial application and you will be informed soon whether you can join this course or not.
When are the trip applications due?
The deposit for application is due on Jan 15.
However, the estimated costs are based on early booking (buying flight ticket and booking some lodging in Jan, etc.), and the later it goes, the higher the costs will be. Meanwhile, booking flight tickets and train tickets requires your passport number. If you want to join this course, you need to get your passport ready by then.
You are highly encouraged to talk to Dr. Yan in person to make a decision on whether you can/want to join the travel course as soon as possible, and then apply early.
Is there an application fee to join this travel course?
No. Application is free. Still, apply for this course only if you really plan to go.
When will we hear back if we are selected to go on the study abroad trip?
Dr. Yan will review the applications and may invite students for a short interview. Following the interview, students will be notified about whether they are accepted to the course or not.
Is this class only for engineering and technology majors?
Definitely not. This class is open to all students interested in learning more about other cultures. Engineering and technology is ubiquitous in our daily lives, and its accelerated development in the last decade makes it even more relevant to everyone now than ever.
How many students get to go and how are they selected?
A single course is generally capped at 10 students, who are chosen through an application process that includes academic criteria, a student questionnaire, and an interview with the primary instructor.
This year since two courses are traveling together, the overall cap is 15 students and the budget is based on 7 students in total. Note that the proposed budget is based on 7 students on this trip. When there are more students, the budget per each student will be lower.
Can I still take this class if...
Can I still take this class if I don’t go to WCU, if I’m graduating in May, or if I graduated already?
Yes, you can. You just need to apply to WCU as “transient student,” and there’s a $50 charge to the Admissions Office to do that. For more details, see the Admissions Office’s information about transient students. For WCU graduates, your 92 number will basically be reauthorized for summer session and you’ll be registered/billed for the course just like anyone else. For non-WCU students, the process is a little more involved, but it’s mostly just paperwork.
Costs and Financial Aid (Pre-Trip)
I have a question about financial aid. Who do I contact?
Are there scholarships available to help pay for the trip?
Potentially there are some study-abroad scholarships from multiple organizations, but at this moment there is no such scholarship (free-money) from WCU. One option is to check with WCU’s Office of International Programs Services (IPS). They have a list of common scholarships for which students may qualify.
The trip length requirement on the Gilman Scholarship has relaxed, and you can now apply for it. You need to write two essays and plan a service project to share information about the Gilman Scholarship when you return from the trip but it’s absolutely worth it. WCU typically had about 3 recipients each year when the trip length needed to be 6 months or more. Now that this scholarship has removed the trip length requirement, you can apply. You can contact
When are payments due?
A $500 non-refundable deposit (unless the trip is cancelled then the deposit will be returned) is required by Jan 15. All remaining travel costs are due by mid-March (unless covered by financial aid; Financial aid payments are made 9 days before trip departure).
If the deposit is paid at the WCU IPS website, a 3% fee is charged, and the transaction fee is not counted towards the course expense. You will see a total of $515 on their website, but only $500 is counted towards the trip expense. You may contact IPS to pay by cash or money order to avoid the transaction fee.
Is there a payment plan or do I pay all of the money upfront?
Details will be provided once the number of students is set. For money going directly to WCU, you will pay $500 by Jan 15 (there is 3% fee if paid online, but you may choose to pay by cash or money order to avoid the 3% fee) and the remaining balance by mid-March. The airplane tickets will likely be bought in Feb. Your food money won’t be spent until you’re overseas.
To whom do I make the check out for the trip?
You will find the Deposit payment option before Feb, and the rest of the payment option later, which will be calculated based on the number of students:
DEPOSIT | ENGR 365 & HIST 308 Global Engineering and Technology & Explorations of Bulgarian History
What extra things will I need to budget for while traveling (e.g., food, gifts, etc.)?
The following are examples of items that have NOT been included in the budget:
- Gifts – buying souvenirs for yourself or for others
- Extra activities – what you do in your free time
- Excess food or drink – an allowance of certain amount per day is included in the budget for meals. This covers basic eating in chain restaurants, but if you’re going out to mid-level restaurants (or better), or ordering more expensive drinks during dinner, you’ll go over the budgeted amount quickly.
- Excess travel – The amount budgeted for travel will be enough to get you to/from all required activities. However, anything you do on your own time will need to be covered by you.
See the budget for a list of what is covered, which will help you determine what isn’t covered.
Does this course count toward liberal studies? As an upper level perspective?
This ENGR 365 class counts as a P6 (World Cultures) course in the liberal studies curriculum.
This class counts as an upper level perspective (ULP) for non-E&T majors. For E&T majors (EE, ECET, BSE, ET), it only counts as a ULP if you’re double majoring in something else too, otherwise it does not count as an ULP.
The HIST 308 class is a P3 (History) ULP course for non-history majors.
Where does this count for the E&T degree?
All the E&T degrees requires a P6 course and a P3 course. The ENGR 365 class counts as a P6 (World Cultures) course. The HIST 308 class counts as a P3 (History) course. Both courses are ULP.
In the ENGR 365 / HIST 308 trip, for some E&T programs, the ENGR365 course could be counted as a technical elective, on a case-by-case basis. Please talk to Dr. Yan and your program director for details.
What are the course objectives?
The objectives of this ENGR 365 course are aligned with the objectives of the Liberal Studies Program at WCU, as shown below. Upon completion of this course, the students will be able to
- Gain factual knowledge about global engineering and technology practices. Collect, interpret and use information related to engineering and technology practices within local, national, and international contexts. Apprehend the impact of engineering and technology solutions in a global, economic, environmental, societal and global context.
- Reflect upon the principles, generalizations and theories of global engineering and technology practices beyond United States. Articulate the importance of cultural disparities and similarities when developing engineering practices. Understand and is committed to address professional and ethical responsibilities including a respect for diversity.
- Critically examine complex issues of a global nature in contemporary engineering and technology practices. Recognize contemporary issues. Understand the nature and importance of interrelationships and interdependence between and among individuals, countries, and regions.
- Identify, formulate, analyze, and solve broadly-defined engineering and technology problems. Apply knowledge of global engineering and technology practices to prepare project statements with clear project goals and objectives. Analyze project requirements to propose potential designs, determine the available resources, and apply practical constraints.
- Contribute as a member of a multidisciplinary team to create a project schedule and plan. Function on multidisciplinary teams effectively as a member or leader. Organize and participate in effective team meetings. Develop and document the solution to engineering design challenges as part of a team. Propose clearly-defined metrics to evaluate the performance of a solution.
- Communicate in an engineering environment through technical writing, verbal communication, and delivery of presentation. Develop organizational and communication skills that facilitate active involvement in, and contributions to projects in a wide variety of disciplines. Apply written, oral, and graphical communication in both technical and non-technical environments effectively; and identify and use appropriate technical literature.
Please read the syllabus to learn more about the assignments and grading for the course.
What kind of school work is involved before the trip?
Before the travel, the students will meet about once a month in spring on logistics, orientation, and some light lecturing. There will be reading (and related assignments) due before the travel so that students are prepared and will make the most of their time while traveling.
What will be required of us while on the trip?
During the trip, the students are required to actively participate in all visits and cultural activities, take notes and photos during each visit, respect oneself and others, follow schedule and directions, and work as a team.
What does the post-trip work entail?
After the travel, the students in ENGR 365 will do case studies on chosen topics and a report on the materials collected before and during the trip. A comprehensive final exam that integrates course contents, similar to early assignments in format, will be given in the end. The post-trip work is set to be due on Canvas near the end of July to give you enough time to finish, and your overall grades of this course will be determined in early Aug.
How many credit hours will I receive for this class?
You will receive three (3) P6 credit hours under the ENGR 365 course number, and another three (3) P3 credit hours under the HIST 308 course number. So altogether, you get 6 credits.
The three credit hours of the ENGR 365 course are determined based on the contact hours and course contents. A student can not elect to receive zero or less than three credit hours by doing fewer or none of the coursework nor to receive more than three credit hours as there are no further coursework to warrant it. The same rule applies to HIST 308.
Are the credit hours too few?
The ENGR 365 course is for three credit hours. We understand the common concern that if a student wishes to be eligible for summer financial aid, s/he needs to register for at least six credit hours of WCU courses in summer. That’s partially why we include another 3-credit course, HIST 308, from WCU into our travel course proposal, you will then automatically be eligible for summer financial aid consideration. Also, HIST 308 is a very relevant course to understand Bulgarian history, technologies, and society. Note that the actual amount of aid depends on your financial need situation and please contact the financial aid office to find out your specific situation.
Are the credit hours too many?
With 3 credits from ENGR 365 in the P6 category, I plan to take more courses in P6 in the future or if I have already gotten some credits in P6, are there too many credit hours, especially in P6?
First, in terms of the 140 hour surcharge rule, summer credits are excluded (details at surcharge.wcu.edu). “2. Excluded are credit hours earned through: f. credit earned in all summer sessions;” You will never need to pay the surcharge for later courses due to any summer course.
Be aware, though, the automatic registration system sends out emails as soon as one’s total credit hours surpass 90 hours without removing the excluded courses. It is a staff member in the registrar’s office who does the exclusion manually, and please contact your adviser and the registrar’s office if you have any questions.
Second, in terms of the P6 credits exceeding the required 3 credits for graduation, more credits will only show your interests and efforts on world culture without hurting your progress towards graduation or in any other way. Your experience will be shown in the course titles on the transcript, and employers typically are very interested in and appreciate such unusual courses.
Will I need a passport and/or a visa?
Yes, you will need a passport. If you do not have a passport, apply for one at any post office. The cost is $145 altogether (https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/fees.html). Typical processing time is 6-8 weeks. However, given the pandemic and potential backlog, you are strongly encouraged to apply for a passport as soon as possible, if you are slightly leaning towards enrolling into this course. If you have a passport, make sure that it is valid until Nov 2022 (6 months from the day we leave USA). To get the best deal in flight ticket, you should have your passport ready in Dec or Jan.
With a US passport, you can enter Bulgaria to stay for less than 90 days within 6 months without a visa. If you hold other countries’ passport, please find out whether you need to apply for a Bulgarian temporary visit visa. WCU IPS recommends this trustworthy website for visa application (it has been used by our students and many other WCU personnel before, and they can help you to apply for visas to many countries): https://www.passportsandvisas.com/. You are free to use any other agent. The service fees may differ at different agents, beyond the consular fee.
What do you recommend we pack? How much?
We’ll talk about it as we get closer to departure, but…
Whatever you do, pack lightly! Plan to take a carry-on and a backpack – no checked luggage.
- I can’t stress that enough (but I’ll try).
- The website One Bag is a good resource that goes into detail about one-bagging it for trips abroad.
- This YouTube video on bundle packing that shows how to get 16 garments into a carry-on.
- Scan through Lifehacker.com’s packing-related posts to get more tips. Some are geared more toward frequent business travelers (like this YouTube video, which is way beyond my packing abilities), but the tips still might be helpful.
How much cash should we have on hand while in Bulgaria?
In Bulgaria, Bulgarian Lev is the official currency that uses a fixed trading rate with Euro (1 Euro = 1.95583 Lev) and it is tradable with US Dollars. The instructor will provide info on several reputable currency exchange offices. In the estimated budget plan, the student responsibility includes your own meals. Some extra spending money is also recommended.
The credit card issued in US can be used at airports and at the major stores in Bulgaria. You are highly encouraged to get a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees (otherwise 3% is a typicaly fee rate). At some local stores and restaurants in Bulgaria, cash is strongly recommended over credit card usage for financial safety and convenience.
Will I need to convert money to have on hand while in Bulgaria?
There are many currency exchange offices while in Bulgaria, although their rates can differ a lot. Always check out their rates and compare before you use them.
Such offices can convert USD to Lev, and buy back Lev to give you USD (but at a higher rate), so you can exchange for what is needed when you need it, instead of exchange excessively at once.
There are also ATMs (only use the ones attached to a big bank to avoid ATM scams) that you can withdraw Lev. Check with your bank to understand the fee structure when using a foreign ATM machine.
Will we be flying as a group or by ourselves?
- We don’t include flight costs in the required payment to WCU because of students using frequent flyer miles, leaving from a different city, taking different itineraries after the course, etc. The flight ticket price is added in the budget, though, to give you an idea of the overall cost and allow it to be covered by financial aid.
- For the flight over, we will try to go in groups, although not required, and we need to reach Sofia airport at about the same time. Ideally, the class will meet and buy the flight tickets together so that all the concerns can be addressed in real time. In one year, we got a really good deal on the flight tickets that were three days early from our original plan and we switched the order of our destinations! This wouldn’t happen without a thorough discussion on all the options in the flights and itineraries. If some student cannot make it to the meeting, Dr. Yan will provide them with the flight numbers and the whole class should get to the Sofia Airport around the same time. If you cannot fly with the group for some reason, talk to Dr. Yan and we’ll look at options on how to meet us there.
- For the flight home, students are encouraged to fly back to the US in groups, if possible, too. Our course activities conclude in Sozopol, and the students can choose to take our rental bus to return to Sofia to leave from the Sofia Airport, or leave from the Burgas Airport directly. Oftentimes a round-trip ticket might be cheaper than multi-city tickets (not always), and the students can choose the best options for them.
- If some student decides to travel elsewhere, such as other European countries and Turkey, before going home, the student is responsible for that independent travel after the course and WCU is not under any liability then.
How will the roommates be paired? / What will the living situation be like?
The lodging choices are made based on location, reviews and prices.
- You will be given the option to choose your roommate(s) ahead of time. Those who do not have roommates in mind will have ample opportunity to meet others taking the course during the spring semester and will be able to match up accordingly.
- The lodging options will likely be double rooms with two single beds, or triple rooms with three single beds, and a private bathroom.
- No coed roommates are allowed.
What medical examinations/immunizations will I need before going?
None is required to join this travel course. Please maintain your routine immunization, and you may check out the Health Information for Travelers to Bulgaria for more details.
What if I need prescriptions?
Although there are many pharmacies in Bulgaria, it is best if you consult with your doctor to get enough prescriptions before the trip to ensure that you have exactly what you need.
Who are we going to be with in Bulgaria?
The two courses (ENGR 365 and His 308) are in a single faculty-led travel course package with 6 credits, and the students will be enrolled into both courses automatically with 6 credits towards graduation and are eligible for financial aid.
A professor from the Technical University of Sofia may accompany us during our trip, as a guide, a translator, and almost an unofficial instructor.
We will spend our first couple of full days in Sofia’s town center, and then rent a bus when we need to travel further away and later in the trip to visit other parts of Bulgaria. The driver will be with us when we rent the bus.
At various attractions, if a group guide in English is available, we will use that service to fully appreciate the sites we visit.
Should I use a phone in Bulgaria?
Needless to say, owning a phone in Bulgaria will be very useful and give us all the peace of mind. So, how can you use a phone in Bulgaria?
1. If you activate the international roaming service of your cell phone, you can maintain your regular phone number. However, it can be expensive. Please contact your cell phone provider to understand the terms and rates. An option is to join the Google Fi plan, which allows automatic hand-over to the local providers and the data rate is the same in the U.S. and abroad, which is helpful for you to use Google Maps and Google Translate (the offline app data can be downloaded beforehand, too). Phone-calls on Fi might be a bit expensive (but good for emergency situations), and texts are all included.
2. If your phone uses a SIM card and is unlocked, you may purchase a local SIM card in Sofia to swap out the SIM cards. There are prepaid SIM cards that can be used for a month with certain amount of minutes and certain amount of data, and you can purchase and load more minutes after that if needed. The local SIM card will give you a Bulgarian phone number. You and your family can purchase a calling card to call each other for several cents a minute.
There can be also the eSIM option that you can purchase beforehand, without having to purchase a physical SIM card, but to activate the eSIM via their app on your phone. Your phone needs to allow the usage of eSIM to make this option possible.
3. If you do not want to activate your roaming service and your phone does not use a SIM card (for example, the SPRINT phone uses CDMA without a SIM card, and the prepaid phones typically don’t use SIM cards), you may purchase a second phone that is simple and inexpensive to use the local SIM card, only for voice-call or message purpose. Such a simple phone typically does not allow you to use apps, and please still bring your regular smart phone to use apps with WiFi.
If you decide not to use the cell phone service in Bulgaria, please still bring your phone, as free WiFi is available in many indoor locations, so that you can get in touch with your family and friends using the social app while in Bulgaria.
The most popular social apps in Bulgaria include WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook. You may want to install an app to connect with the local friends.
Also, please keep the phone numbers of the instructor and the contacts at activities (which will be provided when the activities are confirmed), in case you ever need to use a public phone to get in touch with us.
It is imperative that you do both steps (fill the Qualtrics form that goes to Dr. Yan and Dr. Graham directly, and then if with approval from the instructors, apply at the via-trm website linked from the WCU Global website).
Step 1: Student questionnaire to the instructor
Click the link of this brief questionnaire to fill it online. It helps Dr. Yan and Dr. Graham learn more about you and your interest in the course. Once submitted, the data will go directly to Dr. Yan and Dr. Graham.
Dr. Yan and Dr. Graham will review the applications and invite students for a short interview. Following the interview, students will be notified about whether they are accepted to the course. It is important to submit your applications as soon as possible. Of course, if you have any questions about filling out the forms, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Yan and/or Dr. Graham.
Step 2: Student application to WCU Global office
The official application form required by WCU Global office and the deposit payment portal can be found at the link below:
You will need to set up an account at wcuglobal.via-trm.com using your WCU email but you can set up a different password there. You can find our course in the “Via-Travel” tab.
Student Application Fast Facts:
- How to Apply
Students are now able to apply for your course directly from the program informational brochure. This is done by clicking “Apply” on the program main page or “Apply Now” under Term Information.
- Making a ViaTRM Account
Before applying, students will be prompted to create an account in ViaTRM. (They can also do this first by going to wcuglobal.via-trm.com). Students should create the account using their WCU email address.
- Being Accepted to A Course
WCU Global office will send application updates to the instructors and indicate who has applied. Only after the instructor approved a student for participation, you will be cleared to pay the program deposit.
- Paying the Deposit + Completing Legal Documents
Students will be prompted in ViaTRM to deposit for the course and complete required legal documentation after the instructor approve you for trip participation. Students will be prompted to commit to this course after WCU Global office receives confirmation that your deposit is paid.
- Application Status Meanings
- In Review – Application is submitted, student pending professor approval for participation
- Conditionally Approved – Student approved by professor, needs to pay their deposit
- Accepted – Deposit paid, student needs to commit to the trip
- Committed – Student has committed to the trip, and will now show up in the ViaTravel travel plan! Student may still need to complete legal documentation.
Program Brochure + Application For This Trip: wcuglobal.via-trm.com/program_brochure/18200
Application Deadline: January 15, 2024
Deposit Deadline: February 1, 2024
Course prefix, number, and name (e.g., HESA 600 – International Education): ENGR 365 – Global Eng. and Tech. & HIST 308 – Explorations in Regional History
Course destination (country, cities): Bulgaria: Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Burgas, Sozopol, etc.
Leading instructors’ names: Dr. Yanjun Yan and Dr. Gael Graham
Leading instructors’ emails: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Travel Dates (mm/dd/yy to mm/dd/yy): 05/13/2024 to 05/30/2024
Note: In the space for your email address, use your @catamount.wcu.edu address. Also, do not leave the physician contact information section blank. If you have a regular physician, fill in their name, address, and phone. If you don’t have one, put in WCU Health Services at 828-227-7640.