Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellow Summer Institute

Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute


Program Background
The initiative is named after the legendary American statesman and diplomat Benjamin Franklin.  In today’s terms, Franklin was a transatlantic man, someone whose career, interests, studies and life took him back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, bringing Americans and Europeans closer in understanding. Franklin’s life offers inspiration to young citizens of today in the effort to bridge the Atlantic.  As a diplomat and a printer, he leveraged the powers of diplomacy and of the media to explore how Americans and Europeans see each other and the world.

Goals of the Institute
– to develop a commitment to transatlantic cooperation;
– to foster relationships between American and European youth from different ethnic, religious, and national groups;
– to promote mutual understanding between the United States and Europe/Eurasia;
– to develop a cadre of youth leaders who will share their knowledge and skills with their peers through positive action.

The four-week Benjamin Franklin Summer Institute enables 16-18 year old secondary school or gymnasium students to participate in intensive activities such as training sessions, workshops, community-based programs, study tours, and cultural events. Participants will work together on a joint project that presents and promotes the stated goals and objectives of the Institute.

Before and during the Institute, students will gather information on young adults’ views about one or two areas of common or global interest, such as sustainable development, inter-ethnic cooperation, or human rights.  The program will also provide the participants with a new perspective on mass media and how they learn about each other and the communities they live in, and the broader media culture.  This will include training on the critical reading of printed, broadcast, and electronic media and the ability to judge the content and accuracy for themselves.  Training will cover communication and presentation skills, problem solving, and team building. Community service activities, social and cultural activities, and home stays with American families will deepen the participants’ experience of U.S. society during their exchange.

Recruitment/Candidate Profile
Applicants should have a strong interest in learning more about diplomacy, the transatlantic relationship, the role of a free press in a democracy, and public or community service.  They should have a strong demonstrated interest in communications, advocacy, debate, or civic participation.  They should have the academic aptitude for a program of this nature and personal qualities needed to be successful participants, including maturity, strong social skills, flexibility, and open-mindedness. These factors are particularly important given the diverse group atmosphere of the Institute.  English fluency is required.

It is important that applicants have serious interest in pursuing leadership opportunities in their home countries and demonstrate a genuine desire to learn first-hand about the United States, its people, society, and institutions. It is also very important that nominees understand that, if selected, they will be expected to participate in all program components fully and seriously during the month, as well as in follow-up activities afterward in their home countries.  In addition, participants should be ready to inform and educate Americans about the cultures and societies of their home countries in non-structured gatherings and in public presentations.

Candidate profile:

– be 16, 17, or 18 years of age at the time of the program start;
– be highly proficient in English, as demonstrated in a personal interview or the results of a standardized test;
– be committed to enrolling in high school or university in their home countries;
– demonstrate strong leadership potential and interest in transatlantic relations and diplomacy;
– indicate a serious interest in learning about the United States;
– demonstrate a high level of academic achievement, as indicated by academic grades, awards, and teacher recommendations;
– demonstrate a commitment to community and extracurricular activities;
– have had little or no prior U.S. study or travel experience in the United States;
– be mature, responsible, independent, confident, open-minded, tolerant, thoughtful and inquisitive;
– be willing and able to fully participate in an intensive summer program, with community service and educational travel;
– be comfortable with campus life, shared living accommodations, travel and interaction with a multinational, co-ed group of participants from across Europe and the United States;

– be comfortable engaging with the Americans they meet in the host community;

– be able to adjust to cultural and social practices different from those of their home countries.

Funding and travel:

  • Costs for all U.S.-based activities will be covered by the organizers and hosts in the U.S.
  • International travel and pre-departure costs will be covered by the U.S. Embassy
  • Participants will be covered by ECA’s Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE) health benefit program, which will not cover routine examination or pre-existing conditions. Individual travel and luggage insurance is recommended.
  • All embassies will provide a pre-departure orientation to the accepted Fellow(s) to review the details of the program, cross-cultural issues, travel, and financial matters.  Since many participants will be minors and will be traveling from their home country alone, the U.S. grantee organization will provide adult chaperones who will accompany participants on flights between one or two European airports to the location of Summer Institute and back.

Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship Program
Frequently Asked Questions: 

  1. Will COVID19 vaccinations be required to participate in the program? Yes, COVID vaccinations will be required due to vaccination requirements in multiple cities that will host BFTF programming, including Washington DC, Chicago, and Philadelphia.  More information will follow regarding this requirement.
  2. What degree of English proficiency should a nominee have? All participants must be highly proficient in English; throughout the program they will need to fully understand lectures, actively participate in discussions, and read and write assignments in English.
  3. My nominee has been to the United States before; would they be disqualified? No.  Nominees with minimal experience in the United States may be considered for the program.  However, priority should be given to nominees with no previous experience in the United States.  If you find it necessary to nominate a candidate with previous U.S. experience, please be sure to clearly indicate the purpose of the nominee’s visit to the U.S., the year it occurred, and the length of stay, as requested on the nomination form.
  4. How much free time will a participant have during the program? There will be some limited free time during the program.  However, nominees MUST understand that this is an intensive academic program, and they are expected to fully participate in all lectures, activities, site visits, and scheduled events.
  5. If a nominee has relatives in the U.S., would they have time to see them? Participants will NOT be allowed to leave the program to visit relatives or friends. Occasionally it is possible for a pre-approved visit on a specific day designated by the host institution if the schedule permits.  These situations will be addressed on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the ECA program officer and the host institution.
  6. How important is it to nominate a gender-balanced group? Very important! We strive to have the best possible diversity and gender balance.
  7. Can a participant arrive early/late or stay after the program? No.  Participants who choose to travel to the United States on a Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship are required to abide by the J-1 visa rules.  Participants may NOT arrive in the United States before the program start date or remain in the country after the close of the program.
  8. Can a participant miss one part or component of the program? No.  All participants are expected to participate in all scheduled lectures, events, site visits, trips, and activities.
  9. How much money will participants need to bring for the program? ECA will cover all basic costs of an individual’s participation in the U.S.-based exchange.  Generally, the host institution will provide meals through a combination of a cafeteria meal plan and a pre-loaded debit card for use at local restaurants.  Information on housing and meal arrangements will be provided by the host institution prior to the start of the program.  Participants should not expect to receive any spending money from the program.  Participants should bring their own spending money if they wish to purchase souvenirs or other items during their time in the United States.
  10. One of our BFTF alumni has a sibling who would like to apply for the BFTF program. Can they apply? Priority will be given to nominees who are unrelated to past BFTF participants.  Posts should make every effort to recruit and nominate candidates from widely diverse areas and backgrounds.
  11. Will applicants with disabilities be considered? Yes, the Youth Programs Division welcomes nominations for individuals with disabilities.  We are committed to working with Purdue University to arrange reasonable accommodations for all participants.  Notification of a disability will not negatively impact selection.  We ask that you identify disabilities during the nomination process so that we can begin working with Purdue University to ensure appropriate accommodations.