Overseas Capacity Building Initiatives

Our Overseas Capacity Building Initiative awards grants to U.S. embassies and binational Fulbright Commissions for creative projects that strategically engage or support Americans studying abroad. Proposed projects need to be directly related to increasing and/or diversifying U.S. study abroad opportunities in the host country by:

  • Strengthening U.S. colleges and universities’ relationships with local higher education institutions, American Chambers of Commerce (AmChams), businesses, and/or organizations to foster academic and internship experiences abroad for U.S. students, institutional partnerships for two-way student mobility, and/or the sharing of institutional resources and best practices in student exchange.
  • Increasing engagement with Americans studying/interning/teaching abroad;
  • Building institutional capacity with local colleges and universities to enable them to host more Americans studying/interning/teaching abroad; and
  • Advocating for U.S. study abroad in the host country, and integrating U.S. study abroad into mission goals and objectives


Many U.S. colleges and universities want to develop programs and partnerships to expand their students’ international education opportunities, and many foreign institutions are eager to attract more U.S students to study and intern abroad. Our Overseas Capacity Building grants allow U.S. embassies and Fulbright Commissions to develop training workshops, networking opportunities, and pilot programs to connect U.S. and foreign institutions and bolster opportunities for U.S. students to intern and study abroad in their countries. Examples of successful Overseas Capacity Building grants that have helped strengthen relationships and create new study and intern abroad opportunities include:

  • Argentina
    In 2016, the USA Study Abroad Branch awarded an Overseas Capacity Building grant to the Fulbright Commission Argentina to conduct a training workshop on partnership building for representatives of 75 Argentine public and private universities, which led to the formation of two advisory councils, one for private and one for public universities. These councils then signed an agreement with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to collaborate on exchanges between Argentine and U.S. universities.
  • Bahrain
    Manama partnered with the Bahrain National Museum to create an internship program for museum science graduate students. This program addressed three major goals: strengthening the Embassy’s relationships with the museum and increasing its capacity to host international students; creating a new internship opportunity and promoting study abroad in a country where less U.S. students study; and offering an international experience in a field less commonly represented in study abroad. The first intern arrived in Bahrain in July 2017 for a six-month internship, and after returning home she secured a position at the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art.


During their time abroad, U.S. students build relationships with their peers and help shape their views of the United States beyond what they see in news reporting and popular media. There are many ways in which U.S. embassies can harness study abroad students’ roles as cultural ambassadors and integrate them into their outreach efforts, offering the students insight into the world of public diplomacy while helping embassies to more effectively reach local youth. Examples of successful Overseas Capacity Building grants that increased an embassy’s engagement with U.S. students abroad include:

  • Cyprus
    In October 2017, U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Kathleen Doherty launched the embassy’s “American Roadshow” program, which trained and then sent groups of study abroad students to present on U.S. culture and education around the country. Students visited both rural and urban high schools where they gave presentations that showcased the diversity of America and generated interested in U.S. higher education. This program offered students the opportunity to engage with peers throughout their host country while also supporting the embassy’s goal of sharing information about education opportunities in the U.S. with local students.
  • Indonesia
    The U.S. Embassy Jakarta was awarded a grant to partner 10 U.S. study abroad students from the University of Puget Sound with 10 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative members (YSEALI) during the Makassar International Writers Festival. The U.S. students will volunteer with their international partners at the festival, sharing U.S. culture as they learn about Indonesia culture with their peers. Not only does this program offer a unique study abroad experience to U.S. students, but it helps further the embassy’s goal of promoting international networks and cooperation through the YSEALI program.


As USA Study Abroad works to expand study abroad opportunities for U.S. students, this includes diversifying both the types of students who study abroad and the destinations where they study. Many foreign institutions in less common destinations are eager to host U.S. students, but it can be difficult to develop the resources and partnerships needed to recruit and host foreign students. For foreign college and universities that do host many international students, it can still be challenging for them to offer programs in STEM, education, and other fields that are less represented in U.S. study abroad. Recent examples of Overseas Capacity Building grants that have helped build foreign institutions’ capacity to host diverse U.S. students in a wide variety of destinations include:

  • Namibia
    U.S. Embassy Windhoek used a 2017 Overseas Capacity Building grant to support faculty training and the expansion of a study abroad relationship between the University of Namibia and Pacific Lutheran University in the United States. The two universities have had a relationship since 2015, but they wanted to expand opportunities for natural science and education students to participate by adding a formal research, teaching, and internship component to the study abroad program. Grant funds have been used to support the focused recruitment, training, and support of faculty members from specific disciplines so that the university can design and oversee research and internship experiences for U.S. students.
  • Czech Republic
    USA Study Abroad branch awarded several grants to the U.S.-Czech Fulbright Commission and PAS/Prague for a series of projects aimed at both increasing the number of U.S. STEM students studying in the Czech Republic and diversifying the Czech institutions at which U.S. students study overall. Following an initial training on hosting STEM students, subsequent grants connected Czech institutions with U.S. students and study abroad professionals to learn more about how to market their programs and build partnerships. The most recent grant will now allow 10 representatives of Czech institutions to put their lessons-learned in to practice by funding a trip to the U.S. at the end of May 2018 where they will meet with 40 representatives of U.S. institutions at a larger workshop and then conduct selected site visits to U.S. colleges and universities.


U.S. embassies and Fulbright Commissions are often eager to promote U.S. study abroad activities in their countries because they see the public diplomacy benefits of having student diplomats build relationships and share U.S. culture with their counterparts. USA Study Abroad Overseas Capacity Building grants can be used for a wide variety of activities aimed at promoting U.S. study abroad in the host country, at large, and integrating study abroad in the embassies’ larger goals. Examples of successful Overseas Capacity Building grants that have done this include:

  • Colombia
    As Colombia embarks on its peace process, the U.S. Embassy Bogota is committed to engaging vulnerable communities like the country’s Afro-Colombian population in order to help promote reconciliation and prevent disenfranchisement. To this end, the Embassy is working to support expanded educational opportunities for Afro-Colombians, including through establishing relationships between Colombian institutions serving Afro-Colombians and U.S. historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The embassy received an Overseas Capacity Building grant to connect students in the country’s first master’s program in Afro-Colombian studies at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (PUJ) with U.S. HBCU students. Three students in African American studies will spend one week in Colombia on a short-term study abroad program, sharing research and attending classes with their PUJ counterparts. This short-term program will help create new links between HBCUs and Colombia’s nascent Afro-Colombian studies program in order to launch future collaborations between PUJ and HBCUs.
  • Sri Lanka
    The U.S.-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission received an Overseas Capacity Building grant to create a study and intern abroad hub within the Commission’s office. The center now enables the Commission to fully integrate U.S. study abroad promotion into its goals and establish itself as a central coordinating point for study abroad in the country. Both U.S. and local institutions and individuals looking to support study abroad in Sri Lanka will now have a reliable place to access information, trainings, and a network of potential partners.

To learn more about our Overseas Capacity Building grants, read about our 2014-2016 recipients.