NSLI-Y appreciates the important role educators can play to foster global citizenship that can help ensure the peace and security of our nation and beyond; educators often encourage and prepare students for study abroad and language immersion programs that develop critical 21st century skills. 

NSLI-Y is grateful for the support educators provide to students in their continued pursuit of language and cultural studies when they return from a study abroad experience. This portion of the NSLI-Y website provides resources to teachers, counselors, administrators, and other educators to address the following:

  • Provide information to teachers, counselors, administrators, and other educators about NSLI-Y programming, language instruction and qualities of successful NSLI-Y scholars
  • Support educators with the NSLI-Y Teacher Recommendation process and online form
  • Provide guidance on how NSLI-Y can support your global classroom activities in the United States
  • Encourage educators to spread awareness about NSLI-Y and provide resources for program outreach 

NSLI-Y Participants and the NSLI-Y Experience

What kind of student is a good match for NSLI-Y?

NSLI-Y is a challenging endeavor. NSLI-Y participants are immersed in a foreign culture, with host families, spending most of their days on program studying language and culture inside and outside the classroom. Successful NSLI-Y participants dedicate themselves to language acquisition through both formal and informal learning opportunities, even beyond the NSLI-Y program. Further, successful NSLI-Y participants strive to succeed by improving their language skills, and by developing an understanding of the host culture. Participants are curious and embrace their role as citizen youth ambassadors. Further, they recognize the significance of developing cultural sensitivity. Participants demonstrate maturity, open-mindedness, flexibility, and initiative in negotiating the "ups and downs" of a cross-cultural environment. Participants understand the importance of following program rules and guidelines, especially those related to health and safety. NSLI-Y is a structured language-learning experience, not a travel program, and participants should not expect to travel independently. 

Students interested in academic year programs should consider the enormity of the long-term commitment and challenge. For many reasons, not all students may be prepared for such an extended period away from home.

NSLI-Y language instruction and programming 

The goal of the NSLI-Y program is to promote critical language learning among American youth and to spark a lifetime of interest in foreign languages and cultures. NSLI-Y encourages students to build on their language skills in their university and professional career choices, and to dedicate themselves to continued language learning far beyond their time on the program.  NSLI-Y scholars participate in intensive language courses on both summer and academic year programs. Summer programs include a minimum of 120 hours of formal classroom instruction.  Academic year programs include at least ten hours per week of formal classroom instruction, and most programs include additional academic courses.  Language teachers have significant experience teaching language to speakers of other languages and are usually native speakers in the target language.  NSLI-Y provides orientation to language teachers to ensure their familiarity with NSLI-Y goals, integration of language classroom activities with enrichment activities, and U.S. high school students’ learning styles and academic expectations.  

These intensive language courses are complemented by cultural immersion activities inside and outside of the classroom, including homestays, excursions, and local community service projects. Successful NSLI-Y scholars are dedicated to language acquisition through both formal and informal learning opportunities. Scholars strive to succeed both academically, by improving their language skills, and culturally, by gaining an understanding and appreciation for their host culture and community.


NSLI-Y provides a wide variety of preparatory materials and support for students going abroad. Preparation for the NSLI-Y experience begins in the spring, shortly after the finalists are selected. Participation in all orientation and pre-program language activities is mandatory.

All participants will be required to participate in pre-program language learning programs, as guided by their implementing organization, and complete any assignments and assessments in preparation for the program. Program orientation activities may include online resources, handbooks, conference calls, webinars, and opportunities to speak with NSLI-Y alumni, and local events with other exchange students. Prior to departure, students attend an orientation in their departure city that will address how to stay healthy and safe while living in the host country.

Role of the U.S. Department of State

NSLI-Y is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA collaborates with American Councils for International Education and a number of experienced international exchange organizations in implementing NSLI-Y. Cities and regions for NSLI-Y programs are selected in cooperation with the U.S. embassies and consulates in the host locations. Embassy and consulate staff in each NSLI-Y location are invited to speak with the students about locality-specific safety and health issues as well as what it is like to work for the U.S. government. The Department of State and the implementing organizations continuously monitor current events in each of the NSLI-Y locations and are in contact with U.S. embassies and missions abroad to ensure participant safety. All NSLI-Y students are registered with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides relevant safety and health alerts via text messages and ensures that the Embassy can quickly contact students if needed. Additional resources and information are available at and

The NSLI-Y Online Application and Letters of Recommendation

Students can find detailed guidance and information about the NSLI-Y online application at

Below are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the NSLI-Y teacher recommendation process:

What should be addressed in the teacher recommendation?   

The confidential teacher recommendation is used to determine an applicant’s academic motivation and readiness to be an exchange student. The recommendation form asks for information about the applicant through both multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions. Teachers are asked to comment on the applicant’s behavior, peer relationships, and ability to work in groups. Additionally, teachers are asked to comment on the applicant's collaboration and communication skills, as well as his/her general suitability for an overseas exchange experience. 

Examples cited in the open-ended questions are particularly helpful to the evaluators. Before completing the recommendation, it can be helpful to talk with the applicant about his/her motivation for participating in NSLI-Y and how it relates to his/her future academic and professional goals.    

The NSLI-Y staff and evaluators are grateful for the support of teachers in the application process. Honest, candid feedback about the applicant is appreciated and critical to the NSLI-Y selection process.

How do I complete the online teacher recommendation?

Teachers providing recommendations for NSLI-Y applicants will receive an email notification and further log-in instructions for the online recommendation form from Recommendations must be submitted through the online application form by Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at 4:00 PM Eastern Time.   

If you have not received the email notification after your student’s application submission, please check your junk or spam folder. If you cannot find it there, ask the applicant to press the ‘Request Recommendation’ button again in his or her application to send another message. 

We recommend that you add to your safe or contacts list so that the next message does not go to a spam or junk mail box. If the student is using your K-12 address, consider providing an alternative email address. K-12 addresses often block email messages from unknown sources, such as the NSLI-Y application system.

What should I do if I’m having trouble submitting my Teacher Recommendation?

If you have been experiencing technical difficulties, please email us at or call (866) 790-2086 and NSLI-Y staff will be available to assist you between 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday. Due to heavy call volume, the NSLI-Y staff may not be able to respond to inquiries on November 6; please contact us for any assistance well in advance of this deadline.

Benefits of NSLI-Y to your U.S. classroom or school

NSLI-Y alumni return to the United States with an increased understanding of their host culture and proficiency in the target language. According to a recent NSLI-Y alumni survey, 99% of alumni respondents indicated that NSLI-Y was the most or one of the most influential educational experiences in their life. Over 80% of NSLI-Y alumni respondents continued to study their NSLI-Y target language post-program. NSLI-Y participants gain skills that help prepare them for a global work environment. Given their enthusiasm, NSLI-Y alumni can inspire others in your school to study abroad, learn new languages, and become global citizens.

NSLI-Y alumni share information about their host countries and cultures with their home communities and schools when they return to the United States. NSLI-Y alumni are provided with various resources to do so through the NSLI-Y Alumni Association.

We invite educators to share the NSLI-Y experience with U.S. classrooms virtually. Please see the NSLI-Y Interactive site to explore various forms of media from NSLI-Y programs with students. Through the eyes of NSLI-Y scholars and alumni, NSLI-Y Interactive offers insights on language study and facets of host cultures. Throughout the school year, virtual events are housed on the NSLI-Y Interactive platform. Sign up to receive notification about virtual events and check the site throughout the year for updates and new stories from participants and alumni! 

Due to the enthusiasm for international education that is often strengthened by NSLI-Y, many families of applicants, participants, and alumni choose to host a Department of State-sponsored international exchange student. Each year, the Department of State provides competitive scholarships to nearly 2,000 high school exchange students from around the world to spend an academic year in the United States living with host families, attending local schools, and getting to know "real" Americans. These international students provide a wonderful opportunity for enhancing international dialogue and cross-cultural awareness.

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