Educators & Mentors

Educators and mentors play an important role in preparing students for study abroad programs and encouraging them in their continued pursuit of language and cultural studies upon their return. This portion of the NSLI-Y website provides resources and assistance to teachers, counselors, administrators, and other mentors:

  • Information about NSLI-Y programming, language instruction, and qualities of successful NSLI-Y scholars
  • Support for recommenders completing the online recommendation form for a student applying to NSLI-Y
  • Guidance on how NSLI-Y can support your global classroom activities and organizations in the United States
  • Program outreach resources to spread awareness about NSLI-Y

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, live with host families, and spend most of the day studying language and culture inside and outside the classroom. In order to navigate the “ups and downs” of a cross-cultural environment, participants must demonstrate maturity, open-mindedness, flexibility, and initiative. Additionally, participants need to understand the importance of following program rules and guidelines, especially those related to health and safety.

Successful NSLI-Y participants dedicate themselves to language acquisition through both formal and informal learning opportunities and strive to improve their language skills and understanding of the host culture. The program expects participants to embrace their role as citizen youth ambassadors and to recognize the significance of developing cultural sensitivity. NSLI-Y is a structured language-learning experience, not a travel program, and participants do not 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. While classes are taught by trained and experienced teachers, students may experience different teaching methods from what they are used to in U.S. classrooms.

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 location.

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 Recommendations

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

Recommenders can find information about the NSLI-Y recommendation process in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below.

What should be addressed in the recommendation?   

The confidential recommendation is used to determine an applicant’s academic motivation and potential to be an exchange student. The recommendation form asks for information about the applicant through both multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions. Recommenders are asked to comment on the applicant’s communication skills, behavior, work ethic, peer relationships, ability to work in groups, as well as 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 their motivation for participating in NSLI-Y and how it relates to their future academic and professional goals.    

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

How do I complete the online recommendation?

Individuals providing recommendations for NSLI-Y applicants will receive an email notification and log-in instructions for the online recommendation form from Recommendations must be submitted through the online application form by Wednesday, November 10, 2020 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 the application to send you another message. 

We recommend that you add to your safe or contacts list so that the notification 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 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, NSLI-Y staff may not be able to respond to inquiries on November 10, 2020; please contact us for any assistance well in advance of this deadline.

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

NSLI-Y alumni return to the United States with an increased understanding of their host culture, greater proficiency in the target language and skills that help prepare them for a global work environment. According to a recent NSLI-Y alumni survey, over 80% of respondents continue to study their NSLI-Y target language.

The NSLI-Y program provides resources to alumni through the NSLI-Y Alumni Association and website, so they can share information about their experiences with U.S. home communities and schools and inspire others in your organization to learn languages and study abroad.

We invite teachers, students, and others interested in NSLI-Y to explore the NSLI-Y experience virtually through the NSLI-Y Interactive site, which offers insights and reflections by NSLI-Y participants and alumni on language study and facets of host cultures. The NSLI-Y Interactive platform hosts virtual events throughout the school year. 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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