Studying abroad in high school can benefit students in many ways, but the decision to allow your child to participate can be a difficult one. There are numerous factors to consider when deciding whether or not NSLI-Y is an appropriate choice for your child. Please review the expectations, "Is NSLI-Y right for me?", Terms and Conditions, and information below to guide your decision.
Explore multimedia stories about NSLI-Y summer and academic year programs on NSLI-Y Interactive. Additional alumni stories can be found on the Alumni page.
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 both academically, by improving their language skills, and by developing an understanding of the host culture. Participants are curious and interested in learning about other cultures and embrace their role as citizen youth ambassadors. Further, they recognize the significance of developing cultural sensitivity and possess the maturity to manage the “ups and downs” of a cross-cultural experience. Participants demonstrate open-mindedness, flexibility, and initiative in negotiating 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 do not travel independently. Participants are prepared for the challenges inherent to any cross-cultural experience, including conditions and circumstances significantly different than the U.S.
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 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.
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 and website.
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, merit-based 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. Sign up here to have a local representative contact you about the hosting experience.
The safety and well-being of our participants are the highest priorities of the Department of State, American Councils, and the NSLI-Y administrators. NSLI-Y programs are structured to promote the safety and well-being of participants to the extent possible. Staff members actively encourage participants to make good decisions about their own safety and health while abroad. It is imperative that participants and their natural families follow with the health and safety guidance provided by NSLI-Y implementing organizations. Students and families must understand and acknowledge that there is inherent risk in study abroad and overseas travel.
Living and studying abroad is a stressful and challenging experience for people of any age. Despite the excitement of exploring a new language and region of the world, exchange students frequently experience homesickness, loneliness, and other challenges as they adjust to their new environments. These stresses can be compounded by any existing physical or mental health issues or concerns at home.
NSLI-Y asks that students share personal information during the application process to help us plan for their success on the program. Personal health and family information are not evaluated as part of the selection process, but that information is important for assigning the students to an appropriate program site. Relevant information includes, but is not limited to, a diagnosis of or treatment for an illness, a physical disability, a learning disability, or a dietary restriction. Recent traumatic experiences or significant changes in the student’s natural family, including serious illness, death, divorce, incarceration, or custodial changes, can also impact a student’s participation in an overseas program. In order to help NSLI-Y staff make appropriate decisions about your child’s experience on the NSLI-Y program, please inform us of these situations on the application or as soon as possible thereafter.
Semi-finalists will be required to submit a complete NSLI-Y Medical Evaluation Form in February 2019. The NSLI-Y Medical Evaluation Form will be reviewed by medical professionals, but will not be considered during the scholarship selection process. Medical review does not begin until a student is selected as a finalist or alternate and may take an extended period of time. Therefore, it is important that families respond to inquiries related to the medical review in a timely fashion. Results of the medical review will determine if a candidate meets medical requirements necessary for program placement and participation in NSLI-Y. As described in the Terms and Conditions, withholding relevant health information may be cause for disqualification or termination of the scholarship at a later date.
NSLI-Y participants are supported in the host country by established and reputable international exchange organizations. While organizational structures vary, field staff and trained volunteers in the host country support participants, host families, and natural parents. While on a NSLI-Y program, your child will have regular contact with a trained local coordinator or resident director who will provide additional support when necessary.
Students selected for a NSLI-Y scholarship receive:
The scholarship does not cover costs associated with obtaining a valid U.S. passport, required medical examinations and immunizations for the NSLI-Y medical review or visa requirements, pocket money for personal items, or excess baggage fees.
NSLI-Y is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The State Department establishes the program goals, selects the countries and languages offered, and provides oversite of all program activities. ECA collaborates with American Councils for International Education and a number of experienced international exchange organizations in implementing NSLI-Y programs. 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 as participant safety and security are top priorities. 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 travel.state.gov and studyabroad.state.gov
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, 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.
All NSLI-Y programs feature homestays with host families who have been carefully screened and selected by the implementing organization. Many alumni report that the host family experience as an important and positive element of their NSLI-Y experience, strengthening their understanding of the host culture, target language, and daily life in the host community.
Host families are selected based on their ability to provide a safe home environment and commitment and enthusiasm to fostering mutual understanding and intercultural learning. Host family environments will vary depending on location. Some programs place students in host families for the full program duration. Other programs place students in well-monitored dormitories and assign them to host families for weekends or for a segment of the program.
Like in the U.S., the composition of host families vary; there is no “standard” host family. Flexibility, on the part of the participant and their natural parents, is critical for a successful host family experience. Other factors regarding NSLI-Y housing accommodations:
With safety as a top priority, all participants are expected to follow NSLI-Y guidelines. These guidelines are outlined in the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions, which is part of the application. NSLI-Y administrators strongly encourage parents/guardians to thoroughly review the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions with their child before he or she applies to NSLI-Y and again if selected as a semi-finalist and finalist. Participants are also expected to follow the guidelines of their NSLI-Y implementing organization; these guidelines are often specific to the host country and/or host community.
NSLI-Y is prepared to respond to emergencies in the host countries. Every NSLI-Y implementing organization provides 24-hour assistance in the event of an emergency and facilitates appropriate medical treatment, including evacuation, if necessary. NSLI-Y consults regularly with the U.S. Department of State and external risk management organizations to monitor the safety of program participants in the host countries.
NSLI-Y participants are provided with supplementary/secondary health coverage for accidents and illnesses while abroad (not intended to cover pre-existing conditions) to ensure that, in cases of emergency, students will be treated as soon as possible in the host country. Read more about the coverage on the ASPE website.
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