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Studying abroad during high school can benefit students in many ways, but the decision to allow your child to participate may not be easy. There are numerous factors to consider when deciding whether 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. Applicants, parents, and educators can connect directly with NSLI-Y alumni via the Ask Alumni Facebook page.  Additional alumni stories can be found on the Alumni page.

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

Participating in NSLI-Y is a challenging but rewarding 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. 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, and participants do not travel independently. NSLI-Y is focused on langauge acquisition, not travel for tourism or sightseeing; there is no guarantee participants will see any major historical sites in the host location.

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

Benefits of participation in NSLI-Y

NSLI-Y is a prestigious and selective U.S. Department of State overseas immersion program for American youth.

"I grew as an individual, becoming more independent and learning how to embrace new situations. I also significantly improved in my language abilities and confidence in my Chinese, and I feel that the program was the right combination of challenging and fun." - NSLI-Y Summer Alumnus


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 serve as citizen diplomats overseas, building connections with host communities and representing the diversity of America. Upon return to the United States, NSLI-Y alumni also contribute to their local community by sharing information about their experiences, host countries, and cultures.

“I learned how to be less judgmental of other people's lifestyles and beliefs, and accepted the fact that just because something may be different, does not mean it is bad.” – NSLI-Y Summer Alumnus

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.

Student Safety and Well-Being

The safety and well-being of participants are the highest priorities of the U.S. State Department and NSLI-Y administrators. NSLI-Y programs are structured to promote the safety and well-being of participants to the extent possible, however, students and families need to be aware that there is inherent risk in study abroad and overseas travel. Program staff prepare participants to make good decisions about their own safety and health while abroad but it is imperative that students and their families follow the health and safety guidance provided by NSLI-Y implementing organizations.

Regarding COVID-19 conditions, NSLI-Y will consider the U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control health and travel advisories, as well as local conditions and other factors when evaluating whether participants will be able to travel overseas in 2022-2023.

Medical and Placement Considerations

  • 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.Recent traumatic experiences or significant changes in the student’s family, including serious illness, death, or custodial changes, can impact a student’s experience in an overseas program. Please inform us of these situations as soon as possible.
  • NSLI-Y semi-finalists are required to submit a medical evaluation form for review by an independent medical professional. Results of the medical review determine if finalists and alternates meet medical requirements necessary for NSLI-Y program placement and participation. NSLI-Y has a history of successfully supporting many students with unique health needs and disabilities; only in very rare cases do results of the medical review determine that a candidate does not meet necessary medical requirements. Early communication about health needs and disability accommodations are critical. As described in the Terms and Conditions, withholding relevant health information or not responding to requests by specified deadlines during the review process may be cause for disqualification or termination of the scholarship.

On-program Support

NSLI-Y participants are supported in the host community by established and reputable international exchange organizations. While organizational structures vary, field staff and trained volunteers in the host location support participants, host families, and families. 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.

Scholarship Coverage

Students selected for a NSLI-Y scholarship receive:

  • Round-trip travel between their home city to the pre-departure orientation and the overseas host program location 
  • Pre-departure, arrival, and end-of-stay orientations 
  • Tuition and related academic program costs including preparation, support, books, and testing 
  • Educational and cultural programming, including program travel at the host location 
  • In-country support; room and board; visas for entrance and exit of the host country/location
  • Stipend to cover costs of public transportation and other incidentals.
  • Supplementary/secondary health coverage for accidents and illnesses while abroad (not intended to cover pre-existing conditions)

The scholarship does not cover costs associated with obtaining a valid U.S. passport (for the participant or legal guardians if required for a visa application) or travel to a foreign embassy in the U.S. for a visa application/interview (if necessary), required medical examinations and immunizations for the NSLI-Y medical review and/or visa requirements, pocket money for personal items, or excess baggage fees.

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). The State Department establishes the program goals, selects the host locations and languages offered, and provides oversight of all program activities. ECA collaborates with American Councils for International Education and other international exchange organizations to implement 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 local 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 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

Preparation

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 well as 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 U.S. departure city that will address how to stay healthy and safe while living in the host community. Family members should generally not expect to attend the pre-departure orientation. The program will arrange travel to the pre-departure orientation location, and then the participants will all fly as a group to the host location.

Housing Accommodations

All NSLI-Y programs include homestays with host families who have been carefully screened and selected by the implementing organization. Many alumni report 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 as well as their commitment and enthusiasm for 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 United States, the composition of host families vary; there is no “standard” host family. Flexibility, on the part of the participant and their parent(s)/guardian(s), is critical for a successful host family experience. Here are some other facts about NSLI-Y housing accommodations:

  • Students will be provided with their own bed, but not necessarily their own bedroom.
  • Students may or may not have host siblings.
  • If students have host siblings, they may or may not be the same gender or of a similar age.
  • Some students may be the only NSLI-Y student with the host family; others may be placed with another NSLI-Y student in the same family.
  • Students may commute independently to their host school from their host family’s home using public transportation. Some NSLI-Y host cities are in large cities and therefore, commutes could take significant time (approximately 60 minutes each way).
  • Host families may or may not have internet connection in their homes. Internet availability and speed may be unreliable and will vary among and within host cities and countries.
  • Host families typically do not speak much, if any, English.
  • Finalists and their families are not given the option to designate preferences for host family placement or composition.
All host families receive orientations and materials to sensitize them to cultural differences and to prepare them for the hosting experience. Resident directors or local coordinators provide support to participants and host families throughout the program.

NSLI-Y Rules

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 applying 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 community.  Failure to comply with the Terms and Conditions may result in cancellation of the scholarship or early dismissal from the program. The following activities/behaviors will likely result in cancellation or early dismissal. (This is not a comprehensive list.):

• Failure to meet program established deadlines for visa application, medical review, pre-program language requirements or other required documents
• Failure to disclose medical conditions/history
• Purchasing, transporting, and/or consuming alcohol/drugs
• Unauthorized travel
• Risky behavior
• Multiple incidents of breaking program-established curfew

Emergency Support

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.

Medical Coverage

NSLI-Y participants are provided with supplementary/secondary health coverage for accidents and illnesses while abroad (does not cover pre-existing conditions) to ensure that, in cases of emergency, students will be treated as soon as possible in the host location. Read more about the coverage on the ASPE website. Because ASPE is secondary coverage and not a full health insurance plan, NSLI-Y families are encouraged to maintain primary health insurance for the participant during the NSLI-Y program.


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