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.

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 about other cultures 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 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.

Benefits of participation in NSLI-Y

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.

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 our participants are the highest priorities of NSLI-Y administrators. NSLI-Y programs are structured to promote the safety and well-being of participants to the extent possible; staff prepare participants to make good decisions about their own safety and health while abroad. It is imperative that students and their families follow the health and safety guidance provided by NSLI-Y implementing organizations. Further, students and families must understand and acknowledge that there is inherent risk in study abroad and overseas travel.

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.

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 will not be evaluated as part of the selection process and will not impact a student's chance of selection, 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 family, including serious illness, death, 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 2020. 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 after a student is selected as a finalist or alternate and may be lengthy. Therefore, it is important that families respond to inquiries related to the medical review by the deadlines provided. 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 medical requirements necessary for program placement and participation in NSLI-Y. Timely and early communication on health needs and disability accomodations is critical. As described in the Terms and Conditions, withholding relevant health information and/or delayed responses in the medical review process will likely result in either cancellation of the NSLI-Y scholarship and/or dismissal from the program. 

On-program Support

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 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 
  • In-country support; room and board; visas for entrance and exit of the host country
  • Modest stipend to cover costs of public transportation and other incidentials.
  • 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 countries and languages offered, and provides oversight 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 and


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 U.S. departure city that will address how to stay healthy and safe while living in the host country. Parents and/or family members should generally not expect to attend the pre-departure orientation. The program will arrange finalist travel to the pre-departure orientation location and then the finalists will all fly as a group to the host country.

Housing Accommodations

All NSLI-Y programs feature 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 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:

  • 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 with the same family.
  • Students may commute independently to their host school from their host family’s home. Some NSLI-Y host cities are in large cities and therefore, commutes could take significant time (60 minutes).
  • Host families may or may not have internet connection in their homes. Internet availability 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 country and/or host community.  Failure to comply with the NSLI-Y 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):

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

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 country. Read more about the coverage on the ASPE website. Because ASPE is secondary coverage and not a full health insurance plan, NSLI-Y discourages families from cancelling primary health insurance during the NSLI-Y program.

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