National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)

Common Questions

Commonly Asked Questions
  • What are some of the benefits of a short-term program?

    Having a six-to-eight-week intensive introduction to an unfamiliar language -- or even a familiar one -- provides an opportunity to challenge yourself to learn and apply your language skills in the culture and context of living overseas. You cannot take advantage of this experience without leaving the shores of the United States. An overseas short-term language program is a chance to engage native speakers, to interact with peers in their language in their culture, to establish and build inter-personal relationships, to gain a first-hand appreciation of what living abroad is like and to spark a lifetime commitment to language learning and inter-cultural exploration.

  • What are some of the benefits of a year-long language study abroad program?

    A year studying a foreign language overseas will accelerate your language acquisition and improve your academic skills, permitting you to advance toward acquiring fluency. Sustained contact with native speakers and uninterrupted practice -- using language to accomplish daily routines, participate in conversations, and make formal arguments -- are the proven methods for acquiring a second “first-language.” If you aspire to make your second language second nature, the year-long language program provides the extended and sustained linguistic and cultural immersion you need.

    Studying another language for a year overseas has numerous academic benefits. When you learn a second language, you will be better prepared for the verbal sections of standardized tests( such as the ACT and SAT.) You will also improve your general reading and writing skills. Furthermore, knowing a second language and having extensive cultural experiences overseas will likely make you more unique and desirable to college and university admissions officers. Moreover, your language skills will increase the number of research materials you can access. You will be able to draw from foreign language resources to conduct your research and bolster your arguments in seminar papers and articles written for publication. Ultimately and at the highest levels of foreign language ability, the scope and breadth of your academic community expand. Participating in a year-long language program is an excellent way to distinguish yourself from the rest of the college application pool and advance your academic career.

    Additionally, learning a foreign language offers many long-term benefits. Proficiency in a foreign language, particularly the languages offered in the NSLI-Y program that comparatively few Americans speak, opens the door to a number of careers and job opportunities both in the United States and abroad. Further, by learning a critical needs language, you may be able to assist the United States’ national security efforts by using your skills in translation and communication.

  • What does the scholarship cover?

    NSLI-Y scholarships cover all program costs, including roundtrip travel between the participant’s city of official residence and the NSLI-Y program’s host city; tuition and related academic preparation, support and testing; educational and cultural activities; pre-departure and re-entry orientations; applicable visa fees; room and board consisting of three basic meals per day; accommodations, preferably in a host family environment; and Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE) health benefits.

  • What does the scholarship not cover?

    NSLI-Y scholarships do not cover costs associated with obtaining a valid U.S. passport or required medical examinations and immunizations. Participants will be responsible for pocket money for personal items and souvenirs during the NSLI-Y program.

  • May I travel on my own before, during and/or after the program?

    NSLI-Y participants should not expect to travel independently while on program. Participants who travel independently without permission from their implementing organization will be considered for program dismissal. Trips may be planned by the program implementer to various cultural and historical sites in your host country. Please refer to the Travel Policies section in the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions form for more information. All travel, including emergency and non-emergency travel, must be approved in advance by the in-country organization, American Councils and the State Department.

  • Where will I live?

    Most NSLI-Y participants have the opportunity to live, at least for some period of time, with host families as a way to use acquired language skills and interacting with native speakers. Implementing organizations identify and screen qualified and well-motivated host families for NSLI-Y participants. In some cases, where homestays are not possible or sufficiently numerous, participants may be housed in dormitory-type environments with adult resident supervision. In situations where dormitory housing is provided, implementing organizations usually offer weekend homestay opportunities.

    Homestays are viewed as a fundamental component of the NSLI-Y language learning experience because they provide a natural environment in which to learn and use everyday language and may minimize the effects of culture shock. The immersion experience for language learners to live with a host family expands the cultural context in which language learning takes place and provides a window into the lives, perspectives and practices of the host country’s citizens.

    Participants are matched to homestays based on their answers to the “placement information” as well as other parts of the NSLI-Y application. Host families provide three basic meals a day, transportation to school and program-related activities and ensure that each NSLI-Y participant has his/her own bed (although not necessarily his/her own room). Requirements for host families overseas are guided by State Department guidelines designed to ensure the safety and well-being of exchange students.

  • What will I do on a regular basis?

    Language instruction will be provided in both formal and informal settings. While teaching conversational language skills to help participants cope with their immersion setting, classes will also focus on formal instruction in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, and will cover reading, speaking, listening and writing. Classes will target beginning, intermediate and advanced language learners -- as well as heritage speakers -- as appropriate.

    During the summer programs, NSLI-Y participants will study the target language for at least 20 hours per week five days a week. During the academic year program, NSLI-Y participants receive daily language instruction for a total of at least ten hours a week of classroom learning.

    In addition, participants have opportunities for volunteerism and community service in order to expand their language use as well as their first-hand cultural knowledge and experience. These volunteer and community service activities, which engage host country peers as much as possible, are designed to teach about community life, citizen participation and the culture and history of the host country. Programs incorporate extra-curricular activities and cultural excursions to closely support the language program.

  • Will there be language examinations?

    Standardized Oral Proficiency Interviews (OPI) in the targeted language are administered as pre- and post-program tests, in order to measure and evaluate oral language progress. OPIs are evaluated using the ACTFL scale. Upon completion and scoring of the post-program OPI, the NSLI-Y scholar receives a certificate attesting to and explaining the language competency level achieved. Pre-institute testing is only administered to participants who self-assess that they have some knowledge/exposure to the target language. These standardized pre-and post-program tests are administered by phone. Tests to determine a student's placement level within their cohort are administered by host institutions at the beginning of their program. Language assessments are conducted in order to ensure that the goals of the program are being met.

    In addition to language evaluations conducted by the sponsoring organization, the U.S. Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Office of Policy and Evaluation conducts three sets of evaluations of the NSLI-Y programs through E-GOALS, its online system for surveying program participants and collecting data about program performance. Required by the 1993 Government Performance Results Act (GPRA), E-GOALS will measure NSLI-Y results against pre-determined performance goals and objectives. The first survey will be conducted prior to departure; the second will be administered shortly after the participant returns; and the last survey is distributed six months to one year after the conclusion of the participant’s program. Participation in all three surveys is required. The surveys are confidential, anonymous and used only for evaluative and program management purposes.

  • Will I receive credit at my home institution?

    Neither the Department of State nor the grantee Consortium can guarantee that a participant’s home high school will award credit for participation in a NSLI-Y program. It is recommended that any applicant/participant who is concerned about obtaining credit for program participation consult with the appropriate high school and/or school district counselor as well as with American Councils to determine in advance whether credit for the program is possible.

  • How do I keep up my interest in and study of my NSLI-Y foreign language?

    Once you return from your NSLI-Y overseas experience, you may be able to continue your language learning at your high school. You can consider applying for a longer duration NSLI-Y program that will offer coursework at a higher level and for a longer period of time than the program you just completed. If you are still a high school student and you want an intensive domestic foreign language experience, visit the STARTALK program website for more information.

    If you will be applying to university, please visit The Language Flagship to learn about the Department of Defense’s Flagship language programs that provide U.S. Government scholarships at particular U.S. universities, the Fulbright Program to learn about Fulbright scholarships and the Critical Language Scholarship Program to learn about intensive summer language institutes for university level students.

    Foreign Service or Civil Service careers at the U.S. Department of State are among the professional options you might consider in the long-term. For information about the Foreign Service exam and Foreign Service careers, visit the State Department's Career website.

  • What is meant by "in good standing" and how do I achieve it?

    To be considered "in good standing," there are three elements: 1) you must take the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) pre- and post-program in a timely fashion, 2) you must complete the pre-program, post-program and follow-up E-Goals surveys in a timely fashion and 3) you must exhibit good behavior and a positive attitude while participating in the program and, if grades are given while overseas, they must show evidence of your commitment to language learning. Only NSLI-Y participants who are considered to be "in good standing" will be considered for other NSLI-Y programs.

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