FLEX Abroad FAQs for Parents

What are the FLEX Abroad program goals?

FLEX Abroad fosters cultural exchange between the United States and countries in Europe and Eurasia. We welcome American high school student applicants interested in being an exchange student in Kazakhstan, Poland or Ukraine for the 2022-23 academic year. Participants live with a host family and attend a local school while promoting mutual understanding between the United States and the host country and forming lasting relationships with their host families and friends. The program goals are:

  • Enable American students to positively and accurately represent the United States and its culture through daily interactions in their host communities
  • Promote mutual understanding between the United States and FLEX Abroad countries by providing the opportunity for students to form lasting relationships with their host families and friends
  • Develop the necessary skills for students to be leaders in the global community

Who funds and administers the FLEX Abroad program?

FLEX Abroad is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) with funding provided by the U.S. government. The program is administered in the United States and abroad by American Councils for International Education, in partnership with ECA. American Councils has managed and supported private and public exchange programs and students for over 40 years, including a variety of year-long and short-term secondary school exchange programs for approximately 50,000 international and American students. Their well-equipped staff, operating around the globe in a variety of languages, is committed to international education, mutual understanding, civic engagement, language study, community service, and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Who will support my child's well-being while they are on the program?

FLEX Abroad participant safety is the number one priority of the U.S. Department of State and American Councils. The program is structured to ensure participant safety and well-being to the greatest extent possible. Host communities in each country are selected in cooperation with the U.S. embassy and their Regional Security Officer, and all parties continuously monitor current events in each country. All FLEX Abroad students are registered with the Office of Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their host country, and students will only be placed in countries that have been approved by the U.S. Department of State.

Participants are required to take part in pre-departure and arrival orientations, as well as information sessions, in order to be prepared to make good decisions about their health and safety while abroad. In country, participants are supported by their host family, and by their American Councils local coordinator who provides support, assistance, and guidance from within the community. Upon arrival to the host country, participants are provided with a local mobile phone or SIM card for emergency use.

American Councils FLEX Abroad staff in the United States also support participants, as well as their parents/guardians. For more information about Safety and Security on program, watch our informational video here.

What happens in the case of an emergency?

American Councils is equipped to respond rapidly to emergencies in host countries or the United States and provides 24-hour assistance to deal with medical or other emergencies, up to and including evacuation. American Councils consults with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. embassy, and external risk management organizations to monitor the safety of U.S. participants in the FLEX Abroad host countries. In addition, the U.S. embassies and consulates in Kazakhstan, Poland, and Ukraine are in a position to offer support services to FLEX Abroad participants as needed.

Will my child have medical coverage while abroad?

FLEX Abroad participants are provided with secondary medical coverage to ensure that, in the case of an emergency in the host country, students will be treated as soon and as comprehensively as possible.

How can I help promote the well-being of my child during their exchange?

One of the key ways that you can support your child’s successful participation is by providing the program with all relevant information regarding their personal health and family history in the application. Living and studying abroad can be a stressful and challenging experience for people of any age. Culture shock, homesickness, and stress can trigger anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, especially in students who have struggled previously with such concerns. Your child’s medical information will be reviewed by medical professionals and considered in making country and host family assignments but will not be reviewed as part of the evaluation or selection processes. Medical review does not begin until a student is selected as a Finalist or Alternate, and timely completion of this review depends on how quickly answers to medical inquiries are received. The medical review covers topics such as physical and mental health, ongoing medical needs, past or chronic illnesses and conditions, learning disabilities, allergies and dietary restrictions, and any significant changes to health. The purpose of the review is to determine whether a candidate meets the medical requirements necessary for program participation. As described in the Terms and Conditions part of the application, withholding relevant health information may be cause for disqualification or termination of the scholarship.

What costs does the program cover?

The FLEX Abroad scholarship covers round-trip airfare and room and board for the Pre-Departure Orientation, round-trip airfare between the home region and host community abroad, in-country support, cultural activities, school tuition (where applicable), room and board with a host family, secondary medical benefits, visa fees, and a modest monthly stipend.

What costs are not covered by the program?

Some costs that you can expect to incur from your child’s participation in the program include those associated with obtaining a U.S. passport, required medical examinations and immunizations, and extra pocket money while on program.

How will my child be prepared for their exchange?

Preparation for the program begins shortly after finalists are selected. Activities may include sharing of online resources and handbooks; conference calls; opportunities to speak with YES Abroad, NSLI-Y, and FLEX alumni; and local events (as health and safety conditions permit) with other exchange students. Participants are also encouraged to conduct their own research into the host country – its culture, history, and current events. Prior to departure, students will participate in an orientation that focuses on how to stay healthy and safe while living in the host country and how to get the most out of this unique experience.

Where will my child live?

FLEX Abroad students live with host families who have been carefully screened and selected by trained American Councils staff in the host country. Host families receive a formal orientation to introduce them to cultural differences and prepare them for the hosting experience. These families may or may not speak English. American Councils local coordinators, who are proficient in English, provide support to participants and host families throughout the program. Students will attend a high school in their community alongside local peers.

What are the program rules?

Participants are expected to follow the guidelines outlined in the FLEX Abroad Terms and Conditions form, which is part of the application. Program staff strongly encourage parents/guardians to closely review this document with their child before they apply for the program. Participants are also expected to follow any guidelines from their host family and their in-country local coordinator; guidelines may vary from country to country.

What if I am interested in hosting a foreign exchange student?

By sharing your home and heart with a FLEX scholarship student from overseas, you will bring mutual understanding to your community and the world. Click here to learn how to become a host family!

Hosting a foreign exchange student is a potentially enriching and rewarding opportunity, but it is completely separate from and will have no impact on the review of applicants to the FLEX Abroad program and the awarding of FLEX Abroad scholarships.

Still have questions?

Email ushighschoolstudyabroad@americancouncils.org
Call us: 1-800-380-6552, Monday–Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Eastern Time

“As parents, we naturally were concerned about sending our ‘little girl’ to a faraway place where she had no friends, no family, and no apparent safety net. As we continuously learned throughout the year, she quickly established lifelong friendships, rapidly assimilated herself into a local family, and found (and became for others) the safety net we had feared would be missing. And although she had always been engaged and engaging, she truly flourished during a transformative year living and studying abroad.”

Michael C.
Parent of YES Abroad participant