FLEX Abroad FAQs for Students

What are the FLEX Abroad eligibility requirements?

View the FLEX Abroad program's eligibility requirements at https://www.discoverflex.org/eligibility-flex-abroad.

Are non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents, eligible for FLEX Abroad?

U.S. citizenship is required.

When and how can I apply for FLEX Abroad?

The FLEX Abroad, YES Abroad, and NSLI-Y programs combined application for 2022-23 can be found at https://ais.americancouncils.org/highschoolstudyabroad. Applicants may apply for one, two, or all three programs using the single application form. If you are having issues creating or accessing your application, you may contact the FLEX Abroad team at 1-800-380-6552 or highschoolstudyabroad@americancouncils.org during business hours on Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Eastern Time. Follow the FLEX Program on Instagram and Facebook for important announcements and opportunities.

How does the application process work?

All complete and eligible FLEX Abroad applications will be reviewed by evaluators. Selected semifinalists will be contacted to take part in an interview over the winter. Applicants will be notified of their selection status (finalist, alternate, or not accepted) on a rolling basis beginning in March. Also at this time, finalists will be notified of their country assignment, next steps, and responsibilities. Alternates remain eligible for a finalist position, should a finalist be unable to participate in the program.

How will I receive a visa?

Finalists will be provided with visa application instructions upon notification, in March, and are required to obtain a visa in time for the assigned departure date for the country group. Visa requirements are determined by the host country’s government. Typically, the visa application process requires applicants to obtain several notarized copies of official documents, both for the participant and their parents/guardians, such as birth/immunization certificates and school documentation.

Many host countries also require that participants, and sometimes their parents as well, submit their passports either directly to the embassy/consulate or to American Councils for group processing. For this reason, participants will be without their passports for over a month during the spring and/or summer prior to departure.

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 host families and attend local schools 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 Congress. The program is administered by American Councils for International Education in partnership with ECA. American Councils has administered and supported exchange students for over 40 years.

How are FLEX Abroad countries selected, and how are participants assigned to a country?

Host countries and communities are identified and selected in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. embassies. Country assignments are made by FLEX Abroad staff taking into consideration the finalist application and selection committee input. While applicants may opt to rank their country preferences, applicants should be open to being placed in any of the available countries.

How will applicants be contacted?

The FLEX Abroad team communicates with applicants and their families using the email addresses provided in the application. To modify an email address after submitting your application, please contact the FLEX Abroad team at American Councils for International Education at highschoolstudyabroad@americancouncils.org or 1-800-380-6552.

Am I eligible for FLEX Abroad regardless of my ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability status?

FLEX Abroad welcomes applications from all U.S. citizens regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, geographic location, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Program staff are available via highschoolstudyabroad@americancouncils.org or 1-800-380-6552 to answer questions, talk through concerns, and provide guidance on safety and security. In addition to topics that the program addresses in detail during various pre-departure sessions, it is important for applicants and participants to educate themselves about the laws and social customs of host countries. Applicants are advised that each FLEX Abroad country has its own laws, social customs, and norms that the program cannot change. FLEX Abroad staff expects our participants to exercise sound judgment.

How is my health information safeguarded?

The FLEX Abroad program follows guidelines set by federal law, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. If you are selected as a finalist, we will provide you with details about how the program is implemented and how information is shared. For more information, see our Notice of Privacy Practices here.

Who are FLEX Abroad host families?

Host families are carefully screened and selected by trained local program staff. Host family compositions vary. Accommodations could involve a participant sharing a room with a host sibling of the same gender or having their own room. A participant will always have their own bed. Participants typically form lasting bonds with their host families, who support them in integrating into the larger community. FLEX Abroad is not a tourism program; participants are expected to embrace cultural integration into their host community, host school, and host family.

What language would my host family speak? What would be the language of instruction at my host school?

Many FLEX Abroad countries, host families, and schools are multicultural and multilingual. Here is a general idea of what you can expect:

Typical Language of Instruction: Kazakh, Russian, and/or English
Typical Host Family Languages: Kazakh, Russian
Language Requirement: None

Typical Language of Instruction: Polish and/or English
Typical Host Family Languages: Polish
Language Requirement: None

Typical Language of Instruction: Ukrainian and/or English
Typical Host Family Languages: Ukrainian, Russian
Language Requirement: None

What would I do at my host school?

All FLEX Abroad participants are expected to attend school just as local students do and are required (regardless of graduation status) to sign an Academic Commitment Form committing to make their best effort with schoolwork, classroom participation, and integration. Classes may be administered in a language that is new to the student, in English, or in a combination of languages. Participants are expected to use their time in classes where they do not understand the content as a “language lab,” working to immerse themselves in the daily use of the language and building relationships with their peers and teachers. Curricula will vary, and participants will receive their class schedule upon arrival to their host community. The most common subjects are math, science, language, and humanities. Some FLEX Abroad participants who are 17 or older should be prepared to be placed in class with students 1-2 years younger than they are.

Will I be able to take part in extracurricular activities, such as music lessons or sports?

Extracurricular activities vary by country and region. In many cases, unlike in the United States, such activities are not managed through the school system, but may be available through independent youth clubs or community groups. While joining extracurricular activities can be a great way to integrate into the host community, FLEX Abroad participants with a career or long-term focus on certain activities should keep in mind that access to these activities cannot be guaranteed.

Would I earn credit at my U.S. school? Will the program affect my graduation date?

Participants should not expect that academic work performed at the FLEX Abroad host institution will transfer to their U.S. (home) school. This decision rests solely with the applicant’s home institution, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to consult with their home institution about timelines, graduation, and possible credit transfer options. The program recommends that this be addressed in the early phase of the application process. If needed, the program can provide the home institution with a description of the participant’s academic activities in the host country.

May I return home during the program?

FLEX Abroad students are expected to remain on program in the host country for the duration of the program. Trips home for weddings, graduations, family events, home academic requirements, college orientations, and other similar events are not permitted. Exceptions are considered by American Councils and ECA only in cases of family emergencies.

What would happen if there is an emergency in my host country?

Participant safety is the number one priority of ECA and American Councils, who would work together along with the U.S. embassy to determine the best course of action in case of an emergency affecting participants in country. In case of civil unrest in the host country, for example, participants may be removed from the host community and returned to the United States at the discretion of the U.S. Department of State. To ensure personal safety, the program depends on participants to exercise sound decision-making while on program. Required pre-departure and in-country orientations are designed to provide participants with the tools necessary to determine what represents sound decision-making in the host country and community. More information can be found here.

What is it like to learn a language through immersion?

Learning a language through immersion in the host country is likely different from how applicants have learned a language previously. It can be challenging and tiring, but the rewards can be immediate and gratifying. While FLEX Abroad is not a language program, the program covers introductory and ongoing language lessons coordinated by in-country program staff to assist participants with the basics. In addition, participants should be prepared to make a significant effort of their own to independently learn the local language, as quickly as possible, in order to more fully integrate into the host family, community, and school.

What does the scholarship cover? What costs are not covered by the program?

The FLEX Abroad scholarship program provides the following for participants:

  • Domestic round-trip airfare and room and board for the Pre-Departure Orientation
  • Round-trip airfare between the participant’s domestic home region and host community abroad
  • In-country support, cultural activities, and school tuition (where applicable)
  • Room and board with a host family
  • Emergency accident and sickness coverage in the host country
  • Host country visa fees
  • Re-entry orientation at the scheduled conclusion of the program, as well as membership in International Exchange Alumni, the Department of State’s exchange alumni network
  • A modest monthly stipend, reflective of typical costs for basic needs in the host country
  • Access to a mobile phone or SIM card while on program

Typical costs not covered by the program include:

  • Fees for obtaining a valid U.S. passport in time for the visa application process. The passport must be valid for at least six months after the scheduled program end date.
  • Required medical examinations and immunizations
  • Pocket spending money for personal expenses above and beyond basic needs

How does FLEX Abroad differ from other exchange programs?

FLEX Abroad is an approximately 10-month long program that focuses on meaningful cultural exchange with diverse global communities. Participants promote mutual understanding, break down stereotypes, and foster long-lasting ties with their host families, host schools, and host communities in Europe and Eurasia. Participants may rank their country preferences but are expected to be willing to step outside their comfort zone by being ready to go to whichever host country they are assigned to. Each participant’s experience is as unique as the country that hosts them. Check out these YES Abroad participant stories and follow the YES Abroad program on Instagram and Facebook to learn more!

FLEX Abroad is not a language-learning program, although most host countries immerse participants in a language other than English, and the program includes a language learning component to help participants communicate within their community.

Still have questions?

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