I went on my exchange program in 2014-2015 and stayed with a lovely host family in the state of Maryland. Over the year I had experiences that helped me mature and become more independent. I volunteered, took part in conferences, played in the rock band, and travelled.
If you want to experience the American culture and soak in the spirit of leadership, apply! This exchange program will provide you with so many opportunities for the year in the US and friendships for life.
What Is FLEX Program?
FLEX is an exchange program for international high school students that gives them an opportunity to live in the US, study in an American high school and live with a host family with all the expenses covered.
The program was approved by the US Congress in 1992 and since then has provided a platform for mutual understanding and cultural exchange between the US and countries in Europe and Asia.
FLEX stands for Future Leaders Exchange and is a year-long program that grants merit-based scholarships.
Who Organizes It?
The program is Funded by the United States Department of State and administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. An organization called The American Councils for International Education works directly on selecting students and making all the necessary arrangements for the finalists.
What Is Provided?
Students who win the scholarship have everything covered for the program. When I went on my exchange year in 2014-2015, I had all my flights, accommodation, food, and insurance costs covered by the program and on top of that I received a monthly stipend for pocket money.
Who Can Participate and How?
If you are a secondary school student from an eligible country and you maintain high grades at school, you can participate in the FLEX program.
FLEX is a very selective program that provides scholarships to about 2% of all the participants. Every year, the program representatives organize testing in various cities in the participating countries which you can check on the official website.
All you need in order to sign up for the round 1 is to come to the testing centre on the day and bring your ID or your passport.
Throughout the rounds, successful students need to demonstrate that they are ready to live independently in a new country and are mature enough to represent their culture.
Since assessments will include interviews and essays, it is important to practice structuring your thoughts in a coherent way. Since essays will be evaluated by native English speakers, keep in mind that some of the phenomena in your culture may not be common in the US. So don’t be afraid to explain things.
The program’s selection criteria are based solely on the merit of the participant. There is no application fee and anyone who meets the eligibility criteria can apply. During the application process, students are selected over three rounds assessments and interviews.
All the eligible candidates can have a go at sitting the first round which is usually very short and comprises of tasks to check your English level. What I remember from the test itself is that the questions checked English grammar and understanding of written texts.
If everything goes as planned, you will be invited to the second round which for me was the next day. The second round assesses your English skills more thoroughly. In addition to grammar tests, you will need to write three essays under time pressure. These vary from year to year but are generally asking you to provide your opinion or share your experience on a topic provided.
Third round is the final one. By this point, most of the participants have been rejected and the ones left will go over a series of assessments. You will have a one-on-one interview with FLEX representatives and a game between about six or seven semi-finalists. You will also need to write two more essays and fill out an application which will contain your personal information, a letter to your host family, your grades, and medical history. Then all the responses are sent to the US and evaluated against the selection criteria.
When and Where
This fall, Future Leaders Exchange Program is starting the selection process for the 2020-2021 academic year. The first two rounds are scheduled for the beginning of the fall. After that, selected candidates are invited to the third and final round in December.
It usually takes about four or five months for applications to be evaluated and for the participant to hear back about the outcome. All the successful participants will leave their countries for the exchange year in July/August 2020.
Eligibility criteria will vary slightly depending on the country and its educational system but all the candidates must:
- Have sufficient level of English
- Have equivalent of A and B grades at school
- Be a secondary school student
- Be eligible for the U.S. visa
These are the eligible countries:
Be a citizen of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.