FLEX is a unique opportunity for secondary school students from Europe and Eurasia, including students with a disability, to spend one academic year in the U.S., living with a volunteer host family and attending a U.S. high school. Participants gain firsthand insight into U.S. daily life, culture and society, and also share about their own countries with their host communities. Indeed, FLEX students are often the first person from their country that many in the host community meet. This exchange of cultures often results in new "second" families as host families and their students develop friendships and connections that last a lifetime. Many students also remark that they became more mature, independent and focused thanks to their year abroad and that they gained important life skills.
Recruitment for the 2019-20 FLEX Program year will begin in fall 2018 in all FLEX Program countries. For information on eligibility requirements and where to apply for the 2019-20 academic year contact the American Councils office in your country by clicking try!" . Every year over 30,000 students apply for FLEX, and approximately 800 are selected. Results are announced in the spring, and selected finalists will travel to the U.S. in summer for the academic year, returning home as FLEX alumni the following spring. Alumni advise applicants, "Don't be afraid -Here's what some FLEX students said about their experience:
“After FLEX program I came back in Ukraine and the whole world changed for me. I met so many people in America, heard a lot of different opinions. Finally, I learned and tried many new things during this year. If you are still unsure about participating in the FLEX program, I definitely recommend you to do this. Broaden your mind, learn, try, enjoy, share your culture all over, and be happy.”
– Nelly (from Ukraine, hosted in Iowa)
“My story starts and ends with my amazing host family, that was the highlight of my year. From the first day I felt like a part of the family,the same happened with my school; I didn't really have hard time making friends and getting along to other people. I feel like I've grown up so much during this year, become a lot more independent, mature and confident. Ready to start new life in my country with this huge experience.”
– Mariam (from Georgia, hosted in California)
"‘Not better, not worse, just different.’ Our exchange year started with this quote that is obviously true. Every country has its own unique culture. Living in the U.S. for a year doesn’t mean to lose your own identity and become American, it means to gain an understanding of American culture, values and also share our own."
– Tamar (from Georgia, hosted in Pennsylvania)
"This year changed my life and me personally. I learned not only how to speak better English, but also American history, geography, values, way of life and all other aspects of culture. Even when I thought that I know almost everything I learned something new about the States. My host family opened my eyes to a new world. The showed the real America. Throughout the year I met all kinds of people and was presenting myself and my country. This exchange program is an incredible opportunity for our teenagers to come to U.S. and make our relationship between countries closer and stronger."
– Maksym (from Russia, hosted in Tennessee)
"My host family became as a second home in the United States. Being for 1 year in a foreign country with different values and beliefs I understood what is being ambassador of your own country."
– Zhanar (from Kazakhstan, hosted in Pennsylvania)
"My host mom, Monica, always says: “whatever you start, once you are into it – you need to finish it and go for it,” and that’s a really good thought. This year was awesome. I can see strong changes in my character and that’s a really great feeling. I’m feeling that the experience I got here I wouldn’t get anywhere else, and not many people get this chance. I’m grateful to all the people that do this job – thank you. I’d never get an experience of staying 8,000 miles away from home, without my family, friends, classmates and staying with people I absolutely didn’t know at first and now they are basically my family. I’ve gone through so much with them and have so many memories with them."
– Vadym (from Ukraine, hosted in Iowa)
"I consider my host family as my second family for sure - we have been through a lot, and I lived with them for the whole year - when you stay with people that long, you learn. You learn how they live so that you can be a part of their life. You can always rely on them, they will not give up on you, and you will not give up on them. I think that my host community and family made me a lot stronger and more mature. I learned about their culture and I hope that I broke some stereotypes about my country as well. But the biggest lesson that everybody in United States gave me and I learned it pretty well is - nothing is better, or worse here. It is just really different."
– Anna (from Russia, hosted in Texas)
"This exchange year gave me priceless experiences and the spirit to make the world a better place. It had a gigantic impact on me; I’ll never be the person I used to be when I left my home country. Exchange year changed me for good, I am so thankful. And becoming an exchange student? That’s the best thing that can ever happen to you!"
– Mariam (from Georgia, hosted in Washington)