While some parents are excited for their child to study abroad, others may be nervous, particularly given the pandemic and geopolitical events worldwide. The student may be excited to explore a new culture, but the parents’ concern is often focused on safety and security. Safety and security are of paramount concern to NSLI-Y; the program’s safety measures are outlined on the Parents tab of the NSLI-Y website. After many NSLI-Y overseas programs resumed in 2022, NSLI-Y was fortunate to receive several testimonials from parents and alumni addressing their experience. Read more about parents and alumni’s experiences and reflections about managing their nerves and uncertainties, overcoming challenges, and assessing the impact of the experience.

Miles (Turkish, Summer 2022) and their parent, Bill - Hawaii

Miles in his NSLI-Y t-shirt

“We were nervous and a bit apprehensive as we did not know anyone who has participated in NSLIY, he is our youngest child, neither of his older brothers studied abroad, and where we live (Honolulu, Hawaii) is nearly the antipode of Ankara. We also learned he was the youngest of his cohort. […] However, many of our concerns were assuaged through the continued emails, prep sessions, and touchpoints with the NSLI-Y professionals.

[…] The lack of connectivity and communication with Miles during the program was the most difficult for us, we relished any message, statement or email we received and could discern he was maturing rapidly. His host family was very comforting. While we were talking with him, their oldest son translated for the mom who said, ‘We now have a third son, he is family.’

To say NSLI-Y was meaningful for Miles is an understatement. His growth and self-reliance amplified. […] He returned home a seasoned young man who seemed to stand taller than when he left. […] He is also committed to continue his language training and now desires to study abroad for a year, if he is lucky enough to be selected for a NSLI-Y program again.

The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program is incredible! I recommend any students or families considering this to read all you can about the program and watch the deadlines for the application requirements. Take the leap; students and their families may be forever changed.”

Phoebe (Indonesian, Summer 2022), and their parent, Kazz – California

Phoebe with her host family in Indonesia

“[…] What we were most worried about, frankly, was all the craziness of COVID that hung over the trip -- the first one back after the 2-year pandemic break. There was, indeed, a little craziness: last minute visa and flight logistical challenges, on-the-ground safety measures. All of these were well out of AFS and NSLI-Y's control, but the organizers turned around and handled them so smoothly. They obviously put a ton of work into the summer, and it showed not just when problems arose but also with the jam-packed itinerary of culturally enriching and educational opportunities. The experience our daughter had in Yogyakarta for the summer was so far beyond anything she or we could have imagined. It was life-changing in all the best ways.”

Sonia (Hindi, Summer 2022) and their parent, Allison - Colorado

Sonia celebrating Eid with her host family

“There were certainly moments of homesickness — missing [her family] missing the dogs, missing her bed — but we mostly just kept returning to the timeline [and referencing manageable periods of time.] As her mother, it was of course deeply challenging to know that she was so far away and that I couldn’t come to her aid at a moment’s notice. This was an important growing experience for all of us.

Sonia did not come back dramatically changed, of course — she was still herself! — but there is a new maturity, an openness, a respectfulness, a sense of enlarged perspective that has subtly influenced how she comports herself. She is absolutely more confident in herself in a true and meaningful way, confident that she can handle challenging circumstances and knowing that she can find real connections with people from so many walks of life. Her relationship with our host family is indescribable — more positive and profound than I truly could have imagined (and I imagined great things!). She has tears in her eyes when she thinks about them, and our communications with them since her return demonstrate that the deep feelings are more than mutual. We truly do have extended family across the ocean. Her love for learning languages is undiminished, and her interest in and curiosity about the wider world has been amplified; she now truly knows, cellularly, that the world is fascinating, rich, and complex.

I am so very glad that she had this experience, and feel that it has enhanced her life — and our family life — immeasurably. There’s a lot of work (administrative and emotional) that goes into the planning process, but the payoff is enormous. It is a growth experience for parents and kids alike, to be sure, but once she had landed and met her host family, I really just tried to relax into and trust the [NSLI-Y] program, the experience, and our own instincts that this would be good for our daughter.”

Anoushka (Chinese, Summer 2022), and their parent, Anjali – Texas

Anoushka in front of the Tiger and Dragon Pagodas in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

“ […] We wanted our daughter to have an experience that would help to broaden her knowledge about the world and her love of culture and languages. To get comfortable with the program, we invested our time in learning more by attending all virtual meetings and webinars to get more become familiar with what is involved in the program. […]

The most challenging thing was health & safety. Being in a COVID-19 environment to remain covid free was constantly on our minds. We knew there is an inherent risk in studying abroad and overseas travel. Thankfully, the Program staff prepares participants to make good decisions about their own safety and health while abroad. As a family, it was imperative that we follow the health and safety guidance provided by NSLI-Y implementing organizations. […]

She loved the independence and her ability to make responsible decisions. We were so happy to see her demonstrate maturity, open-mindedness, flexibility, and the importance of following program rules and guidelines, especially for health and safety. She was taught to allow herself to make mistakes in the language. […]

The NSLI-Y summer program was a life-changing experience for our daughter, the program is the right combination of challenge and fun. Our advice to any families considering participating in the U.S. Department of State overseas immersion program for American youth is that they must review program expectations and terms and conditions. Under the guidance of excellent guides, our daughter gained skills that would help her prepare for a global work environment

[…] We are thankful to NSLI-Y for giving her this opportunity.“