General Description

The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program offers high school students (15-17 years) an opportunity to learn about the people and culture of the United States through international exchange while attending a U.S. high school and living with a U.S. host family.

The FLEX program is funded by the United States Government and aims to promote respect for cultural diversity, provide opportunities for personal development and engage in community service, as well as improve mutual understanding between our countries by allowing young citizens of Eurasia to have the opportunity to observe and experience the U.S. way of life for an academic year, as well as help, teach Americans about their own countries and cultures.

The FLEX program is administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  The FLEX program is supported at the local level by U.S. citizens and local secondary schools that voluntarily host, educate, and support students with no financial compensation.

Now in its twenty-first year, the FLEX academic year program has provided scholarships to over 25,000 secondary school students. In 2017-18, 800 students are studying in the U.S. on the FLEX program (plus/or country-specific number).

Secondary school students with disabilities are invited to participate in the competition. Approximately 10-15 students with disabilities are invited to the U.S. under this program each year.


The U.S. Government feels that it is important to provide meaningful opportunities to young people -- opportunities that will provide them with global perspectives and, it is hoped, a bright future at home, at work, and in international relations.

As the whole world becomes more interdependent, both young Americans and young people from Eurasia need to know as much as possible about each other and other people and nations.  This opportunity is best provided by a cultural host family situation. FLEX students are also young ambassadors who teach Americans about the people and culture of Eurasian countries. Students gain an appreciation for and develop sensitivity to other cultures and become better prepared for an increasingly interdependent world; a benefit that extends to their American peers and others in their host communities. Students form strong ties with their American host families and U.S. communities, building relationships that often last a lifetime.

Many alumni have attended prestigious universities upon their return home, and later found exciting jobs that use skills learned during their stay in the United States.  Studies of educational and cultural exchange programs show that participants (students, families, and communities) benefit from learning about other cultures and becoming aware of other traditions, values, and viewpoints.

Who sponsors?

This scholarship program is fully funded by the United States government and administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State. ECA fosters understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries around the world.

ECA programs include educational and training programs that promote personal, professional, and institutional ties between private citizens and organizations in the United States and abroad to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.

Program participants go on program with a U.S. J-1 visa type, designed for exchange program visitors to the U.S. Because the program is funded by the U.S. government, there is a two-year home-country residency requirement and participants are required to return to their home country at the end of the program year.

What does the scholarship provide?

The FLEX scholarship provides the following:

  • Round-trip domestic and international travel (from home to the United States and back)
  • Monthly allowance to help students participate in social activities and buy necessary personal supplies
  • Placement with a selected and screened U.S. host family for one year
  • Enrollment in a U.S. secondary school
  • Program orientation activities including pre-program preparation and re-entry preparation
  • Program activities arranged in local U.S. communities
  • Medical insurance, excluding pre-existing conditions and dental care

What is NOT provided?

The FLEX scholarship does NOT cover the following costs:

  • Acquisition of an international passport
  • Personal expenses not covered by the monthly stipend
  • Excess baggage costs
  • Telephone calls made from the U.S. to home or an e-mail account

Calendar of the program: (TIMELINE version of this to be created)

Sep – Dec: Recruitment: Scholarship recipients are selected through an open, merit-based competition, which takes place each fall. Any student, who meets eligibility requirements, may take part in the competition.

March – April: Notification: In spring, students are notified of results and accept or decline.

April – June: Notification follow-up: Finalists must collect and prepare many documents in order to participate in the program, including an international passport, parental permission to travel, medical certificates and forms, academic agreement, academic transcript and others (your American Councils representative will describe in detail what is required).

June – July: Pre-Departure Orientations: Every finalist must participate in a four-day orientation designed to help students prepare for adapting to life as an exchange student in the U.S. The U.S. visa interview at the embassy or consulate happens at this time. .

August: Departures: The vast majority of students depart for the U.S. in this month and begin their program year in the United States. Those with early school start dates depart in late July.

August – May/June: Program year: The ten-month program year goes from August until May or June of the following year. Students live with host families and attend host schools.

May – June: Return and alumni: Finalists return to their home countries from the U.S. in either May (no earlier than May 15) or June. All participants must return home at the end of their program year, as per J-1 visa regulations.

How do I participate in the FLEX program? (Brief description here, with link to full details on Recruitment sub-page)

Scholarship recipients are selected through an open, merit-based competition, which takes place each fall. Any student who meets the eligibility requirements may take part in the competition.

The competition consists of three rounds:

Round 1 A short test of English

Round 2 Essays in English

Round 3 A standardized test of English, essays, an application and an interview

Students may participate only one time per year.

Possible disadvantages of participation

Students who are interested in this program should consider the possible negative effects of this program:

  • You may not return home in time to sit for university/institute entrance examinations.
  • Your university or institute may not defer your admission if you have already been accepted.
  • You may not return home in time to take your final school examinations.
  • You may be required by your country to serve in the military upon return.
  • You may have to repeat a year of school.
  • You may not be eligible to receive a gold medal at your home school.
  • Although students participate in an academic program in the U.S., the school curriculum is substantially different than that in your home country and you will not learn the same subject material.

Host families – cultural exchange

Several organizations are responsible for locating appropriate American host families and schools. They are referred to as “placement organizations” (POs). Placement organizations play a critical role in the functioning and success of the FLEX program because they deal with the program at the grassroots level. These organizations also monitor each participant's stay with the host family. In addition to identifying schools and screening, selecting, and orienting families, organizations will be responsible for: orienting students at the local level; providing support services for students while they are in the U.S.; arranging enhancement activities and leadership opportunities that reinforce program goals; monitoring students during their stay in the U.S.; providing re-entry training; and assessing student performance and progress. The following placement organizations will place FLEX participants throughout the United States: ECA organization.

Why do people host? Host families are volunteers and receive no financial compensation for hosting FLEX students, so why do they do it?

  • They value the educational experience hosting a student gives to their own children and family.
  • They wish to set a good example for their children.
  • They wish to get a firsthand, realistic picture of other cultures.
  • They want to give their child the experience of having a sibling.
  • They want to demonstrate their dedication to family and the positive development of children.
  • They have a personal interest in a particular country.
  • They have a desire to share US culture and customs.