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Merit-Based Scholarship

Caitlin Tedder, Staff

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Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, NSLI-Y provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year immersion programs.
NSLI-Y stands for National Security Language Initiative for Youth and aims to advance young Americans language skills and cultural understanding. This experience typically sparks a lifetime interest in foreign languages and cultures, not to mention an improved ability to communicate with people of Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Turkish-speaking countries.
“NSLI-Y will help me better understand an extremely different culture by spending time living there,” Bethany Thackeray said, a Mandarin summer applicant.
Many young adults suffer from untapped wanderlust and a desire to experience how the rest of the world lives but are strapped down by financial and educational reasons. This study abroad program supplies opportunities for the young adults who prove their passion for critical languages not frequently spoken in American populations. Resources for learning less common languages are very sparse, and typically expensive, making this program revolutionary in educating young Americans.
“If I get the scholarship, it would offer me an opportunity I’d never have otherwise, due to financial reasons. It would allow me to get a head start learning a language that is not taught in my school, nor any schools near me,” Siubhan Mora-Bruce said, a South Korean summer applicant.
NSLI-Y provides summer and academic year long programs in almost every country they offer, except for the new addition Bahasa Indonesia and Persian (Tajiki). These choices are offered for students with different circumstances and hold their own benefits. The summer program always allows a lot more students to travel and come back when school starts up again while the academic year kids are very few and far in between due to the responsibility.
“An academic year program allows students to fully become integrated into their host culture. On top of this, it allows students to have an extended period of time devoted to studying and speaking their target language,” Thackeray said.
Opportunities like this are one in a lifetime, and because of this, students are only allowed to apply to one program. There is an exception for summer alumni that choose to do a year-long study the following year. Most students will jump at this program that sounds way too good to be true. This free, highly-educational, and enormous opportunity is not for everybody. Responsibility and maturity is the main focus of your evaluators when reviewing your application.
“Students with a genuine interest in critical language study are aptly suited for this program. Those who are more focused on the travel aspect of study abroad should consider a different program,” Thackeray said.
Students abroad are expected to reach at least 120 classroom hours on the summer program while year students must take at least 10 hours a week in addition to homework, language projects, and additional academic instruction. Participants also cannot travel independently within the country, so it is highly likely you won’t see all the historic landmarks you wish to.
“This program is for you if you are willing to put in the effort intensively for a few weeks or even a year. It’s not for people who treat this as a free vacation,” Heeba Chergui said, an Arabic AY applicant.
NSLI-Y is a very prestigious program with an acceptance rate sitting at just 15%. There are a high number of high schoolers that apply because the eligibility requirements are fairly basic: you must be a U.S. citizen with a GPA higher than a 2.5, be in high school when applying for the program (ages 15-18), and finally, not a family member of anybody in the U.S. Department of State or have previously gone on a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

If you are interested in the program, or know anybody who might be interested, you can find more information at http://www.nsliforyouth.org/.

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