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-sixth year, the FLEX academic year program has provided scholarships to over 27,000 secondary school students. In 2018-19, 922 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The FLEX program, which is funded by the United States Government, is committed to providing all eligible students with the opportunity to take part in the program. This includes students with disabilities. Since the program began in 1993, over 370 students from Eurasia with visual, hearing, motor, and other disabilities have become FLEX participants.
All FLEX participants have the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of other cultures, increase their skills and self-esteem, acquire new language skills, expand their career opportunities, and so much more. Study abroad can be a life-changing experience and the gateway to becoming independent and better able to overcome challenges.
FLEX does not discriminate based on physical ability or disability. As long as an applicant meets the age, grade, and citizenship requirements for participation which are listed below, s/he may apply to the program. FLEX can accommodate applicants with a wide range of disabilities, and corresponding testing materials are available in a variety of formats. Please contact your local American Councils office so that we can best accommodate your needs.
For FLEX testing which will take place in the fall of 2019, participants must:
- Study in 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 grades
- Be born between February 15, 2002 and July 15, 2005
- Be a citizen of the country where they are testing
Students with disabilities who become finalists of the FLEX program attend a one-week independence skills and goal-setting workshop in Eugene, Oregon in early August, before traveling to their U.S. host communities. This workshop is organized by Mobility International, USA (MIUSA), a leading disability rights organization. The MIUSA workshop will include:
- Interactive sessions on life in the U.S. for people with disabilities, including rights and opportunities in education and community activities;
- Activities to build leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills; and
- Action planning to achieve short- and long-term goals for the FLEX year.
Do students with disabilities really become FLEX finalists?
FLEX accepts many students with disabilities, and a significant number of those who participate in the competition go on to become finalists. It is never easy to try something new, especially something as big as spending a year away from your family and friends. This may be even harder if you are not confident in your language skills and ability to do things independently. Based on alumni experiences it is worth taking the chance. The benefits are endless, even if the first step is the hardest.
What if my English is not strong enough?
If you are accepted to FLEX and your English skills are still developing, there are two opportunities to help you:
- You might be assigned to take part in American Councils’ Moldova English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Camp, in Chisinau.
- You might be designated as a Language Program FLEX student, meaning that your Placement Organization will provide no fewer than 15 days of intensive instruction in English in the U.S., before your U.S. school starts.
If I need medical care in the U.S., who will pay for it?
The FLEX program provides all finalists with program insurance that covers medical emergencies. FLEX is not a medical treatment program, and does not provide for consultations, treatments, or surgeries.
I require special accommodations to take tests at school. Can FLEX help me?
All students who apply to the FLEX program regardless of physical ability or disability go through the same testing process. However, adapted tests (Braille, enlarged, etc.) are available and can be used to allow anyone to be tested. As long as a candidate is able to communicate in English (spoken, written, etc.), FLEX is able to accommodate them. Feel free to contact your local FLEX office to get more details on how you can be accommodated.
I have never traveled without my parents before and they accompany me everywhere to help me. What will happen if I become a finalist and go to America?
All FLEX participants fly from their home countries to the United States in groups with a FLEX program representative who can assist you on the international flight. In the United States all students with disabilities will first travel to MIUSA, which is an organization that specializes in helping people with disabilities and can provide advice on how to do these things in the US by yourself or with the help of your host family.
Information for finalists
Finalist status is determined in late March or early April. American Councils representatives will call each finalist and alternate candidate to notify them of their status. If you learn that you are a finalist, make sure to consult with your parents and teachers before confirming your status and accepting the scholarship.
The decision to participate in the program or not is an important one – therefore, carefully weigh all of the pluses and minuses of participation. An independent committee in Washington, DC has determined you are prepared to participate in a year-long exchange program; however, it is up to you and your parents to decide whether to participate in the program or not. The program must fit your expectations and plans for the future.
If you have decided that you want to participate on the FLEX program, you should be ready to do the following to prepare for your exchange experience:
- Maintain contact with your American Councils representativein order to receive news and information regarding preparations for your exchange year (for example, information about your host family and date of departure).
- Apply for your international passport.If you do not have an international passport, you must apply for one immediately after being notified of your status as a finalist or alternate. If you have a passport, make sure that it is valid at least until the middle of July of next year. Your American Councils representative will notify you about the deadline for submitting your international passport.
- Determine your academic standing with your home school. Meet with the director of your school to discuss how participation in the FLEX program will affect your studies in your home country – this is solely your responsibility.
- Prepare other documents, required for participation in the program, for example, your parents’ permission to travel, medical certificates and forms, academic transcript, academic agreement and others. Your American Councils representative will give you more specific information on the types of required documents and their deadlines.
- Participate in the Pre-Departure orientation (PDO). Every finalist must participate in a four-day orientation program designed to help students adapt to life as an exchange student. The orientation program usually takes place in June or July.
- Apply for a US visa.In order to participate in the FLEX program, students must receive a US visa. To apply for a US visa, students must complete a visa application form and attend a face-to-face interview at the US Embassy or Consulate. Interviews are usually scheduled to take place during the pre-departure orientation. Your American Councils representative will provide instructions on how to apply for a US visa.
- Depart for the US.In the end of June your American Councils representative will inform you of your departure date. FLEX participants travel to the US in groups accompanied by a representative of American Councils. The first group will leave for the US in the end of July, the last group will leave in the end of August. Your departure date will depend on several factors, including the start of the academic year at your American school. Whenever possible, travel arrangements are made to accommodate student arrival to the US before the start of school. FLEX participants may not choose their departure date.
If you do not have a host family several days before your scheduled departure for the US, your departure will be rescheduled for the end of August. Your American Councils representative will inform you of your new departure date.
Placement organizations strive to match each student’s interests with those of a host family. This is a complex and demanding process that requires time and attention. For this reason, you may receive information on your host family anytime between the day you receive your finalist status up until several days before your departure for the US.
In the unlikely event that your placement organization cannot find a host family and/or host school for you by the placement deadline, you will not be able to participate in the program. This has never happened in the past; however, all candidates should be aware of the possibility.
Please contact your American Councils representative for more information on the FLEX program.
- The program determines where participants will live and assigns host families. You may not choose the state, city, school, or family where you will live and study.
- The system of education in the US is very different from the system of education in Moldova. You and your parents should speak with your school director about how your participation in the program will affect your studies in Moldova. You may not return to your country earlier than the middle of next year.
- You may not return home for holidays or celebrations and your parents may visit you only with the permission of your placement organization.
- According to J-1 visa (the type of visa issued to exchange students) regulations, FLEX program participants must return home after completing the program and live in their home country for 2 years. Visa will not be extended for any reason.
As you think about whether to accept the scholarship, it is important to consider the fact that the demands of the FLEX program are quite high and participation in the program requires you to take on responsibilities and face challenges, especially in the area of relationship building.
Program participants must follow many rules during the 10-month program. To successfully complete the program, participants must be fully committed and sincerely interested in doing so. If you realize that you are not particularly interested in living in a foreign environment and fulfilling all the requirements of the program, it would be better for you to decline participation in the program now in order to avoid a stressful situation later. Declining now will give the opportunity to someone who sincerely wishes to participate.
Please give this question your serious consideration – discuss it with your parents and ask questions of your American Councils representative so that you are confident that you are making the right choice for yourself and for the FLEX program.
Information for parents
- Parents of students who have decided to participate in the FLEX program must know that both participation in the recruitment process and the acquisition of a scholarship is an open and free competition. The number of participants participating in a particular school is unlimited, and English language knowledge is not the decisive factor in the selection. The first round of the program is organized in early autumn in different localities of the country according to the program initially announced. In order to participate in the first round, the program representatives recommend preventive registration of students, but if there is no possibility or fail for some reason, the pupil can present the day the test is carried out at the center nearest to the identity card or certificate birth, picture for papers and a pen.
- Passing the child in the third round of the FLEX program is a great success for your child, this being the last and the worst stage. In addition to supporting the English language test, group activity, essay and interview, pupils also need to complete an inquiry where detailed information on health, family, extracurricular activities, school success, etc. will be provided. Some forms of investigation require the signature of a parent. Please, before signing the necessary forms to let you know about their content, understand what is written in them, and enter the correct information. In the third round of the contest, program representatives organize a meeting with the participants where they provide more details about the program, explain how to properly complete the survey and respond to questions later.
Finalist status means that your child has been selected by the special commission created for the program. In other words, this means that he won the contest and may go to study an academic year in a US school. At the time, it is very important to help your child decide whether to accept the scholarship or refuse participation. We recommend that you think very well about how the program will influence your child’s academic success if he / she can live alone in an American host family if it will not be very difficult for you to break up with you. reflected the above issues and you have decided to accept the status of a finalist, please help the child obtain an international passport and other necessary documents to be spoken by the program representative.
Until your departure to the US, your child will be invited to attend the 4-day Guidance Session (PDO) and will help the child adapt more easily to US life, understand the traditions and habits of the Americans, with the rules needed to participate in the program. The orientation session is scheduled for June to July in Chisinau and is only for the finalists, the parents will not be able to accompany them. Your child will be reimbursed the cost of the ticket to come to the PDO, a FLEX representative will meet him at the bus or rail station, drive him to the FLEX office. All participants will be provided with food and accommodation.
- Your child’s date of departure in the US will be known at the end of June. The information about the family that will host your child may arrive later, perhaps even a few days before departure, which is normal. The departure date could be changed for later if there is no host family in time. We understand that the process of waiting for information may be rather stressful and boring, however please be patient. On the eve of your departure, please help the child prepare his baggage. Please note that baggage will be carried by the child, so only pack the necessary items.
- FLEX participants will travel in groups to leave the US from the end of July to the end of August. After that, during the entire academic program, if something happens or if there are certain questions, you will be contacted by the Moldovan FLEX representative. Please make sure you provide the correct contact information and email. All participants will return home at the latest by the end of June, but not earlier than mid-May.
FLEX Moldova Program Coordinator
Phone: 0 22 22 24 16 64
FLEX Moldova Program Assistant
If you are 9th, 10th or 11th grade you are eligible for FLEX program. If you want to receive information about application, please leave your contacts and we will keep you posted.