To ensure the safety of students, teachers, and staff amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) chose to make its summer program virtual for all countries except Korea. The NSLI-Y Virtual Summer Intensive (VSI) program of 2021 was a virtual alternative to NSLI-Y's standard summer programming that aimed to provide an intensive virtual language learning experience for NSLI-Y students.

In spite of the distance, NSLI-Y students were able to immerse themselves in the artforms of their host countries all while practicing their target language. As they made matryoshki and created calligraphy, students' artistic sides shone through.

Keep reading to see students' artistic creations from this past summer!

Images of batik created by NSLI-Y students
Images from the batik-creating process

NSLI-Y Indonesian students learned more about Indonesian culture through a Batik project. The students were each delivered a Batik kit in the mail with which they followed the instructions, watched tutorial videos produced by their teachers, and created their own Batik patterns. Students began the Batik-creating process by first completing an assignment about the history of the artform and the technique. They learned about traditional Batik patterns and selected one of these patterns to create the traditional design or they worked to create their own unique pattern with a special significance.

Images of NSLI-Y Russian students and their matryoshki

NSLI-Y Russian students in the Estonia and Kazakhstan cohorts gathered for a virtual tutorial on painting matryoshki, traditional Russian nesting dolls. Participants viewed an asynchronous recording of an artist from Moldova, who provided information on the cultural significance of matryoshki and step-by-step demonstrations of traditional painting techniques. While some students followed the traditional painting template, many were inspired by their knowledge of Russian history and culture and produced a variety of creative interpretations, including a Romanov dynasty-inspired set, a Putin matryoshka, and avant-garde designs.

Image of NSLI-Y Persian students and their artistic creations

NSLI-Y Persian students participated in a masterclass with a local artist. The class was broadcasted directly from the art teacher’s studio in Dushanbe where his own art was hanging on the walls. Students’ vocabulary about classroom objects and colors was put to the test as the instructor led students through an activity that involved drawing and painting. At the end of the session, the art teacher thanked students for their participation and invited them to his studio when they can visit Dushanbe.


NSLI-Y Arabic participants attended an Arabic calligraphy workshop. The participants were very involved in learning how to write words and sentences, all in Roq’a calligraphy style. Practicing calligraphy was a great opportunity for students to experience a famous and historic art form and learn more about Moroccan culture.

image of a person holding up Warli art to show to the camera

A guest speaker conducted a workshop on Warli painting, an Indian tribal artform, for NSLI-Y students. The students participated enthusiastically and learned the symbols and figures of Warli art and had the opportunity to create their own art as well.

An image of NSLI-Y Turkish students showing off their artistic creations on a Zoom call

NSLI-Y Turkish students learned about Turkish cinema and how it relates to cultural production and politics within Turkey during their final cultural activity. For their last peer partner meeting, students were able to put on a talent show for their partners, sharing talents such as needle-point embroidery and chess playing.