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.

Isabel (Korean, Summer 2022), and their parent, Nuria - Puerto Rico

Isabel in Korea

“Reading about the program and all the information available at [the NSLI-Y] website, you could see how a great opportunity NSLI-Y is for that teenage kid, the one dreaming of living something awesome beyond his or her neighborhood, like my daughter Isabel. For low-income families, many times that kind of experience is only a dream or a very difficult goal to achieve. If that kid wants to learn a new language, the best way is with an immersive experience in the country of that language. […] Both of us being educators, we shut down our concerns as parents, not because they were not important, but because all the information on the website gave us the answers we were looking for.

If your son or daughter wants to learn one of the languages in the program, let them apply and have the time of a lifetime, with other teens with a similar goal. Learning a language is also the learning of a culture, its people, to understand how different they are and wonder how similar they could be, if you see close enough. [When she returned from Korea], was still my lovely daughter, but she was so proud of herself, for all the big and little things she was able to accomplish. We were and are also so proud of her too. Not only did she go alone through the TSA and customs lines for the first time, but she came back with a new, heavy, and big bag of memories, challenges won, experiences and a lot of new friendships, built on the other side of the world. […] She came back changed, for the best, with new tools to seek her goals. We as parents also developed the confidence to see her go with the maturity that she didn’t even know she had.”

Grace (Russian, Summer 2022) and their parent, Sarah – North Carolina

Grace in Kyrgyzstan

“NSLI-Y and other U.S. State Department language immersion programs for students are truly the most reputable programs in existence. These seven weeks in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan gave my daughter confirmation that learning a critical language is something that she wants to continue in college, and beyond. In that sense, the program was a huge success for Grace. The impact it had on her only reinforced her desire to study Russian abroad in Eastern Europe or Central Asia going into college next year. She gained independence, and confidence managing herself in another country. Learning 20 hours a week in Russian, meeting with her language partner frequently, and communicating in Russian with her host family were experiences that far exceed classroom learning [in the U.S.]. She will never forget this experience and it was a huge stepping stone for continued learning in college.

My daughter contracted COVID-19 while overseas; this was really the only challenge we faced as she was isolated and sick. However, she was provided excellent healthcare, regular doctor visits, and even given the opportunity to learn via zoom from the university while isolating […]”

Max (Chinese, Academic Year 2021-22) and their parent, Michael – Texas

Max drinking tea in Taiwan

“[…]Max’s major challenges were “culture shock” and homesickness. Both passed naturally in time, through a combination of some phone calls home and active engagement with his local community. Max loved having conversations with his roommates and his “host mom” in particular, and the more he engaged, the more he felt at home. […]

Max did experience a unique challenge during his trip – in fact, every parent’s worst nightmare – a medical situation that occurred overnight. Max contacted his local NSLI-Y Resident Advisor who helped him receive emergency medical care from the top healthcare facility in the country, and accompanied him every step of the way, despite it being after midnight local time. I was immediately contacted by NSLI-Y leadership in D.C. who were coordinating in real-time with the Resident Advisor, both in order to understand the situation and authorize possible treatment options. Fortunately, the issue turned out to be minor, but the entire incident absolutely demonstrated NSLI-Y’s resources, level of care, discretion, communication, and professionalism.

To put it simply, NSLI-Y was a “game changer” for Max. It gave him a much broader perspective on the world and on different types of people. He has a deeper perspective on America and into other cultures – both their similarities and differences. He learned how to live away from home in an unfamiliar environment, and came away with a real sense of accomplishment. He had his own unique set of experiences living abroad – experiences that can’t be replicated, and memories that can’t be taken away[…] By the end of the program, I would say Max was “functionally fluent” in Chinese. He placed into advanced Chinese in college, and is studying ancient Mandarin and learning to read works by Chinese philosophers like Confucius in the original [text].

[…] NSLI-Y is really the chance of a lifetime – I think the immersion experience offered by NSLI-Y is completely different and better than what one could ever get from a typical ‘study abroad’ program that one might find in college or another academic setting […] there are inevitable challenges, but the NSLI-Y program is well-designed and delivered. It’s not the first time they’ve done this. I always knew Max would be safe and looked after, and he came home a much stronger, mature, and worldly person. Max had an extremely memorable life experience and formed great and lasting relationships. It would simply be impossible to recreate."

Marcus (Chinese, Summer 2022) and their family – Florida

Marcus in Taiwan

“When he was awarded the NSLI-Y merit scholarship, he was elated. During the months of preparation, tension between China and Taiwan escalated, and we became very concerned about the potential risk of the political situation in that region. We definitely had mixed feelings, but everyone in the program reassured us and their attention to detail impressed us to the point of truly trusting NSLI-Y’s amazing team.

We are wholeheartedly grateful and impressed with the ENTIRE NSLI-Y team with whom we interfaced. Your ethical and professional standards are truly exemplary and worthy of the highest form of recognition!

The experience in the NSLI-Y program, changed our son for the better. He was a great kid and student to begin with, but the 7-week trip expanded his thought process, confidence, independence, and worldview. He learned so many life lessons, most importantly the value of freedom. […] The trip solidified his interest in wanting to major in East Asian Studies in college.”

Rachel (Arabic, Summer 2022) and their parents, Frank and Rebecca – North Carolina

Rachel in Morocco

“The biggest impact we’ve seen is in Rachel’s confidence level. While she was always a natural leader and very outgoing, this experience seems to have strengthened her in some new ways. This was not a family vacation to London or Rome. It was two months “alone” in a foreign country where the culture and language are totally different than anything she had experienced. Of course, it was a carefully supervised program, but it was also just strange enough to give her the freedom to explore new situations that could never be duplicated back home. In some ways, she came back a few years older and wiser. The overall change was both subtle and powerful.

For any families considering the NSLI program, we would say this experience was exceptional and extremely rewarding. We were never “helicopter parents” yet we were concerned about the risks as any parent might be. But the people in charge at all levels of the NSLI organization know what they’re doing and have your child’s best interests always top-of-mind. They not only deliver an amazing educational and language experience, but have anticipated almost every risk and have prepared to deal with any uncertainty. So despite the natural concern you might feel as parents, you can be assured that your child is in the best hands imaginable.

The NSLI program is a rare opportunity that is guaranteed to broaden your child’s world in many conscious and subliminal ways.”