What is the FLEX program?
The FREEDOM Support Act (FSA) was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1992 to extend a hand of friendship from the people of the United States of America to the people of Eurasia (countries of the former Soviet Union). Today the program is called the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX). The FLEX program is administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The FLEX program aims to improve mutual understanding between our countries by allowing young citizens of Eurasia and Europe to have the opportunity to observe and experience our way of life for an academic year while attending a U.S. high school and living with a U.S. host family.
The FLEX program is the first long-term comprehensive program for 11th grade school students. During its 27 years of existence, the FLEX program has provided scholarships to more than 26,000 high school students. About 1,000 Azerbaijani students have studied in the United States through this program.
Secondary school students with disabilities are invited to participate in the competition. Some students with disabilities are invited to the U.S. under this program each year. In the past, students with visual, hearing and motor impairments have participated in the program.
What does the scholarship provide?
The FLEX scholarship provided to senior 11th grade school students include the following:
- Round-trip between home town and the host town in the U.S;
- A monthly stipend that allows students to participate in social life and purchase personal items;
- Placement of the participant in the selected family for one year;
- Admission to secondary schools;
- Participate in an orientation program, including pre- and post-departure;
- Organization of various events in the United States;
- Insurance, excluding pre-existing illnesses before coming to the United States and dental care
What does the scholarship does not provide?
The FLEX scholarship provided to senior 11th grade school students does not include the following:
- Obtaining an international passport;
- Excess or overweight baggage costs;
- Expenses related to telephone conversations with the home country and Internet usage;
- Travel with U.S. host family and/or U.S. friends.
Why does the U.S. government fund this program?
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 all over the world need to know as much as possible about each other and other people and nations.
Since the end of World War II, youth exchange has become a well-known and accepted concept among many nations. Exchange grew out of a desire for countries and their people to understand other nations and cultures at a deeper level. 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 can participate in the program?
The selection of students to study in the US under the FLEX program is open competition and participants do not incur any costs.
Every Azerbaijani student who wants to participate in the competition must meet the following requirements:
- Students currently enrolled in 11th grade, having an academic standing of good or better and studying English;
- Eligible to receive a U.S. visa;
- Students who have NOT spent more than three months in the U.S. in the last 5 years;
- Citizens of Azerbaijan.
Who cannot participate in the competition?
- Does not meet the criteria;
- Anyone whose family has applied or intends to immigrate to the United States.
How are students selected?
The selection process for the program is held from September to December in test centers located in different regions of Azerbaijan. The selection process consists of three rounds:
Round 1: Test in English;
Round 2: Essays in English;
Round 3: Meeting with participants and their parents, standard English test, essay, group activity, interview and application.
Finalists and alternates were selected by independent panels of experienced educators in the U.S. Merit-based selection was based on a complete and comprehensive application; teacher references; English language proficiency; and a clearance on health status. All applications were evaluated against established and consistent criteria.
What are the benefits of participating in the program?
The FLEX program gives students the opportunity to learn about the people and culture of the United States, as well as to introduce others to their countries and cultures. Students will learn to appreciate and understand other cultures, to develop relations between the two countries, which will help us to get to know each other better, to learn about the traditions and outlook of our countries.
The exchange program will be beneficial to both American and Azerbaijani society. Students from Azerbaijan, FLEX Fellows, and “young ambassadors” will share their culture with others in the United States, and when they return home, they will share about some aspects of American culture.
What challenges can occur?
Students interested in this program should also be aware of the possible disadvantages of participating in the exchange:
- You may be late to take the university entrance exams;
- If you were admitted to a university / institute before going to the United States, the university / institute may not grant you academic leave;
- You may be called up for military service immediately upon your return;
- The curriculum of US secondary schools differs significantly from the curricula of Azerbaijan. You may be taking classes in the United States that are completely different from those in your country’s school curriculum.
Who is responsible for administering the program?
American Councils for International Education: ACTR / ACCELS organizes the competition, the selection of candidates, and the orientation program. American Councils for International Education: ACTR / ACCELS is a humanitarian organization. We operate in the United States, Eastern Europe, Eurasia and the Balkans.
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