Four alumni of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) exchange program stopped by the State Department to share their experiences abroad and their plans for the future. The four were part of a larger group of sixteen competitively-selected NSLI-Y Alumni Representatives, who were in DC for training to develop their leadership and organizational skills to plan regional alumni activities for 2017. Now part of the International Exchange Alumni community, they spoke about how their time overseas made them more globally-minded and sparked their interest in language learning and global affairs and cultures.
Angela, from a limited-income family in Florida, never dreamed that she would study Chinese in China. Her hometown of Orlando has limited Chinese language study resources. Although she grew up in a bilingual family, Angela had a strong desire to learn a new language. When she read about the NSLI-Y program on the Internet, she immediately knew she had to apply. And once accepted, she eagerly began planning her trip. “I had only been on an airplane once before, so just the trip to the airport and being on an airplane was exciting,” she said. Angela worked hard on learning the language, but also took an affinity to the culture and took every chance she could to learn from her host family and peers. While in China, Angela jumped at the chance to attend a traditional Chinese wedding, since many Chinese couples today choose more modern ceremonies.
Andy, of the Philadelphia area, had studied Chinese in his school prior to his NSLI-Y experience in Hangzhou, China. He shared that the NSLI-Y experience allowed him to excel in his language abilities. Further, he noted that the immersion experience allowed him to more deeply empathize with his parents about their experience as immigrants in the U.S from Vietnam. He continues to study Chinese in his first year at University of Pennsylvania. Andy has promoted the NSLI-Y programs to several high schools in the Philadelphia-area.
Another NSLI-Y participant, Elise, from Georgia, studied Arabic in Morocco. She was amazed to learn of the Arab, Amazigh, Spanish, French and other influences on Moroccan culture. Elise plans to study as many languages as she can in preparation for an internationally-focused career.
NSLI-Y participant, Deni, shared that his parents were nervous about him going to the Middle East, but Deni said he felt safe throughout his exchange. He bonded with his host family and returned to the United States with an intermediate level of Arabic and enthusiasm for continuing his studies in Arabic, learning more about the Middle East, and supporting refugees in the U.S. The NSLI-Y Alumni Representatives are all busy planning activities for 2017, including organizing career-focused events for alumni in their geographical areas and making presentations about NSLI-Y to potential applicants.
To learn more about the program, including application deadlines, check out: https://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/nsliy