When Less is More: Embracing a Small Host School

"Well, you’ll have a very different experience from other FLEXers" - American Councils staff (recruitment partner).

Artemiy and his classmates enjoy an impromptu lunch at the Silver Diner in Waldorf, Maryland.


Very different experience, ha. I received this answer when I asked a FLEX staff member about a possible typo in my school information package. It said that my school has 50 students and 5 teachers. I couldn’t believe in it. I just couldn’t imagine a school which is so tiny.

In slightly more than a week I went to my new school for the first time. I entered a small room with approximately ten people in it. The headmistress introduced me to this group as a new exchange student in their school. I found it very strange that she was introducing me to such a small part of my school’s population. How wrong I was at that moment!

By lunch I knew that there are exactly 13 pupils at my school—a school with 13 students! I was stunned. The biggest grade at the Beddow College Preparatory School in Accokeek, Maryland is 6 students, and the smallest one has just two people. I was lucky to be somewhere in the middle, as my grade has 4 students, including me in it.

However, small doesn’t always mean less. Tiny number of students gives this school opportunity to do amazing things. Can your school spontaneously organize lunch outside your school? Mine organized it in Silver Diner on the third school day. Can you take Latin course if you’re the only person in your grade eager to do this? I can. And I am 100% sure that you didn’t know the names of every single student and teacher at your school by the end of first week.

In fact, my school isn’t small. It’s compact. And this quality opens a lot of doors for us. This week we’re going to tennis court. English teacher is full of enthusiasm to take all the students to New York to watch Broadway performance. My science teacher plans a water research of the Potomac river, which is right by my school. Such problems as deficit of school laptops and other equipment isn’t an issue here.

All in all, Beddow College Preparatory High School has a lot of pros and cons. And though I don’t have a well-defined opinion about it yet, I totally agree with American Council staff’s answer. This experience will certainly be unique for me.

The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs are distinguished U.S. Department of State youth exchange programs that provide secondary students the opportunity to live and study in the US for one academic year. Click here to learn more about hosting a student!

Back to School - Exchange Student Style!

The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs are distinguished U.S. Department of State youth exchange programs that provide secondary students the opportunity to live and study in the US for one academic year.

It’s official—back to school season has started! In the midst of meeting their new families and acclimating to life in the US, our FLEX and YES students have also started classes at US high schools. This month, we asked our students to share stories from their host schools:

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- Hira from Pakistan with her classmates during a “hands-on” Chemistry lesson at the Barrie School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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- Mohamed from Egypt celebrates victory over a rival school with his soccer teammates at Northwest High School in Jackson, Michigan.

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- Nilyufar from Tajikistan enjoys some sunshine at Earl Wooster High School in Reno, Nevada.

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- Cavit from Turkey with new friends at Annapolis High School in Annapolis, Maryland. So far, he has joined the cross country team and orchestra!

Do you want to become a part of our FLEX and YES network around the world? Click here to learn more about hosting a student!

Congratulations to Mohamed from Egypt and his teammates as they celebrate a victory on the soccer field in Michigan!

Congratulations to Mohamed from Egypt and his teammates as they celebrate a victory on the soccer field in Michigan!

Here I am with my adorable host family in my cultural dress from Chitral, Pakistan. Dresses, caps and Dupattas are the cultural gifts which I bought for my family. I have no words to describe my happiness when they tried on all the dresses and came out to show me!
I definitely am having a great time in the States with my host family. So thanks to the YES program for providing me the platform, and my placement organization (WL) for choosing such a perfect family and high school for me!
-Hira from Pakistan with her host sister in Washington, DC

Here I am with my adorable host family in my cultural dress from Chitral, Pakistan. Dresses, caps and Dupattas are the cultural gifts which I bought for my family. I have no words to describe my happiness when they tried on all the dresses and came out to show me!

I definitely am having a great time in the States with my host family. So thanks to the YES program for providing me the platform, and my placement organization (WL) for choosing such a perfect family and high school for me!

-Hira from Pakistan with her host sister in Washington, DC

Hot pancakes made by all… FIRST AMERICAN BREAKFAST!!!
-Reza from Indonesia enjoys his first American breakfast with his host family in Michigan

Hot pancakes made by all… FIRST AMERICAN BREAKFAST!!!

-Reza from Indonesia enjoys his first American breakfast with his host family in Michigan

How beautiful is my school?
-Reza, from Indonesia at Northwest High School in Michigan

How beautiful is my school?

-Reza, from Indonesia at Northwest High School in Michigan

What Would You Tell a Future Exchange Student??

The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs are distinguished U.S. Department of State youth exchange programs that provide secondary students the opportunity to live and study in the US for one academic year.

World Learning’s FLEX and YES alumni network includes 59 students living in 10 countries around the world. This summer, alumni from 2012-13 and 2013-14 volunteered to share their wisdom with students preparing for their journey to the US! Keep reading to see some of the photos, videos, and stories our Alumni Engagement Leaders shared from their time in the US!

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Zarrina, ’12-‘13 FLEX alumna (Washington, DC), from Tajikistan recently received a FLEX alumni grant in order to start her eco-project “Be Green, Be AMAZing”. The project aims to raise awareness of environmental issues in in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Zarrina,For me, FLEX is about making friends and finding a new home across the Earth. It’s also a huge network of alumni who always will understand you and help.”

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Daryna, ’12-‘13 FLEX alumna (Kalamazoo, MI) from Ukraine, “You will have an amazing experience in the US, so be ready for many adventures! Don’t be shy, communicate to as many new people as possible… get involved in different projects and have some fun! Show your interest in learning American culture and do not forget to teach them about your home country as well, show how friendly you are, keep smiling and be not afraid of asking questions! Remember, that you will never have a chance to live the moment twice, so enjoy it from the very first minute, right at the airport.

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Adina, ’12-‘13 FLEX alumna (Kalamazoo, MI) from Kazakhstan, “It has been 1 year since I came back home. I am studying foreign philology, which includes two foreign languages: English and French. I still remember all the events and emotions that I had before FLEX, like waiting for any information about my future host family to come, becoming more independent, overcoming homesickness, and finally being able to say goodbye to all friends that I had met in the end. I am so happy that you are going to America and I want to tell you that you are so lucky. You should be proud of yourself, since not everybody can pass FLEX/YES, there is high selection process. But now the real challenge begins. You know most of the experience that you are going to get depends on you! You need to make an effort to meet new people, tell them about your country, not to be afraid to ask questions! If I had a second chance to go to the USA, I would definitely do it!”

Do you want to become a part of our FLEX and YES community around the world? Click here to learn more about hosting a student!

What Can Host Families Look Forward to This Year?

The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs are distinguished U.S. Department of State youth exchange programs that provide secondary students the opportunity to live and study in the US for one academic year.

Our incoming FLEX and YES students coming from 15 countries around the world participated in bi-weekly Social Media Challenges, posting photos and videos related to the following themes: introduce yourself, share your home culture, and prepare for your departure. The students enjoyed learning about different countries, and increased their cultural understanding prior to arrival in the US! Below are some highlights from our “share your home culture” Social Media Challenge:

Alika, 15 years old from Ukraine, is looking forward to teaching her host family and classmates in the US about Ukrainian culture. “One thing I want to teach my host family and my classmates in the US is how to decorate Easter eggs in Ukrainian style with national patterns.”

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Iryna, 15 years old from Ukraine, wants to share her passion for  handmade gifts for her host family and classmates in the US. “I always present such things to my family and friends. It’s my favorite work to do this design things!!”

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Polina, 16 years old from Russia, “I want to teach my host family Russian language (at least its basics). I know that our language can be hard for foreign learners but I want to try. And may be by the end of the year we will be able to have small conversations or sing beautiful Russian famous songs together”.

What other benefits can you expect from hosting one of our students? Click here to learn more about becoming a host family.

Let Your Tastebuds Travel the World!

The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs are distinguished U.S. Department of State youth exchange programs that provide secondary students the opportunity to live and study in the US for one academic year.

Learn more about different cultures and cuisines around the world by peeking into the kitchens of our FLEX and YES students:

Our incoming FLEX and YES students coming from 15 countries around the world participated in bi-weekly Social Media Challenges, posting photos and videos related to the following themes: introduce yourself, share your home culture, and prepare for your departure. The students enjoyed learning about different countries, and increased their cultural understanding prior to arrival in the US. Below are some of the delicious highlights from our “share your home culture” Social Media Challenge:

Polina, 16 years old from Russia, “This is one of the most famous Russian dishes - blini (or blinchiki). It is a type of pancake and usually people eat them for breakfast. You can eat them with jam, honey, condensed milk, sugar or anything else what comes to your mind.”

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Rutbi, 15 years old from India, “Dal is lentils and baati is a sort of bread made from wheat flour…We eat it by taking out the soft part from inside the bread and by mixing it with ghee, dal and onion. And the remaining hard part can be eaten by filling it up with dal and onion.”

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Cavit, 16 years old from Turkey, “Doner is the most known Turkish food. It is amazingly delicious!! Doner meat, special sauce, yogurt and melted butter. I suggest you to try it.”

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Alika, 15 years old from Ukraine, “The most famous food in our country and a lot of people associate Ukraine with red borshch. I love it!!!”

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Artemiy, 16 years old from Russia, “These are traditionally cooked on Easter. Bliny is a wonderful everyday meal because it’s not so difficult to cook and easy to diversify. A filling for Bliny can be caviar, chocolate, meat, cottage cheese, ham &cheese etc.”

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Would you like to explore unique cuisines, and share your interests with a young leader from another country? Click here to learn more about hosting one of our students!

Want an insider’s look into hosting an international exchange student? This host family shares what hosting an U.S. Department of State student is all about!