Frequent Asked Questions


Are non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents, eligible for YES Abroad?

All YES Abroad participants must be U.S. citizens.

Timeline and Preparation

When can I apply for YES Abroad?

The 2024-2025 program is no longer accepting new applicants. Register here to be notified when the 2025-2026 application becomes available.

Sample Application and Text

You can view the 2023-2024 application here.

What happens once applications are submitted?

After submission, all complete and eligible YES Abroad applications will be evaluated by a Scholarship Review Committee, and the contact details of each applicant will be shared with an AFS-USA coordinator. Coordinators will contact applicants to share interview schedule details for December, January, or early February. Applicants will be notified of their selection status on a rolling basis in March. Applicants selected as Finalists will be notified of their country assignment, as well as their next steps and follow-up responsibilities. Some applicants will be notified of Alternate status. Alternates remain eligible for a Finalist position, should a Finalist be unable to participate in the program.

Travel and Visas

How will I receive a visa?

Participants who accept Finalist status during the selection phase will be provided with visa application instructions from the administering organization. Please keep in mind that the visa requirements are determined by the host country’s government. It is common for the visa application process to require applicants to obtain several notarized copies of official documents for the participant and natural parents, such as the birth certificate, immunization certificates, and school documentation.

Most host countries also require that participants submit their passports either directly to the Embassy/Consulate or to their administering organization for group processing. Please note that this commonly requires participants to be without their passports for over a month during the spring and/or summer prior to departure. Finalists are required to obtain a visa on a timeline that facilitates travel with the international departure of the YES Abroad country group to participate in the YES Abroad program.

The governments of some host countries additionally require that the student’s parents/guardians also submit their passports as part of the student’s visa application process. In this case, parents/guardians would also be without their passports during the visa application process. Additionally, parents/guardians without currently valid passports may need to apply for a passport with expedited processing immediately upon scholarship selection notification. Delays with a parent/guardian passport application could jeopardize the student’s ability to obtain a visa in time to participate.


What is the YES Abroad program about?

The YES Abroad program is a cultural exchange between the U.S. and countries with significant Muslim populations. YES Abroad participants live with a host family and attend a local school, promoting mutual understanding between the United States and the host country by forming lasting relationships with their host families and friends.

What are the goals for participants in the YES Abroad program?

YES Abroad program goals are to:

  • Enable students to positively and accurately represent their experience as Americans and breakdown stereotypes in their host communities through daily interactions
  • Promote mutual understanding between the United States and YES Abroad countries by providing the opportunity for students to form lasting relationships with their host families and friends
  • Develop the necessary skills for students to be leaders in the global community
Who runs the YES Abroad program?

The YES Abroad program is administered in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs by a consortium of organizations led by American Councils for International Education in partnership with AFS-USA, Inc., the American-Mideast Educational and Training Services, Inc. (AMIDEAST), and the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN).

How are YES Abroad countries selected, and how are participants matched with a country?

The YES Abroad countries are identified and selected in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and in-country embassies. Country assignment for students selected as Finalists is made by the YES Abroad staff, and is based on matching cultural characteristics of the YES Abroad host countries with a review of the written application and the findings of the selection evaluators. While applicants indicate their countries of preference during the application process, YES Abroad applicants should be open to any of the YES Abroad countries. Those applicants selected as Finalists will receive their country assignment at the time of Finalist notification.

Within the host country, the YES Abroad host communities are selected by local in-country staff, who confer with the U.S. Embassy in-country. Host communities range from small villages, to suburban, to urban settings.

How can I begin and access my in-progress application? How do I complete my application?

During the application period, applicants may click “How to Apply” on the homepage to be taken to the online application. Applicants having trouble logging in should click “forgot my username or password” and follow the instructions to have your password sent to you. If you have not yet started an application for the YES Abroad program, select the “Sign Up” button. If you are having issues creating or accessing your application, you may contact the YES Abroad team at 1-800-237-4636 ext. 2151 or [email protected].

Once you've logged into your account and entered the YES Abroad application, review the list of application sections. The status of your progress on each application section is indicated in this list. Click an application section to access it.

Once you’ve completed every section of the YES Abroad application and carefully reviewed each section, click the “submit application” button. If you are unable to submit your application due to a missing information error, click the “missing information” button to review any missing required information. Completing this information will allow you to submit your application.

Your application will not be considered complete until one educator has submitted his/her recommendation form by following the instructions that you give them in the form of the "Recommender Instructions" PDF found on the Recommendation page of your application. Applicants should download this letter from the “Recommendations” section of the application. Applicants may inquire about the status of their recommendation letter at any time by contacting the YES Abroad team at 1-800-237-4636 ext. 2151 or [email protected].

How will applicants be contacted?

The YES Abroad team communicates with applicants and their families using the email addresses provided in the application. Applicants should be sure to correctly enter their primary email address, as well as that of their parents or guardians. To modify an email address after submitting your application, please contact the YES Abroad team.

Does the YES Abroad program welcome my application regardless of my ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, auditory/visual/motor disability?

The YES Abroad program welcomes applications from all U.S. citizens regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, geographic location, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The program encourages applications from all who are eligible, and seeks to support all applicants in the United States and participants while overseas.

YES Abroad staff are available to answer questions, talk through concerns, and provide guidance on safety and security. In addition to topics that the program addresses in detail during various pre-departure sessions, it is important for applicants and participants to educate themselves about the laws and social customs of host countries. Applicants are advised that each YES Abroad country has its own laws, social customs, and norms that the program cannot change. YES Abroad staff expects our participants to exercise sound judgment. If you have questions or concerns about applying for YES Abroad, you are encouraged to contact the YES Abroad staff at [email protected].

How does YES Abroad handle the personal health information of participants?

The YES Abroad program follows guidelines set for in the federal law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. If you are selected as a finalist, we will provide you with details about how the program is implemented and information shared across host countries. In the meantime, you can read more in our Notice of Privacy Practices here.

What would my host family be like?

Host families are carefully selected by local in-country staff and volunteers. Host families come in every shape and size, much like the natural families of our participants. Sleeping accommodations could involve sharing a room with a host sibling of the same gender or having your own room. A participant will always have his/her own bed.

For participants, host families are at the core of the YES Abroad program. Participants form lasting bonds with their host families and learn how to integrate into the local community from them.

What would I do at my host school?

YES Abroad participants are expected to attend school just as local students do --brief exceptions may be made if participants are engaged in a cultural enrichment activity organized by their host organization, such as a visit to a site of historical significance, or a program orientation.

YES Abroad participants are required to give their very best effort at school work, classroom participation, and integration, keeping in mind that classes may be administered in a language that is new to the student. The YES Abroad program is not a travel program, but rather participants are to focus on cultural integration into the host community, host school, and host family.

As the curricula of local schools vary from one region to the next within the host country, it’s likely that participants won’t know which classes they’ll take until they arrive in-country. The most common subjects are math, science, language, and humanities. To facilitate a daily classroom environment, YES Abroad participants who are 17 years of age or older during the program should be prepared to be placed in class with students one to two years younger than they are, as local schools may expect local participants at that age to be preparing themselves for their end of school exams, rather than attending daily courses.

All participants are expected to give their very best efforts at academic achievement, especially once any necessary language skills have been developed. While language skills are developing, participants are expected to use their time in classes where they don't understand the content as a language lab, working to immerse themselves in the daily use of the language. This includes any participants who may be of graduate status when the program begins. Graduate status participants are generally asked to sign an Academic Commitment Form, indicating their intent to perform academically regardless of their graduate status.

Will I be able to take part in extracurricular activities, such as music lessons or sports while on-program?

The availability of extracurricular activities in-country varies by country and by region within the host country. In many cases, such activities aren’t managed through the school system, but may be available through independent youth clubs. While joining extracurricular activities can be a great way to integrate into the host community, YES Abroad participants with a career or long-term focus on such activities should keep in mind that access to specific activities and facilities cannot be guaranteed.

What is the Capstone project?

The YES Abroad Capstone is a component of the YES Abroad program that provides participants with an opportunity to explore and develop a deeper understanding of their host culture or community through development of an independent project. Students are free to select a relevant project topic and medium, and upon their return to the United States, YES Abroad participants share their projects with their home communities, family, and friends to provide a window into their host culture. Read more about the Capstone and examples from previous years here.

Would I earn credit at my school in the United States and will it affect my graduation date?

Whether credit will be granted to a home institution for participation in the YES Abroad program is completely at the discretion of the home institution where the participant is seeking credit, which is generally the home high school of the YES Abroad participant.

Participants should not expect that academic work performed at the YES Abroad host institution will transfer home. The YES Abroad team recommends that YES Abroad applicants meet with a representative of the home institution where he/she may be seeking credit (such as a high school counselor) during the early phase of the application process to discuss any timeline the applicant may have, such as graduation as well as possible credit transfer options.

May I return home during the program?

YES Abroad students remain on the program in the host country for the duration of the program. Returns home for any reason, such as weddings, graduations, family events, home academic requirements, and college orientations are not permitted. Exceptions are only made for natural family emergencies, which are decided by the administering organization in collaboration with the program sponsor, on a case-by-case basis.

What would happen in an emergency?

The safety of our participants is the number one priority of YES Abroad staff and partners. Local in-country staff confers with the U.S. Embassy in-country regarding the host region. Host families are carefully selected by local staff and volunteers. Students are provided with emergency contact information for in-country and in the United States, and are loaned a basic mobile phone for emergency use, which is covered by the YES Abroad program. Emergency contact numbers in-country and in the U.S. are staffed by administering organization staff.

How emergencies are handled depends very much on the circumstances. In the case of civil unrest in the host country, for example, the administering organization works closely with the in-country U.S. Embassy and the Department of State in Washington, D.C. to determine an action plan. If necessary, students may be removed from the host community and returned to the United States at the discretion of the U.S. Department of State. Students are also registered in the U.S. Department of State's Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important information from the Embassy in case of emergency.

Just as young adults must exercise sound decision making in the United States, the YES Abroad administering organization depends on the participants to exercise sound decision making while participating in the YES Abroad program. Required pre-departure and in-country orientations are designed to provide participants with the tools necessary to know what represents sound decision making in the host country and host community. More information can be found here.

What is it like to learn a language through immersion?

Learning a language through immersion in the host country is likely different from how applicants have learned a language previously. The YES Abroad program covers initial language lessons, as coordinated in-country by the administering organization. While this will assist participants with the basics, participants should be prepared to make great efforts at learning the language of the host community. Learning the language as quickly as possible is important in working to meet the program goals of integrating into the host family, host community, and host school. Participants should be prepared to work at learning the language through the immersion process, but also through whichever learning method works best for them at home, such as memorizing vocabulary and language structure with the assistance of a workbook or flash-cards.

What does the scholarship cover, and what are some common costs not covered by the program?

The YES Abroad scholarship program provides the following for participants:

  • Domestic round-trip airfare as well as room and board for the National Pre-Departure Orientation
  • Round-trip airfare between the participant’s domestic home region and host community abroad
  • In-country support, cultural activities, and school tuition (where applicable)
  • Room and board with a host family
  • Emergency accident and sickness coverage in the host country
  • Host country visa fees
  • Re-entry orientation at the scheduled conclusion of the program, as well as membership in “International Exchange Alumni,” the Department of State’s exchange alumni network, which includes access to relevant resources and professional contacts are also provided
  • A modest monthly stipend, reflective of typical costs that would be seen in the host country is also provided. This stipend covers costs associated with the student’s basic needs while in their host country
  • Cell phone while on program

Common costs that are not covered by the YES Abroad program include:

  • Costs associated with obtaining a valid U.S. passport in time for the host country visa application process. This passport must expire no earlier than six months after the scheduled program end date. As noted in the “how will I receive a visa” question above, the governments of some host countries additionally require that the student’s parents/guardians also submit their passports as part of the student’s visa application process. In this case, parents/guardians without currently valid passports would need to apply for and receive passports in a timely manner for the student’s visa application.
  • Required medical examinations and immunizations
  • Pocket spending money for personal expenses above and beyond basic needs
What language is commonly spoken by my host family and in my host school?

Please start a YES Abroad application and see the “Country Preferences” section of the application for information about language of instruction and typical host family languages spoken in each YES Abroad country.

How does YES Abroad differ from other U.S. State Department youth exchange programs?

The YES Abroad program focuses on meaningful cultural exchange with diverse global communities. Participants promote mutual understanding, break down stereotypes, and foster long-lasting ties with their host families, host schools, and host communities. Our participants are excited to dive into new and different cultures, step outside of their comfort zones, and work to build relationships within their host communities. With such a diversity of countries included in the program, every participant’s experience is unique. Take a look at our participant stories and follow us on Instagram and Facebook for a look at the daily life experiences of our participants!

YES Abroad is not a language-learning program, though most host countries immerse participants in a language other than English, and all programs include a language learning component to help participants communicate within their community. Participants need to show especially strong flexibility and adaptability – our sole program duration is approximately ten months, and students are carefully matched with one of our host countries during the selection process, rather than applying for any specific country.

The YES Abroad program is a reciprocal extension of the YES program, which brings hundreds of students from the YES Abroad countries (and many more) to the U.S. each year. We look forward to seeing your application, and would be happy to learn more about your interest in the program! Reach out to us at [email protected], and register to be informed when the application opens on our How to Apply page.