YES in Southeast Europe Application Information

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“…they add so much to our community, exposing our local students to places they have only dreamed of someday visiting, cultures they had no idea were different from theirs. The best part is, I love these students as much as my own. They steal my heart, and never give it back. I love when they come back to visit, and when I hear from them about their accomplishments, like finishing college, and what they are doing with their lives as adults.”
-Host parent of a YES student

“I can tell as her mother how much she changed and developed as a person. She seems more responsible and mature. She had the opportunity to explore another culture by actually living with a host family, experiencing a typical American teenager life. YES not only helped her to grow as a young adult, but also I can see how American culture feels. Parents are concerned about the safety of their child in an unknown family overseas, but the host families and staff from YES and American Councils are extremely supportive and prompt. YES program was the best thing that happened
to my daughter.”
-Parent of a YES student

“I will never forget this year full of experience, especially my amazing host family…They met me not as a stranger, but with a smile on their faces. I am one the happiest people in the world, because I have another MOM in addition to my natural MOM. I am really grateful for YES and U.S. State Department for giving me this chance to make friends from all over the world and learn their cultures.”
– YES alumna

2017-18 YES BrochureWhat is the YES program?
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The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) was established by the United States Congress in October 2002 in response to the events of September 2001. Y ES is fully funded by the U.S. government and administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State. The program provides competitively selected secondary school students with a scholarship to spend a year living in the U.S. with a volunteer host family, attending a U.S. high school to foster understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries around the world.

The YES program is supported at the local level by thousands of U.S. citizens and local secondary schools that host, educate, and support students with no financial compensation.

Now in its 16th year, the YES academic year program has provided scholarships to thousands of secondary school students from many countries. More than 590 students from Southeast Europe have taken part in YES so far. In 2019-20, 81 student from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Macedonia are studying in the U.S. on the YES program.

The YES Abroad program was initiated as a reciprocal extension of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program for international students from countries with significant Muslim populations. The first group of Americans participated in YES Abroad in the 2009-2010 academic year. The program now offers many full scholarships across 12 countries to American students nationwide.

American Councils administers the YES Abroad program in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. The program was launched in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2012, in 2014 in Macedonia, and in 2016 in Bulgaria. American students live with local host families and attend high school with local peers. Students also have the opportunity to study Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS), Macedonian and Bulgarian, and to explore their host country through cultural enhancement activities conducted throughout the academic year.

YES Abroad students in all YES Abroad countries serve as “youth ambassadors” of the U.S., promoting mutual understanding by forming lasting relationships with host families and communities. Students acquire leadership skills while engaging in activities to learn about the host country’s society and values, while educating others about American society and values.

The YES Abroad program is funded by the U.S. Department of State. The program is administered by a consortium of nonprofit organizations led by American Councils and including AFS-USA, AMIDEAST, and iEARN-USA.

Who organizes the program?
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American Councils for International Education organizes recruitment, selection, orientation, and travel arrangements for the YES program. Founded in 1974, American Councils is an international non-profit organization working to improve mutual understanding between countries, exchange ideas among individuals, and enhance collaboration through education. For over 40 years, American Councils has been designing, implementing, and supporting innovative programs in the United States, Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa for tens of thousands of participants. These include several U.S. government programs for secondary school students (besides YES), university and graduate students, teachers, and professors. Many other private, non-profit organizations in the United States also support the YES program. The U.S. government has asked these organizations to place YES participants in supportive U.S. host families and to organize local activities during the year-long program.

What does the scholarship provide?
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The YES scholarship provides the following:
• Round-trip domestic and international travel (from home to the United States and back)
• Monthly allowance to help students participate in social activities and buy necessary personal supplies
• Placement with a selected and screened U.S. host family for one year
• Enrollment in a U.S. secondary school
• Program orientation activities including preprogram preparation, U.S. orientations, and re-entry preparation
• Program activities arranged in local U.S. communities
• Medical insurance, excluding pre-existing conditions and dental care

What is NOT provided?
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The YES scholarship does NOT cover the following costs:
• Any costs associated with receiving an international passport
• Personal expenses not
• covered by the monthly stipend
• Excess baggage costs
• Phone bills or internet use

2017-18 YES Brochure-2

Who is eligible to apply to the program?
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The YES scholarship competition is merit-based and open, at no cost, to applicants who meet the following requirements. Students with disabilities are invited to participate in the competition. YES finalists include students with disabilities each year. Selected students with disabilities meet the same criteria as other participants in the program. Students may only apply once to the program during a given recruitment cycle.

According to the current rules, applicants eligible to apply in fall 2019 for the school year 2020/21 will need to:

1. Be born between January  1, 2003 and July 15, 2005.

2. Meet the grade requirements set for their country.

Albania 10th or 11th grade of high school in fall 2019

Bosnia and Herzegovina 1st or 2nd year of high school in fall 2019

Bulgaria 9th or 10th grade of high school in fall 2019

Kosova 10th or 11th year of secondary school in fall 2019

Macedonia 1st or 2nd year of high school in fall 2019

3. Be enrolled in a secondary school at the time of application

4. Have an academic standing of good or better

5. Not have graduated from secondary school prior to the program start date.

6. Have previously studied English and demonstrate English language ability at the time of registration

7. Meet U.S. visa eligibility requirements

8. Be able to receive an international passport in the country where they apply to the program where they apply to the program

Students with disabilities must be enrolled in secondary school in the fall of 2019 and be born between February 15, 2002 and July 15, 2005.

Who is not eligible?
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A student is ineligible to apply if:
• S/he does not meet criteria 1-8
• S/he has stayed in the U.S. for three (3) months or more during the past five (5) years
• His/her family (or member of family):
○ Applied or is applying to emigrate to the U.S.
○ Made plans to emigrate or has already emigrated to the U.S.

When and how can I apply?
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Representatives of American Councils will visit the regions within the participating countries (excluding Bulgaria, where round 1 and 2 will take place ONLINE) to conduct testing during fall 2019. Applicants in all countries EXCEPT Bulgaria should come to the designated testing center at the time of initial registration and bring proof of eligibility (birth certificate), one recent 3×4 cm photo, and a black pen. All applicants (from countries excluding Bulgaria) will take a short English test (round 1). Those who pass the first test will write a composition in English (round 2, which usually occurs on the day after round 1).  Applicants may only participate in round 1 testing at ONE test center in fall 2019.

All applicants will take a short English test (round 1). Those who pass the first test will write a composition in English (round 2, which usually occurs on the day after round 1). Candidates must successfully complete the first two rounds of the competition before they receive final application materials, take a longer English language proficiency test, and are interviewed.

The 2020/2021 testing schedules for all Southeast Europe countries will be announced September 2019!




For more information, call +355 2235 347 or e-mail

Bosnia and Herzegovina:

Banja Luka

For more information, call 033-838-262 or e-mail Please call our office in Sarajevo for all information regarding the YES program and testing, do not call the testing locations! Call 033-838-262.

Bulgaria: ONLINE !

The open competition for YES Bulgaria will begin ONLINE in September 2019. Interested candidates who meet the eligibility requirements are invited to complete a preliminary online application located at (deadline TBD).  A selection committee will evaluate online applications and select semifinalists in November. Semifinalists will receive a longer application, take an English language proficiency test, write a composition, and be interviewed in person by American Councils staff. Applicants may apply only once online and may only take part in one interview.

For more information, call +359 87 7333013 and +359 87 9930228 or e-mail



For more information, call +381 38 226 255 or e-mail



For more information, call +389 2 30 76 522 or e-mail

How does the testing and selection process work?
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Students compete in several rounds of competition. At the semi-finalist stage, students and their parents are invited to attend an informational meeting to learn more about the program. Students then take part in an individual interview with American Councils staff, take a standardized test of English, write two more proctored essays, and receive the official program application, which is due to the local American Councils office within two weeks.

Selection will be based on merit and demonstrated preparedness for a year-long exchange experience as evidenced in students’ comprehensive
applications. English-language proficiency is important, but it is not the sole element in selection. Students also will be required to provide medical evaluations and be certified as medically fit to participate in the program.

The selection process will be completed in spring, and all applicants will receive notification of their status by mid-May. Selected finalists will attend a predeparture orientation in their home country in June-July and travel to the U.S in July-August. Students return home the following May-June. YES students must return to their home country at the end of the program, on the date assigned by American Councils. The U.S. visa issued for program participants will not be amended or extended beyond the program end date for any reason.

How will I benefit from the exchange experience?
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The YES program offers students an opportunity to learn about the people and culture of the United States. YES participants are also young
ambassadors who teach Americans about the people and culture of their countries. Students gain an appreciation for and develop sensitivity to other
cultures, experience personal growth and independence, and become better prepared for an increasingly interdependent world. Students form strong ties with their American host families and U.S. communities, building relationships that often last a lifetime. Many alumni attend prestigious
universities upon their return home, and later find exciting jobs that use skills learned during their stay in the United States.

2017-18 YES Brochure-3What should you consider before applying to YES?
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Students who are interested in this program should consider the possible
negative effects of this program:
• Will I have to repeat a year of school after returning home?
• Will I be home too late to take final school examinations/university/
institute entrance examinations? YES students return to their communities in late May and June.
• Will my university or institute defer my admission if I have already been
• Will I be required to serve in the military upon return?
• Will I be eligible to graduate with honors/receive a gold medal at my
home school?
Finally, although students attend a U.S. high school, the curriculum is
substantially different from that in other countries, and likely you will not
learn the same subject material.

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