“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”
John F. Kennedy
What is flex?
FLEX (Future Leader Exchange Students) is a scholarship funded by the U.S. Government which grants students from 21 countries ( Armenia, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine) to enroll in an American High School and spend one academic year with an american host family. The program initiated in 1993, and since then has offered the chance to more than 26,300 students to fulfill their dreams. Romania joined the FLEX family in 2016 when the program opened in gates for the first time here, and that’s when the story begun. The first year granted Romania 25 spots for eligible students to apply for, and that’s how I get linked to the U.S. fairy tale.
The one thing that makes FLEX stand out when it comes to exchange programs, is that FLEX places the emphasis on what the student does when he arrives back in his home country, therefore expecting the student to bring back new values and ideas that can better their home communities. The Flex Program places a never ending burden on its participants, making them forever responsible with wanting to make the world around them a better place. The students who come back from their one year of exchange are entering the Alumni Community which is afterwards their safe place: the place where they can find means and resources as well as helpful partners to implement their ideas and projects with, and never ending support both from the U.S. Government (grants) and from the program coordinators. The Romanian Alumni Community consists of yet 49 members, with students currently being in the states also, expected to be back in the beginning of July 2019.
Now, if you think I might have convinced you to apply let me break your heart and tell you about the eligibility section. When the fall applications open here’s what you need to tick out in order to be able to apply:
- Romanian citizenship
- Born between 15th of July 2001 and 15th of July 2004
- Are currently enrolled in either 9th, 10th or 11th grade
- Are studying English in your high school
- You qualify for a U.S. Visa and haven’t spent more than 3 months in the U.S. in the last 5 years
How do I apply
Now if these eligibility criteria has not broken your heart, that means that you are probably eligible to apply. How can you do that? SIMPLY. The application process has 3 main stages: the Online Application, the Semifinals, and the Finals.
The Online Application is a round where students have to write 3 mini-essays (topic given at the moment of completion) and upload some paper work to prove their identity. This usually happens in September/October. All of the applications are evaluated by a commission from Washington D.C. thus the country office does not have a say in who gets to be chosen and who does not.
The Semi-Finals happen when the Washington D.C. committee has chosen the best works in every country, and the kids who get selected to be semi-finalist have to show up with their parents to some informative sessions as well as participate in another testing, same to the online one, this one also involving testing the English knowledge of the student, and interviews. This time all semifinalists get a stack of paper that needs to be filled out with different matters such as: description of student, pictures, medical report, grade report, vaccines, everything that could be relevant and could affect the student’s stay in the U.S. After completing the paper work, all that is left to do is waiting until April, when the final results come.
The Final Stage consists of getting all of the finalists together, there is a Pre-Departure Orientation camp organized year by year to prepare students for their adventure, and this year luckily I even got to be a teaching assistant at Romania’s Pre Departure Orientation. Here students are given lessons day by day using only English as means of communication, both by American teachers and Alumni Teaching Assistants that choose to get involved in the Orientation, regarding American Culture, values and tips and tricks that could help them in the future.
(pictures from Pre-Departure Orientation Camp 2018)
What to do after I return home?
Get engaged! That’s right. Our Alumni Community is always open for new members bringing new ideas and concepts that can help us create and bring to life interesting and worthy projects to better the world around us. Here’s a short sneak peak from our Alumni to what it actually means to be one of us:
“For me being an alumni coordinator means helping other young people like myself take what they have learned during their exchange year and bringing it to life, it means looking for the things that we want to change in our communities and acting upon them, and it means bringing creative ideas to life through small and big projects and courageous initiatives that can bring change to our societies. It means working with young people,and for them.”Dorotheea Arustei, current Romania Alumni Coordinator