Language Immersion Initiative allows student to travel abroad


  High school language classes are usually restricted to only a handful of choices, which improperly reflects the 71,000 languages spoken in the world.  The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) offers an opportunity to learn more than the standard handful. NSLI-Y is a government program designed for US students to learn languages and cultures that they are not commonly exposed to, through cultural immersion. Junior Kaylee Presslor found the program being shared and decided to enroll. 

   “I found NSLI-Y through TikTok, funnily enough,” said Presslor. “Someone had posted a compilation of their time in Korea, with NSLI-Y in the caption, so I looked further and I knew I had to apply.”

    NSLI-Y offers eight different unique language courses, and over 17 countries available to travel to, including a virtual program.

   “My specific scholarship is Arabic Summer,” said Presslor. “I’ll be spending seven weeks in Morocco with a host family, and 10-15 other American students.”    

   Presslor currently attends Rock Valley College full time, as a part of the school’s Running Start program. Over the summer, she will be adapting from going to college full time, to going to school in a different country. 

   “I’ll be going to school five days a week to learn Modern Standard Arabic and the local dialect Darija, as well as participating in activities coordinated by NSLI-Y, such as visiting the Sahara Desert, or learning how to cook traditional local food,” said Presslor.  

   While finding the program was easy, the application process proved to be quite the opposite. Presslor had previously applied and was accepted into the eight-week virtual scholarship that was held in 2020, since the abroad programs were canceled due to COVID-19. She applied again last year, this time opting for the in-person opportunity.

   “The initial application process was pretty daunting,” said Presslor. “It was about 20 pages of documents, and three short essays, so they could get a feel for who I was, why I wanted to study a language, and why I was a good fit for NSLI-Y. A few months later, in January, I got an email notifying me of my semi-finalist status: the next step. I submitted more papers, including a medical evaluation and a scan of my passport, and waited for my interview. After that, all I could do was wait, but on March 18, I received my finalist email.”

   After being accepted into the program, the next step is to prepare, and worry, for the upcoming opportunity. However, Presslor isn’t the one doing the most worrying about the trip.

   “My parents are definitely more concerned than I am,” said Presslor. “Thankfully I won’t be alone though, NSLI-Y flies everyone to New York City for a few days beforehand to do an orientation, and send the cohort together. It’s probably because it hasn’t totally sunk in yet, but since I generally will never be alone, I’m not scared.” 

   While this is not the first time that Presslor has traveled by plane, she is still incredibly nervous about going such a far distance.

  “When I was much younger my family went to visit my aunt in Alaska, so the long plane flight won’t be an issue, but I’m pretty terrified of going over the ocean,” said Presslor. “But honestly, my main concern is getting lost! Other than that, I trust that it’ll be okay because if it wasn’t safe the scholarship wouldn’t exist. Of course, there are precautions we have to take, such as extra vaccines, but no risk, no reward. I’m excited for this program and glad I took the risk to put myself out there and apply.”