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Azerbaijani Students Return from Prestigious Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program as Engaged Alumni


On July 23, 16 Azerbaijani students reunited at a seminar to conclude their year-long experience in the United States through the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, a highly competitive, merit-based U.S. government-sponsored scholarship that sends several Azerbaijani high school students to the United States to live with a volunteer American host family and attend a U.S. high school.  The program was created from the belief of former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley that the best way to ensure long-lasting peace and mutual understanding between the United States and the countries of Eurasia was through intercultural exchange opportunities.


Cultural Affairs Officer Salman Haji welcomed the returning students and congratulated them for spending a year outside their comfort zones and being ambassadors of Azerbaijan in their American host families, schools, and communities. “Exchange programs like FLEX are part of our commitment to building stronger connections between Azerbaijanis and Americans,” he said in his remarks.  “You now join the ranks of thousands of other Azerbaijani alumni of our exchange programs that have returned as leaders in their communities.”


This year, the FLEX program celebrates its 30th anniversary in Azerbaijan.  Since 1993, over 1000 Azerbaijani students have studied in all 50 states.  While in the United States, FLEX students gain leadership skills, learn about American society and values, and teach Americans about their home countries and cultures.  FLEX students perform community service in their U.S. communities and act as ambassadors of their home countries. Many are inspired by this spirit of volunteerism to develop and implement innovative projects in their home countries, using the skills and ideas they gained while on program.


The U.S. Embassy and implementing organization American Councils for International Education conduct a rigorous selection process, through a comprehensive application, three rounds of testing, and interviews.  Ideal candidates need to have a strong academic background, ability to adapt and thrive in new environments, and a desire to inspire positive change in their communities by being involved as leaders in extracurricular activities.  Being fluent in English is not a prerequisite to becoming a finalist: if an applicant has demonstrated characteristics that make him/her suitable to become a finalist, but that applicant’s level of English is not sufficient, he or she may be eligible to receive supplemental language instruction.  Students with disabilities are also welcome and encouraged to participate in FLEX: there are over 300 FLEX alumni who are visually or hearing impaired.


The U.S. Embassy and American Councils for International Education also work together with FLEX participants to support them on the program and as alumni through language study, mentorship, leadership development, and internship opportunities.


The next recruitment and selection cycle for the FLEX program will begin in early August.  Interested applicants must submit their applications no later than October 10, 2023.  More information can be found at discoverflex.org and on social media at FLEX Azerbaijan.