As the NSLI-Y program decided that not all programs will restart in-person for Summer '22, Russia, China, and a few other locations will not be implementing the programs. RAF and the Academy plan on continuing to advocate strongly for those programs to return for Summer '23. Due to the nature of BBASI programs returning to a Mon-Fri full-day schedule, unfortunately, a Virtual NSLI-Y option is not possible for this summer. With that said, we will continue to offer free Russian language at all of our programs and look forward to creating other opportunities.
NSLI-Y Russian Language & Culture RAF & Bolshoi Way
For the twelfth year in a row, the Russian American Foundation was selected as an implementing organization for the highly prestigious NSLI FOR YOUTH Scholarships to Study Language Abroad Program.
This acclaimed full-scholarship program allows RAF to send academically high-achieving students of ballet to Moscow on a unique experience that combines Russian language instruction, cultural immersion, and ballet training at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. The NSLI FOR YOUTH program recognizes participants’ academic merit and interest in Russian language and culture. No prior Russian language experience is necessary to be considered.
Candidates must be enrolled and in good standing at all times in the 2021 BBASI NY Program. RAF's NSLI-Y Program immediately follows the first 3-week BBASI NY session.
RAF’s NSLI-Y Program combines RAF’s mission of promoting non-partisan bilateral dialogue and the goals of the NSLI FOR YOUTH program, as relating to Russia:
To improve the ability of Americans to engage with the people of Russian-speaking countries through shared language
To develop a cadre of Americans with advanced linguistic skills and related cultural understanding who are able to use their linguistic and cultural skills to advance international dialogue and compete effectively in the global economy
To spark a lifetime interest in foreign languages and cultures among American youth
Read about the experience from RAF's NSLI-Y Alumni:
For comprehensive details about the general NSLI FOR YOUTH program, visit the official NSLI-Y website. For answers to some of the questions we received from you, click on this Ask Us Anything Page. For additional information regarding RAF’s NSLI-Y Program, visit the FAQ Page.
“I can’t stress enough how important these exchanges are in building a strong relationship between our countries… These exchanges provide academic opportunities for students in all fields. But indirectly, they also help to undermine stereotypes."
-- Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia
NSLI FOR YOUTH, a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students and recent high school graduates to learn less commonly taught languages.
The NSLI-Y RAF & Bolshoi Way program offers a unique opportunity to acquire Russian language skills, cultural competency, and augment one’s ballet training through in-class language instruction, authentic cultural activities, host family stays, and ballet training at
Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Weekday language classes, 4 hours/day, and individual assignments provide a formal environment for participants to study Russian language. In-class instruction is supplemented by off-site activities designed to increase participants’ knowledge of the culture, society, and people of modern-day Russia. RAF’s program is unique as participants also train 3 hours/day with teachers at the world-renowned Moscow State Academy of Choreography (MGAKh), known as the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
During the week, participants reside in the dormitories of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. On weekends, participants live with host families where they have the opportunity to become immersed in the rich Russian traditions, practice their linguistic skills, and experience local culture firsthand. Host families often take participants to city sites, parks, markets, and even to the dacha (a weekend summer house in the outskirts of the city). They also involve participants in family events and traditions such as cooking, birthday celebrations, movie nights, and other events and activities that are part of local life.
The nature of the NSLI-Y program encourages participants to explore the city of Moscow on their own, in addition to the cultural program organized by RAF. Some of the opportunities provided by RAF in previous years have included:
Meeting with foreign service officers at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow
Masterclasses and gallery tours with world-renowned Russian artists
Performances of Moscow’s theaters and ballet companies
Restaurant outings for authentic Russian cuisine
Participants strive to succeed both academically, by improving their language skills, and culturally, by gaining an understanding and appreciation for their host country. Participants are expected to fully immerse themselves in the local experience and will not be allowed to participate in any academic work for their U.S. school while abroad. Participants should also be prepared to demonstrate open-mindedness, flexibility, and initiative in negotiating the cross-cultural environment, including conditions and circumstances significantly different from those in their home country. NSLI FOR YOUTH is a rigorous program and participants should expect to have homework and exams.
Location and On-Program Supervision
Moscow is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. Similar to New York, it is a big city and, therefore, regular awareness, common sense, and caution are expected from all participants at all times. All Participants in the Program are expected to be mature and responsible, be able to function independently, understand the inherent risks involved in overseas travel, understand the rigorous nature of the Program, and comply with all rules, laws, and regulations of the Program and the overseas host country and hosts.
In addition to organized and chaperoned activities, participants are encouraged to explore Moscow on their own. Attendance at all Program activities and adherence to the curfew is mandatory. The Resident Advisor will accompany the group on the overseas trip, will reside with the group at the Academy residency, and will be available to participants for overall guidance and 24/7 emergency assistance. Resident Advisor will not accompany participants during their free time, individual activities, and/or during their stays at host families.
The Bolshoi Ballet Academy is located in the heart of Moscow, with sites like Red Square, Old Arbat, Gorky Park, and many others easily accessible. The host families are spread throughout the Moscow metro-area and different neighborhoods. While no participant is allowed to travel beyond Moscow and its surrounding suburbs, host families are encouraged to introduce participants to the diversity of Moscow’s neighborhoods, from the city center to dachas on the outskirts of the city.
While in many respects Moscow is like the big cities in the U.S., there are country-specific risks all should be aware of. Below are important links that will assist candidates and their families to understand some of the specific risks, advisories, and recommendations relevant to travel to Russia:
An applicant MUST meet the following general requirements:
Be a U.S. Citizen
Have a valid U.S. passport at the time of application
Enrolled in High School (grades 9-12, including home school) at the time of application
For 2021 summer programs: birth date between July 10, 2002 and June 10, 2006
Have a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, or the equivalent
Abide by U.S. Department of State Eligibility Policy for American Outbound Youth Programs
Not an immediate family member of an employee of the U.S. Department of State - Youth Programs Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs or an employee at an NSLI for YOUTH administering organization whose duties involve the NSLI-Y Program
Have not previously traveled abroad on a long-term (more than eight-week) program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Have not participated in an NSLI for Youth summer program previously
2020 NSLI-Y VSI participants are eligible to apply for the 2021 NSLI-Y Program if they meet all other eligibility requirements
- For a full list of eligibility requirements, visit the NSLI-Y website's Eligibility Page
Program Specific Requirements:
Participants must be enrolled and in good standing at all times in the 2021 BBASI NY Program
Participants must be at a beginner level in Russian language study
Participants cannot have dual U.S. – Russian citizenship or have been born in Russia
Any semi-finalist who is being considered as a finalist will be required to provide and complete additional documentation including, but not limited to: Scholarship Acceptance Forms, Participant Agreement, medical evaluation, registration in the U.S. Department of State Program website, and others as required.
By applying to the RAF NSLI-Y Program, all participants and their families agree to abide by the laws, rules, and regulations of the United States, the NSLI-Y Program, and RAF. Additionally, by applying to the RAF NSLI-Y Program, all participants and their families agree to abide by the laws, rules, and regulations of the Russian Federation, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, and Foreign Hosts.
Is NSLI-Y Right For You?
To learn more if the NSLI-Y RAF and Bolshoi Way program is the right opportunity for you:
- read RAF's NSLI-Y Program FAQ Page
- visit the official NSLI-Y website
Testimonials & Videos from Alumni and their Families
“The program enriched and affected my daughter's skills above expectation. The team work, confidence, leadership, global awareness - all these values are priceless and will have a huge influence on her future life.”
– NSLI-Y Parent
“This program has really opened my eyes to a wider world. I have discovered that I have been able to navigate and adapt to the culture shock, making me more confident and reassured in myself as a person. ”
– RAF NSLI-Y Alum, 15 yo, OH
“The experience was life changing for our daughter. She has a more focused attitude towards her college search and a stronger comfort level as to what direction she would like to move towards career wise."
– NSLI - Y Parent
“Although dancing at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy was a dream come true, the time I spent with my host mom totally changed my outlook on the world. Getting a first-hand look into the Russian culture made me appreciate just how wonderfully diverse our world is!
– RAF NSLI-Y Alum, 17 yo, FL
“What an amazing life changing opportunity for my son. It has exploded his world view and increased his curiosity about other cultures … he is well suited and prepared to go in any direction he chooses. Moscow is now at the forefront his daily thoughts, both culturally and politically.”
– NSLI-Y Parent
"Living with Russians and experiencing their everyday lives has allowed me to understand Russia a little bit better. Overall, I feel more educated, worldly, and compassionate.”
– RAF NSLI-Y Alum, 18 yo, CA
“The experience our daughter had as a young person in Russia, with such unique opportunities to experience the language and culture, will influence her whole life.”
– NSL-Y Parent
“This trip has opened so many doors for me. I never had seriously thought of a career in a language but now it is a priority of mine.”
– RAF NSLI-Y Alum, 16 yo, VA