How long is the program and what are the dates?: The U.S. based portion of the program lasts 3 weeks (July 1 – July 22, 2020). In addition, selected participants will be asked to commit to implementing a follow-on project in your own community (within the first 6 months after returning home).  This project will be of the participant’s own choosing and design. Working on these projects begin as part of the U.S. program. 

Must I be a Saudi citizen to apply?: Applicants must be Saudi citizens, residents in Saudi Arabia, and studying in a Saudi university.  All three of these criteria are essential in order to apply.   Those who were born in Saudi Arabia and study at a Saudi university but are not citizens, are not eligible to apply.

I have been to the U.S. previously.  Can I still apply?: Those who have traveled to the U.S. for extended periods or studied in the U.S. are ineligible. Preference is given to those who have not had this type of opportunity before.

Is SYLEP an open, merit-based competition?: Yes.Open” refers to the fact that this opportunity is openly publicized, applications are accepted from a broad range of people, and selecting finalists is a transparent process with clear, announced criteria. The application procedure and requirements are identical for all potential applicants and not based on personal connections. Anyone who meets the eligibility requirements may apply, and all valid applications are given equal consideration. There are no nominations or “in-house” candidates. Each applicant is judged individually based on his or her own merits.  SYLEP does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, gender, or place of residence. Individuals are chosen based on the strength of their applications and ability to impact their local communities upon completion of the program.

May I apply to SYLEP and other U.S. government exchange programs at the same time?: Yes, if eligible. If you are chosen as a finalist SYLEP and another exchange program, you must make a choice. You may NOT accept awards from both programs.   (“Near East, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa Undergraduate Exchange Program” NESA UGRAD is a one-year exchange program in the US.)

Where will I live while I am in the U.S.?: During your U.S. stay, there will be a combination of hotels and homestays. (The majority will be in a hotel.  Homestays are limited to two nights.) Expect hotel accommodations to be shared with one other Saudi participant of the same gender (two per room). During the “Community Immersion” period, you will stay with a carefully selected and prepared American host family for the weekend.

How are home stay families selected?  What is staying with an American family like?: Legacy’s (as well as our partners) network of host families are exceptional people. Many have hosted international visitors in the past, and do so because they enjoy getting to know people from different parts of the world. (None do so for payment of any type.) Home stays afford our international guests with an immensely valuable experience, and is often one of the program highlights. We understand that stepping into a stranger’s home can be hard to imagine. What we have found is that it is well worth the initial anxiety, and this anxiousness quickly melts away within the first day of the home stay.

Families who host for Legacy’s various programs go through a selection process. We want to ensure that the family can provide a suitable, well-matched home for their guest so it is a mutually enjoyable part of the exchange. We ask potential hosts to complete an application and undergo a home visit (inspection) our representative. Host families also participate in an orientation prior their guests’ arrival. In addition, SYLEP staff stay in regular contact with each participant and family host to monitor everyone’s experience.

Prior to the participant’s arrival in the U.S., we will ask each Saudi student to complete a short questionnaire outlining special considerations we should take into account when matching a participant with a host family.  This includes questions related to smoking preferences, if you prefer to be in a home with or without pets, etc.  Prior to your arrival in the US, each international visitor is provided with a basic profile of the host family, which includes contact information, so you may begin introducing yourselves to one another via email prior to arriving in the US.

US host families will help you gain the most out of your stay in the US!  They will want to know what interests you and typically enjoy including their new family member in activities that are part of their usual routines so you can learn more about American life.  This may include something as simple as grocery shopping or helping prepare a meal. It may include visiting their place of employment or worship. You may also have an opportunity to participate in a volunteer activity the family is committed to.

What are my chances of being chosen?: It depends upon how many applications are received, and the strength of the candidates. 43 Saudi students will be chosen. People who complete all sections of the application in a thorough, thoughtful manner, and who are genuinely dedicated to civic engagement have a good chance of being selected for an interview. Showing your strength as a candidate and your sincere interest will increase your chances.

Can I take a family member with me when come to the U.S.?: No. The policy as set by the U.S. Department of State and Legacy International is for SYLEP participants to arrive in the U.S. alone. This allows you to focus fully on your professional development experience.  In addition, if you have family or friends residing in the U.S., it is not realistic to travel and visit them during the program. The schedule will be very full, with just small blocks of open time select evenings and weekends.

What support (financial and otherwise) will I receive while on the program? Each participant will receive:

  • Assistance in obtaining a J-1 visa for entry into the U.S. on the “Exchange Visitor Program”;
  • Round trip travel from Saudi Arabia (city of departure to be determined) to Washington, D.C.   Internal U.S. travel from Washington, DC to one of three cities: Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; or Detroit, MI;
  • Accommodations for the duration of your U.S. stay:  Hotel and host family;
  • Stipend for meals and incidentals such as phone calls, laundry, local taxis or metro and other basic living necessities for duration of U.S. program;
  • Support services of a Legacy International adviser;
  • Health insurance for the duration of your U.S. stay;
  • Sightseeing in Washington D.C.
  • A mini-grant to support eligible follow-on project proposals

What are my responsibilities upon returning home?: Participating in SYLEP requires a commitment to implementing lessons learned upon your return home. The program is structured to provide support and encouragement to accomplish this:

    • Follow on Projects: Upon return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, participants will conduct required follow-on activities to implement new, sustainable projects at the community or university level. Legacy offers optional mini-grants to support the design and implementation of these projects.  Planning will begin during the U.S. program.
    • On-going consultation with Legacy and US based experts you met to support your project implementation.
    • Becoming a part of the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni group which will offer you access to a large network of like-minded Saudi citizens to network with (
  • Continued alumni engagement with the U.S. Embassy including networking, social events, and community service programs.  This includes eligibility to apply for further project funding through their SAGE grant program.

How do I apply?: Complete the SYLEP application online at: Applicants who do not complete the entire application and upload a CV, passport bio page, and university transcripts prior to the deadline will not be considered.