What is the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study Program?

The Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program was established in October 2002. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, along with the U.S. exchange community, recognized the importance of youth exchange as a key component to building bridges between citizens of the United States and countries around the world, particularly those with significant Muslim populations.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA) to provide scholarships for high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to study for one academic year in the United States. YES students serve as “youth ambassadors” of their home country, promoting mutual understanding by forming lasting relationships with their host families and communities. Participants live with a host family, attend an American high school, acquire leadership skills, and engage in activities to learn about U.S. society and values; they also help educate Americans about their home country and culture.

The program officially launched in Malaysia in 2004 in hopes to expand communication between the people of the United States and Malaysia in order to promote mutual understanding and respect. Since then, over 700 Malaysian students have completed the YES program and now participate as alumni.

The YES program is administered in partnership with the U.S. Department of State by a consortium of non-profit organizations led by American Councils for International Education. In Malaysia, AFS Malaysia manages the YES program in partnership with the local U.S. Embassy, Public Affairs Office.

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Program Details

Program Name: YES Program
Cost: Full Scholarship
Placement: Hosted by a host family in the U.S.
Duration: 1 Semester
Program Date: January 2025 – June 2025

Requirements for Application

In keeping with the U.S. Government-sponsored initiatives dedicated to democratic reform, the competition for the Youth Exchange and Study scholarship is merit-based and open at no cost to all applicants who meet the following requirements:

  • Be a citizen of Malaysia
  • Applicant’s date of birth must be between 1st January 2009 and 31st December 2009
  • Must be in Form 3 in the new school year starting March 2024 at the time of application (and/or other equivalent grades at the time of application).
  • Students with disabilities are encouraged to apply and contact AFS Malaysia office for information on eligibility
  • Students from the B40 communities are highly encouraged to apply
  • Have the equivalent grade of a B average or better and no failing grades for 3 consecutive years
  • Demonstrate leadership, community involvement in extracurricular activities
  • Applicants must not have spent a total of more than 90 days in the U.S. in the last five years.
  • Meet the U.S. J-1 visa eligibility requirements (for instance, U.S. citizens are not eligible for J-1 visa)

Students with Disabilities

The program can support students with disabilities and encourages their participation. The Department of State and the YES program work with Mobility International (MIUSA) to provide students with disabilities leadership-building workshops, appropriate information and support as needed to enhance their year in America. Applicants with disabilities are encouraged to contact their YES office for information on eligibility.


YES seeks to ensure diverse participation in the program, representing all of Malaysian society.

Jonathan Lee  (2)


Say "YES"!

  1. Get out of your comfort zone and explore the world.
  2. Become a member of an American family; create lifelong friendships.
  3. Discover the real you through the exchange experience.
  4. Build your cultural awareness; broaden your perspectives on global issues.
  5. Be a youth ambassador for Malaysia.
  6. Experience an international education at a U.S. high school.
  7. Develop leadership and community service skills you can bring back to Malaysia.
  8. Improve your English language proficiency.
  9. Develop skills to stand out in the competitive modern job market.
  10. Join 10,000 plus YES alumni from more than 40 countries around the globe.

For Parents

Studying abroad in high school is an exciting journey for both you and your child. We have compiled the information below to help answer some of the questions you may have about the YES program experience. For further information, please e-mail the YES office in your country.

YES participants are placed in volunteer host family homes and into host schools in the United States by established and reputable placement organizations that have competitively been awarded grants by the U.S. Department of State to implement the placement portion of the YES program. While on the program, your child will have regular contact with a trained coordinator in his or her community who will provide support, assistance, and guidance, and who will be in regular contact with the placement organization’s national headquarters.

As the consortium lead on the grant for YES operations, also competitively awarded by the U.S. Department of State, American Councils has a national office in Washington, DC, which cooperates with all placement organizations nationwide and with all overseas recruiting offices. Each country participating in the YES program has an in-country office with at least one permanent employee in each YES country. These staff, who are the main contacts for the parents of YES students, in turn communicate with all organizations placing YES students in host communities.


Selection & Placements

There are multiple rounds to the YES application and selection process (interview). All applicants are required to take an English Proficiency Test, write a proctored essay, complete a YES program application, and participate in group and individual in-person interviews. Preference will be given to candidates with limited overseas travel experience, especially to the United States. Please note, the final selection and placement of selected students is not subject to negotiation.

YES Alumni In Action

Keshin and her groupmates discussing about what makes a good story.

Changemakers Social Entrepreneurship Workshop

“I came up with a project to raise awareness by using creative technologies among young Malaysians about the importance of 3R to reduce pollution and the cost of waste management in Malaysia. “

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Returnee Spotlight On: Jim Chua

“I see myself in many of the students I meet, I see the importance of the program; not just for the students but to volunteers and staff of AFS as a whole.”

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My Global Youth Service Day By Hikmat Zakaria

“This is only the beginning and I hope to make a change and give more impact towards the community.”

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The Path to a Lifelong Connection By Nurin Syahmina

I am a young enthusiastic girl that has travelled to Ohio, United States of America for six months in 2018 on a Kennedy Lugar –Youth Exchange Study Program. This brief experience of living in a foreign country has molded me into a more matured person,

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