From a Dream to Reality – A Latvian FLEX Student’s Journey

We recently connected with Alisa, our 1st Place winner of Greenheart’s Memories Made Photo/Video Contest and in the next few lines, she sheds light on her Greenheart Exchange experience so far being hosted in Texas. From Latvia, Alisa is a Department of State grant student who earned The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) scholarship to attend High School in the U.S. Read on to hear more about how it’s been for Alisa!

First Day in American School-So exciting and stressful

“An exchange year in the United States of America sounds like an unreal dream,” I thought when I first heard about it. And to be honest, at that time I did not fully understand the significance of the exchange program, which I see now. This is all about opportunities for personal, academic, and cultural growth, unique insights, and skills.

First football game, unforgettable memories
Real Texan experience- country dancing

Firstly, an exchange program allows students to step out of their comfort zone – to be adults in the teenage world, to be a bit more mature than other peers. Exchange students need to manage their finances, figure out transportation, overcome language barriers, and deal with homesickness. Since an exchange year requires trusting people and being open-minded, it boosts students’ confidence a lot. Students have to represent their countries, initiate conversations, and ask questions to learn more about their host communities.

Exploring Florabama border
Unforgettable view with Smokey mountains in North Carolina

Moreover, an exchange program gives teenagers opportunities which they would not be able to experience in their home countries. There are so many different courses at my American high school which I would not have a chance to study in Latvia. For example, culinary arts, photography, tennis, and aquatic science, where I was able to take care of my own fish! This gave me a better understanding of what I like and what skills I should develop in my home country. Besides that, the exchange year gave me a different perspective of helping people and volunteering, so I am more excited to volunteer in Latvia which I haven’t done before that much.

Meeting people with absolutely different culture and learning their traditions
Sharing Latvian culture with dance team in my high school

Finally, an exchange program fosters lifelong friendships and global networks. I am for sure going to keep in touch with my host family. And I became so close with my little host brother, that I want him to meet my little siblings in Latvia! I have so many good friends from all over the world thanks to this exchange year, and I am sure that we will keep in touch and support each other on social media. Also, I found out that my placement organization Greenheart, and exchange program FLEX gives so many opportunities for alumni in the future to explore and be helpful in their home countries and local communities. In addition, I want to highlight how much I love and going to miss Texas! I like how patriotic and southern it is. “Everything is bigger in Texas!

Celebrating New Year with host family
Exploring Alabama’s beautiful beach with my little host brother

An exchange year in the USA helped me understand that there is a whole different world outside the borders of my country. It felt like all this time I lived in my bubble not knowing what different cultures and perspectives actually are. And I wish every teenager could experience that feeling of broadening their view. 

Thank you, Alisa, for sharing your exchange experience and inspiring other students, in the U.S. and internationally!

About the FLEX Program

The Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) was established in 1992 shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. The program provides an opportunity for students to gain leadership experience, learn about American society, and foster mutual understanding across cultures. The Department of State recognizes that youth exchange is a key component to building bridges between citizens of the U.S. and countries around the world.

FLEX students are from the following countries (may vary annually): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.

Learn more about the FLEX scholarship program

Greenheart Exchange is always looking for host families. If you or someone you know is interested in hosting an international student like Alisa, please visit to meet students who look forward to being here this Fall.