The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) — a U.S. Department of State program that provides full-ride scholarships to study language abroad — recently named its 2019 recipients.
Megan Starses, a rising senior at Great Hearts Trivium Preparatory Academy in Goodyear, is one of the 660 American high school students from across the nation who will participate in an overseas immersion program this year.
Starses, who was adopted from China when she was nine months old, will study Mandarin and live with a host family in Xi’an, China, this summer. She anticipates her experience abroad will go beyond honing her linguistic skills, though.
“This is a self-discovery experience for me since I’ll be learning about my heritage in the place where it all started,” Starses said. “Just being able to rediscover some part of me — that’s what I’m really looking forward to doing.”
Starses, who hopes to work under the U.S. ambassador to China one day, said she applied to the NSLI-Y program for specific reasons.
“Other than the obvious advancement in proficiency for Chinese, I chose NSLI-Y over any other program that offers study abroad scholarships because it (is) funded by the Department of State. That’s really valuable to me because I want to go into international relations,” Starses explained. “Being able to have a relationship with a department in the government was just really, really cool.”
According to the NSLI-Y website, the Chinese (Mandarin) summer program, which lasts six to eight weeks, increases students’ Chinese language proficiency through intensive in-class language instruction, cultural presentations and activities, volunteer service activities, and host family stays.
Trivium Prep Headmaster Heidi Vasiloff, who described Starses as a “leader” and a “wonderful person,” said she likes it when scholarships award those who are most deserving. In this case, it is Starses.
“When she first approached me and talked about the application, she just was on fire. She was so excited. We’re delighted that the work she has put in has been rewarded,” Vasiloff said. “She’s going to be a fantastic representative of our school and of our community.”
Starses’ efforts to reconnect to her roots speaks to the kind of person she is, Vasiloff said.
“She’s grounded in who she is today, and her desire to reach back and really explore that side of her she wasn’t exposed to is a beautiful thing,” Vasiloff said.
“I hope she shares it with us when she comes back. The more diversity and more culture that we can have, the better off we are as a community and as a school.”
Applications for 2020-21 NSLI-Y programs are expected to be available at nsliforyouth.org by late summer.