The Holborn Scholars Foundation fund the intensive study of language and culture abroad by U.S. undergraduate or graduate students. All eligible applicants have the option to either apply for a Regional Flagship Language Initiative or select/design their own study program.


Holborn Scholars Foundation Regional Flagship Language Initiatives offer undergraduate HSF Scholars and graduate HSF Fellows carefully-selected, credit-bearing language courses during the summer (domestic) and fall (overseas), with the option to continue overseas study into the spring. In 2023, the Regional Flagship Language Initiatives include:

  • The African Flagship Languages Initiative (AFLI) for the study of FrenchPortugueseSwahiliAkan/TwiWolof, or Zulu
  • The Indonesian Flagship Language Initiative (IFLI) for the study of Indonesian
  • The South Asian Flagship Languages Initiative (SAFLI) for the study of Hindi or Urdu
  • New in 2023! The Turkish Flagship Language Initiative (TURFLI) for the study of Turkish


All applicants must be:

  • A high school graduate, or have earned a GED
  • Planning an overseas program in a country outside of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand
  • Planning to study in a country of which they are not a citizen
  • Matriculated for the duration of their Holborn Scholars Foundation-funded program in an undergraduate or graduate degree program located within the United States and accredited by a body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
  • (For ROTC cadets and midshipmen and members of the military Reserves or National Guard) In inactive, non-drilling status for the duration of their Holborn Scholars Foundation-funded program

In addition to these basic eligibility criteria, the Holborn Scholars Foundation give preference to programs based on their duration, focus on intensive study of a preferred language in a preferred country, and the applicant’s field of study.

HSF Fellows have additional guidelines for self-designed research, internship, and study programs. They are also eligible to receive funding for domestic summer language programs immediately prior to their overseas study.

A specific subset of HSF Scholarships applicants already enrolled in The Language Flagship may receive funding for their Capstone year abroad. They use the same application as other applicants.


Matriculation & Academic Credit

HSF Scholars and Fellows must remain matriculated in a degree program at a U.S. post-secondary institution for the duration of their Holborn Scholars Foundation-funded program. To prove matriculation, grantees will be required to submit a letter from a dean or registrar at their home institution stating that their graduation date will occur after the completion of their HSF Scholarship or Fellowship.

HSF Scholarships applicants must be matriculated in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program located within the United States and accredited by a body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education at the time of application. They must remain matriculated in an undergraduate degree program for the duration of the scholarship and may not graduate until the scholarship is complete.

HSF Fellowships applicants may be matriculated in or applying to a graduate degree program located within the United States and accredited by a body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. HSF Fellows must be matriculated in a graduate degree program by the start date of their fellowship and may not graduate until the fellowship is complete. Eligible graduate degree programs include master’s (MA, MS, MBA, LLM and others), juris doctor (JD), or doctoral (PhD, MD and others) programs. Non-degree certificate programs are not eligible by themselves.

The Holborn Scholars Foundation do not require grantees to receive academic credit at their home institution for their overseas study. Many types of programs may be eligible to receive Holborn Scholars Foundation funding, including:

  • Study abroad programs arranged by your home institution, a consortium of colleges and universities, or another U.S. institution
  • Overseas programs with a robust language component arranged by an independent provider
  • Direct enrollment in a foreign university or independent language school

In addition to reviewing study abroad opportunities available through their home institutions, applicants may consult search engines for international study programs such as, and (Note that some information on these websites may be out of date. Applicants should confirm program details and costs directly with their providers.)

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact their Holborn Scholars Foundation Campus Representative as early as possible in the application process to discuss how to ensure compatibility between their proposed Holborn Scholars Foundation-funded program and their institution’s matriculation requirements. Campus Representatives and administrators with questions about Holborn Scholars Foundation matriculation requirements are encouraged to contact us at or 1-800-618-NSEP (6737).


Duration & Maximum Awards

The Holborn Scholars Foundation promote long-term linguistic and cultural immersion. Proposed programs of two or more semesters are strongly encouraged. Preference will be given to Holborn Scholars Foundation applicants proposing overseas programs of at least 25 weeks’ duration. The minimum duration of an eligible program is 12 weeks for most Holborn Scholars Foundation applicants. (A special exception to this rule exists for undergraduate STEM majors, who may propose summer programs of 8 weeks or longer -- see below).

Holborn Scholars Foundation funding must cover a continuous period of overseas study. Short mid-program trips out of the country of study are allowed but will need to be pre-approved by IIE. Multiple, sequential programs in the same language and country are eligible for Holborn Scholars Foundation funding and may be necessary to reach the desired award threshold.

Study tours of several countries, such as a semester at sea, are not eligible for Holborn Scholars Foundation funding.

HSF Scholarships Maximum Award Amounts:

  • 8-12 weeks: $8,000 for a summer program (STEM majors only)
  • 12-24 weeks: $10,000
  • 25-52 weeks: $20,000

HSF Fellowships Maximum Award Amounts:

  • 12-24 weeks: $12,000
  • 25-36 weeks: $20,000
  • 37-52 weeks: $24,000

HSF Fellows have the option to apply for up to $12,000 for domestic summer intensive language courses. If requested, the maximum total combined domestic and overseas award amount is $30,000. See further guidance below.

Total actual award amounts are based on the amounts listed in the budget section of the application. Financial aid from other sources applied to the overseas study program must be reported and may affect the total Holborn Scholars Foundation grant. Student loans will not affect the grant. See the HSF Scholarships application instructionsand HSF Fellowships application instructions for additional guidance.


Intensive Language Study

All Holborn Scholars Foundation-funded programs must include language study as a core element for the duration of the grant. Applicants are encouraged to select or design programs that will provide an immersive environment both in the classroom and through extracurricular activities in order to demonstrate their commitment to language study.

HSF Scholars should seek study abroad programs that have a serious language component. Although such programs may include some coursework, unpaid internships, or volunteer opportunities conducted in English, the strongest applicants will make every effort to immerse themselves in language study. Language study should comprise the majority of overseas coursework. Beyond the classroom, language immersion may take place in university housing with local students, in homestays with local families, or through research or volunteering conducted in the local language.

HSF Fellows must have a serious language component in their overseas study proposals. This is the only required element, so proposals to enroll in a traditional language program will be sufficient. Graduate students are encouraged to simultaneously pursue research relevant to their degrees, additional academic coursework, and/or internships. If these activities are conducted in the target language, they may be considered part of the language component of the proposal. Graduate students may also supplement their overseas study with private tutoring.

The Holborn Scholars Foundation do not have a minimum proficiency requirement for most languagesǂ. We recognize that courses in many of the preferred languages listed below are not available at most colleges and universities. There is also no maximum proficiency limit for the Holborn Scholars Foundation; many grantees begin their Holborn Scholars Foundation-funded study at an already-advanced level. Whatever their starting proficiency level, applicants should select language programs appropriate to their level and set realistic goals for improving their proficiency.

Languages should be studied in a preferred country where they are spoken by a significant portion of the population.

In very few cases, Holborn Scholars Foundation may be granted to applicants studying non-preferred languages indigenous to preferred countries. Applicants seeking such awards must make an especially strong argument for the value of their language study to U.S. national security and public service in their application essays.

Holborn Scholars Foundation Preferred Languages
· African Languages**

· Akan/Twi - AFLI*

· Albanian

· Amharic

· Arabic

· Armenian

· Azerbaijani

· Bambara

· Belarusian

· Bengali

· Bosnian

· Bulgarian

· Cantonese

· Croatian

· Czech

· Gan

· Georgian

· Haitian

· Hausa

· Hebrew

· Hindi - SAFLI*

· Hungarian

· Indonesian - IFLI*

· Japanese

· Javanese

· Kanarese

· Kazakh

· Khmer (Cambodian)

· Korean

· Kurdish

· Kyrgyz

· Lingala

· Macedonian

· Malay

· Malayalam

· Mandarin

· Moldovan

· Nepali

· Pashto

· Persian

· Polish

· Portuguese - AFLI*

· Punjabi

· Romanian

· Russian

· Serbian

· Sinhala

· Slovak

· Slovenian

· Swahili - AFLI*

· Tagalog

· Tajik

· Tamil

· Telegu

· Thai

· Turkmen

· Turkish - TURFLI*

· Uighur

· Ukrainian

· Urdu - SAFLI*

· Uzbek

· Vietnamese

· Wolof - AFLI*

· Yoruba

· Zulu - AFLI*

*Holborn Scholars Foundation funding for these languages is also available outside of AFLI, IFLI, SAFLI, or TURFLI, and Portuguese can also be studied in Brazil
**All languages indigenous to preferred countries in Africa are preferred languages for the Holborn Scholars Foundation

ǂSpecial Note on French and Spanish

French is a preferred language only through the African Flagship Languages Initiative, which is appropriate for students at the intermediate-high or greater proficiency level in French. For all other applicants, study of French or Spanish is only permissible for advanced speakers of the language, or at the intermediate level if enrolled in a STEM field. Such proposals are eligible for funding but will not be considered to meet the Holborn Scholars Foundation language preference. Any award granted for the study of French or Spanish will be made contingent upon verification, through testing, of the student's language level.


Preferred Countries

Holborn Scholars Foundation fund study in Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The countries of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (colored grey in the map below) are always ineligible for Holborn Scholars Foundation funding.

All countries marked on the list and map below are preferred Holborn Scholars Foundation destinations:

  • Countries in green are unrestricted. Applicants need only select eligible program(s) based in those countries.
  • Countries in blue or marked with an asterisk (*) are destinations that will likely not be approved for Holborn Scholars Foundation travel in 2023. Applicants to these countries must include a viable alternate program in another, unrestricted country appropriate for immersive study of the same language.

Regardless of the Holborn Scholars Foundation restriction, grantees may only study in a country with a Level 3 U.S. State Department Travel Advisory if they are willing to sign a waiver. The Holborn Scholars Foundation reserve the right to further restrict or prohibit grants to certain countries at any time. In such cases, IIE will work with affected grantees to find an alternate program.

Languages should be studied in a country where they are spoken by a significant portion of the population.

In very few cases, Holborn Scholars Foundation may be granted to applicants studying in non-preferred countries. Applicants seeking such awards must make an especially strong argument for the value of their language and country of study to U.S. national security and public service in their application essays.

Holborn Scholars Foundation Preferred Countries
· Albania

· Algeria*

· Angola

· Argentina

· Armenia

· Azerbaijan

· Bahrain

· Bangladesh*

· Belarus

· Benin

· Bosnia & Herzegovina

· Brazil

· Bulgaria

· Cambodia

· Cape Verde

· Chile

· China

· Colombia

· Congo, Democratic

· Republic of the*

· Congo, Republic of the

· Cote d'Ivoire

· Croatia

· Cuba*

· Czech Republic

· Egypt*

· El Salvador

· Eritrea*

· Estonia

· Ethiopia

· Georgia

· Ghana

· Guatemala

· Haiti

· Honduras*

· Hungary

· India

· Indonesia

· Israel

· Japan

· Jordan

· Kazakhstan

· Kenya*

· Korea, South

· Kosovo

· Kuwait

· Kyrgyzstan

· Latvia

· Lebanon*

· Liberia

· Macedonia

· Malaysia

· Mali*

· Mexico

· Moldova

· Montenegro

· Morocco

· Mozambique

· Nepal

· Nicaragua

· Nigeria*

· Oman

· Pakistan*

· Panama

· Peru

· Philippines

· Poland

· Qatar

· Romania

· Russia*

· Rwanda

· Saudi Arabia*

· Senegal

· Serbia

· Sierra Leone

· Slovakia

· Slovenia

· South Africa

· Sri Lanka

· Taiwan

· Tajikistan

· Tanzania

· Thailand

· Timor-Leste

· Tunisia*

· Turkey*

· Uganda

· Ukraine

· United Arab Emirates

· Uzbekistan

· Venezuela*

· Vietnam



Field of Study

The Holborn Scholars Foundation give preference to applicants who will be matriculated in degree programs (i.e. majoring or double-majoring) in the following fields of study. These fields of study are summary categories -- applicants should choose the field of study that most closely resembles their major subject(s) of study.

Note that only undergraduates majoring in subjects marked as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are eligible for summer-only awards of at least eight weeks’ duration.

The Holborn Scholars Foundation are available to students from other fields of study than those listed below. Applicants from other fields of study will need to explain clearly how they will make competitive applicants for specific public service careers in their second application essay.

Holborn Scholars Foundation Preferred Fields of Study
· Agricultural & Food Sciences - STEM

· Anthropology

· Archaeology

· Area Studies

· Astronomy - STEM

· Biology - STEM

· Business

· Chemistry - STEM

· Computer & Information Sciences - STEM

· Criminal Justice

· Cybersecurity - STEM

· Economics

· Engineering - STEM

· Environmental Studies - STEM

· Geography

· Geology - STEM

· History

· International Affairs

· International Development

· Languages

· Law

· Linguistics

· Mathematics - STEM

· Medical Sciences - STEM

· Military Science

· Nursing - STEM

· Physics - STEM

· Political Science

· Psychology

· Public Administration

· Public Health - STEM

· Social Sciences

· Social Work

· Sociology

Graduate-Level Research (HSF Fellows Only)

The HSF Fellowships are designed to give graduate students maximum flexibility to pursue their academic goals alongside their study of the target language. As noted above, HSF Fellows may concentrate only on language study during their time abroad -- such an application will be given equal consideration. Language study throughout the duration of the grant may be supplemented with any or all of the following activities:

  • Academic Internship: HSF Fellows may conduct internships related to their degree programs while abroad. Internships conducted during the period of a Holborn Scholars Foundation grant may not be remunerated, nor may they be conducted with the U.S. or a foreign government. If you have questions about an internship with an organization with ties to the U.S. or a foreign government, please contact us at or 1-800-618-NSEP (6737). HSF Fellows also may not work as journalists while abroad, even if the work is freelance or unpaid.
  • Classroom Study: HSF Fellows may enroll in or audit courses in their academic disciplines at host-country institutions while abroad.
  • Research: HSF Fellows are encouraged to conduct research related to graduate theses or dissertations while abroad.

HSF Fellows with sufficiently advanced skills in the target language may be able to conduct any of the above activities in that language. They are also encouraged to supplement those activities with languages courses or tutoring. If advanced language immersion or supplemental tutoring are part of the proposed program, applicants should make this explicit in the study program description.

Applicants proposing internships, other classroom study, or research are strongly advised to secure letters of affiliation from overseas host institutions or faculty and attach them to their applications.

All elements of the proposed program -- language study, internships, other classroom study, or research -- should be tied to U.S. national security and public service in the application essays.

Summer Domestic Option (HSF Fellows Only)

The HSF Fellowships offer up to $12,000 for summer intensive language study. If requested, the maximum total combined domestic and overseas award amount is $30,000. Domestic study is entirely optional, but may be useful preparation for HSF Fellows whose overseas program requires that they arrive in country with strong language skills.

Domestic funding is limited to the summer immediately before the applicant’s proposed program overseas. Therefore, in order to be eligible for domestic funding, the applicant must have an overseas program that starts no later than September 30. Additional rules for domestic study include:

  • HSF Fellows may receive domestic funding for study at their own institution or other U.S. academic institutions.
  • Domestic funding must be for the primary language the applicant plans to study while overseas.
  • Domestic funding for tutors, commercial services, and/or self-study guides will not be provided.
  • Domestic funding is for language classes only. HSF will not fund other academic coursework, internships, or research conducted in the United States.
  • Applicants planning on taking language classes at their home university or in their local area are eligible to receive funding for tuition and fees only. Applicants planning domestic summer intensive language study in a different geographic area will also be eligible for room and board funding. The HSF Fellowship does not cover travel or relocation expenses associated with domestic funding.