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Studying in the US as an Exchange Student (YSEALI Academic Fellowship Program)


In this blog, we are going to share our regular knowledge exchange session about “Studying in the US as an Exchange Student (YSEALI Academic Fellowship Program)

” by Su Yee Yamin Ko.


We regularly hold knowledge exchange sessions not only for our openfor.co/fellowship community members but also for any English-speaking youths as we conduct the events in English. We did the following knowledge exchange session On Nov 15th, 2022, 6:30-7:30 PM JST time. Check out the event details at this link.


This blog covers the following topics:

Please check out for more details in the following video or in the following blog.


1. Speaker, Su Yee Yamin Ko Profile

Su Yee Yamin Ko is a Business Information Technology student at Strategy First University.

She is the former Business Development Assistant at Openfor.co. She is keen on social entrepreneurship and volunteering, so she participates in many business plan competitions and volunteering activities. Additionally, she won the First Prize and the Best Digital Solution Award 2020 at the Strategy First University Business Plan Competition 2020. She also took part in the ASEAN-India Hackathon 2021 as a delegate of Myanmar.


Her knowledge of Business and IT made her apply for the YSEALI Academic Fellowship 2022 Program (Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development). She received the opportunity to study in the US for 5 weeks as an exchange student after being chosen for that program as a representative of Myanmar.

  • Business Information Technology student at Strategy First University

  • YSEALI 2022 Academic Fellowship Alumni

  • Have experience in Business Plan Competitions and hackathons

  • Keen on social entrepreneurship & volunteering

  • Former Business Development Assistant at Openfor.co

2. YSEALI Program Introduction

YSEALI (Young Southeast Asia Leadership Initiatives) was launched in 2013, founded by Obama. It is quite popular in ASEAN countries especially in Myanmar. It aims for youths to exchange culture between ASEAN and the US. The selected participants will get a chance to join a University in the United States as an exchange student for a short period, normally 5 weeks. It can be different depending on the categories.


There are different types of programs under YSEALI; YSEALI Academic Fellowship Program, YSEALI Professional Fellowship Program, YSEALI Seeds for the Future Grants and YSEALI Regional Workshop. The Regional Workshop are short-term programs. It usually lasts about 3-5 days. Among these, Su Yee got selected and participated in the YSEALI Academic Fellowship Program.


YSEALI Academic Fellowship program has different themes which are Civic Engagement, Environmental Issues, Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. For Su Yee, she joined Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. You can choose depending on your interest, experience or academic background and apply to any theme you want. The program opens for application with two intakes, the Spring intake and the Fall intake. Su Yee joined for the Fall intake.


There are some basis criteria to join the program -

  • The applicant must be 18 to 25 years old.

  • Must be a citizen of any ASEAN countries.

  • No need to provide IELTS or English Proficiency certificates.

Check out the details of the programs and criteria here.


3. Application & Selection Process

First, you need to fill out the application form. Secondly, you’ll be invited to an interview if you have passed the first step of the application form, and then the US Department of State will choose the participants. These steps will be the same in all different themes. The only difference is that in the application form, you need to fill out different types of questions. In the application form, they will ask you about the basic types of information, your educational background and why you are interested in this program. You also need to write about three essays, like why are you interested in this program, what is your past experience, is there any other past experiences and any project ideas you have that you want to implement in your country. In addition, they will ask you about your leadership background.


For the selection process, there are thousands of people applying for this program every year which means it is quite competitive. That’s why, you will need to prepare a story that can stand out in the crowd. If you are selected for the interview, congratulations because it is quite difficult to step into the interview.


In the interview, they will ask you about your leadership background. What kind of leadership style you would like to learn here. What are the difficulties of your leadership experience? Sometimes, they may also ask about the project idea that you mentioned in the application form. In other countries, the interview is the final step. But for Myanmar applicants, the US Department of State will do some background check before bringing you to the final step. After that you are going to be really busy. Please, check out the QR code here for the details of the process.


4. Host Universities

For the Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development team, the host universities were the University of Texas and the University of Connecticut for the year of 2022. Around 40 youths from the ASEAN countries got selected for this program. They assigned 20 youths to each university. Su Yee was assigned to the University of Texas. The difference between the Universities is that the University of Texas emphasized mostly on entrepreneurship and the University Connecticut is well known for Leadership courses and classes. They assign you to different universities depending on your interview answers.


5. Accommodation and Food

Please have a look at the picture of the Hostel and the room Su Yee stayed in. You will not get a single room but share with a roommate from a different country as the main purpose of this program is to exchange cultures. What a great opportunity! You don’t need to pay for the accommodation. All the fees are covered for this program.


This is the dining area of the University where Su yee and the fellows had meals during the program. Of course, you don’t need to pay for anything.


6. Allowances

For the allowance, they will pay you for the Health Insurance and Stipend before you travel. Travel Stipend is the cost they cover for you to travel from your home country to the US. They will cover around $150 for that. Cultural allowance is for $250. It means you can buy something as a gift from US to your home country. For traveling in the US, they will provide some stipend around $425 for the fellows. So, in total, they provide $790 for all of this program with free food and accommodation. Plus, for those youths who are selected for the program and need to travel from one city to another in their country, to make the visa process, to go to the airport, keep the receipts during the local travel, they will cover all the expenses for this


7. Program Activities


The program activities can be differentiated into three parts. The first one is Academic Session, the second is Volunteer Activities and the third is Site Visits.



Su Yee’s team is the Entrepreneurship team. So, they have to take classes about Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Design Thinking and Marketing. They took the Mental Health class too. Also, they implement some activities during the class. The fellows got a chance to meet with the entrepreneurs and the millionaires in Austin. The lecturers are from the current University Professors to the entrepreneurs. So that you can also get the theoretical lecturers and real experience of the entrepreneurs.



There were a lot of Volunteer Activities, like the Food bank, the organization which provides food for the homeless people. The fellows visited the home for older people, they spent time and chatted with the elders there. They did the farming activities. Also, the fellows went to the places where the Hurricane destroyed and helped with the rebuilding process. The program is not all about lectures but also extracurricular activities too.



The other thing is site visit, where the youths have to travel to the local entrepreneur companies.



The main purpose of the program is here. The fellows have to do two kinds of presentations. The first one is the Cultural presentation and the second one is the Elevator Pitch. In your application form, you already mentioned what kind of idea you want to implement when you get back to your country. You can have a one-to-one consultation session with the program coordinator. After all of these, the youths have to pitch in three minutes in front of all the fellows and judges. It is a great opportunity to implement your project.


8. Excursion Places


The fellows didn’t spend their time only in Austin, they travelled to other cities too. They had a chance to travel to three cities, which are San Antonio, Houston and New Orleans. It is a good opportunity to learn about other cultures and businesses.


Feel Free to Comment if you have any questions!

Also, if you have some feedback and recommendation that you want us to include in the next webinar, please comment down below.


We hold this knowledge exchange session regularly and invite different speakers from different backgrounds. It is open to any youth around the globe, and you can even request the titles that you want to hear from us.


If you’d like to join our openfor.co/fellowship community and don't want to miss any exciting events and announcements, please regularly go check our Openfor.co/fellowship social media pages Facebook, Linkedin, and youtube. Once you become our Openfor.co/fellowship community member, the countless opportunities are open to you.


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