SYLEP participants, U.S. Cultural Ambassadors and staff enjoy the view at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC (2016)

The Saudi Young Leaders Exchange Programs (SYLEP) is a three-week multi-phased leadership experience in the U.S. for Saudi current or recently graduated university students. The program takes place in cities across the U.S. (including Washington, DC, Austin, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Chicago).

As the flagship Saudi youth development program of the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, SYLEP supports participants in building leadership, entrepreneurship, and professional skills, civic responsibility, appreciation for cultural diversity, and community engagement through exploration of themes such as entrepreneurship, innovation, science and technology, community health, job readiness, youth engagement, and other issue areas. The goals of the program are to promote mutual understanding between the people of the U.S and Saudi Arabia, prepare young leaders to become responsible citizens and contributing members of their communities, and develop leadership skills among Saudi and U.S. youth. 

Through a series of site visits, training sessions with experts, volunteer opportunities, and experiential events with agencies, organizations, and professionals working in a variety of fields, participants are introduced to community initiatives by innovative local, state, federal, public, non-profit, start-up and private programs. Participants not only learn about solutions but get the opportunity for hands-on experience during the exchange. Participants also gain skills in innovation, leadership, program design, and critical thinking, while deepening their respect and appreciation for diversity and community involvement 

In addition, Saudi participants join in activities side-by-side with dozens of U.S. community members, staff, volunteers, and host families. During the program, participants divide into subgroups and visit different cities in the United States. They spend an extended weekend living with American host families to gain more insights into American daily life.

Throughout the program, Saudi participants learn about real community impact projects and best practices, and design their own projects that they implement in their home communities or university campuses upon return home, supported by Legacy International.


2020 celebrated 75 years of a strong partnership between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia based on mutual respect and common interests. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have a long history of technical and educational exchange which has benefited both nations. Building on the long-standing program themes of leadership, tolerance, diversity, and strengthening communities, the Saudi Young Leaders Exchange Program focuses on innovation aimed towards community engagement and action that allows for the up-skilling of Saudi youth to improve community engagement across the Kingdom. The program builds upon their knowledge of technology and innovation as solutions to improve their communities. Since 2014, over 300 Saudi and U.S. youth have participated in SYLEP, impacting over 3,000 people through their community solutions projects and beyond.

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SYLEP participants and U.S. Cultural Ambassadors in Austin, Texas (2018)


Legacy International works closely with the following organizations to create and implement high-impact experiences during SYLEP each year: 

2022 SYLEP Details

2022 Program Dates (subject to minor adjustments)

  • Cohort One (selected in 2020): July 3 – July 23, 2022
  • Cohort Two (selected in 2021): July 31  – August 20, 2022

Additional details regarding SYLEP 2022 will be announced by March 2022. Candidates selected in 2020 and 2021 can expect to be communicated with by this time. New applications will not be considered for 2022. Thank you for your patience in the meantime as all details are worked out to assure a safe and successful program. 

Legacy International has a 40+ year track record providing safe and enriching programming. During this global pandemic, our Health & Safety Team continuously monitors the global and local health advisories. In 2021, we have adjusted how in-person exchange programs are delivered so the preventative measures to mitigate the spread of communicable diseases is at the forefront. The safety of our staff, exchange visitors, program partners and their families is our priority.  All participants will benefit from rigorous testing and other program modifications as we implement these plans and once again enjoy rewarding cultural immersions.

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SYLEP participants meet professionals in a wide variety of fields at a networking event (2017)

Ways to Participate

Cultural Ambassadors (U.S. university students & recent graduates): 

Undergraduate (upcoming senior/final year) and graduate students who are currently enrolled in a college or university or recent graduates, who have U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency status, may opens in a new windowapply to serve as a U.S. Cultural Ambassador.

Hospitality Hosts (community members and families):

Community members and families who live in one of the host communities (Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh) may serve as hospitality hosts. Please contact us for more information. 

Saudi Participants

Note:  New applications will not be considered for 2022. 

The following are the eligibility requirements for participants from the KSA: 

  • Saudi university students or recent graduates from Saudi universities
  • Ages 21-26
  • Currently residing in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi citizenship (cannot hold U.S. citizenship or be a U.S. Legal Permanent Resident)
  • No previous travel or study abroad experience in the U.S. 
  • Sufficient English-language skills to participate in U.S. university-level classes
  • Demonstrated leadership abilities in their schools and communities and have a desire to become successful leaders

Students from all over Saudi Arabia are encouraged to apply, especially those from outside Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam/Al-Khobar. Acceptance into SYLEP is competitive and all application documents will be reviewed as part of the application process. Participants must return immediately to Saudi Arabia after completion of the program. 

Learn More

Discover the amazing growth and community that is cultivated during SYLEP through these blog posts written by participants, staff, and speakers.

SYLEP is sponsored by the United States Department of State, U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, and administered by Legacy International.