The Experiment in International Living is the nation’s most experienced and respected provider of international education and experiential learning for high school students. For 85 years, our summer study abroad programs have enabled students to explore the world in a personal, meaningful way, and to develop new, enduring friendships through hands-on cultural experiences and homestays in 27 countries. With specific themes to match student’s unique interests and passions, The Experiment believes in creating educational experiences that positively impact both students and the communities they visit. Each year, hundreds of students come away from The Experiment with invaluable cultural, leadership, language, and college prep skills that help them thrive in diverse environments.

The Experiment is the flagship program of World Learning (, a nonprofit organization working to empower people and communities, and strengthen institutions around the world through education, sustainable development, and exchange programs. Over more than eight decades, World Learning has built on The Experiment’s success to become a thriving global nonprofit organization with sustainable programs impacting 150 countries. World Learning is part of the World Learning Inc. family, which also includes the School for International Training (SIT), offering accredited undergraduate study abroad programs through SIT Study Abroad, and globally focused master’s degrees through SIT Graduate Institute.

The Pioneer in International Education

In 1932, former Syracuse University personnel director Dr. Donald Watt, dissatisfied with the state of international education, created a revolutionary new cultural immersion program called “The Experiment in International Living.”

Under his guidance, a group of 23 students sailed for eight days across the Atlantic with the mission of fostering peace through understanding, communication, and cooperation by living in close quarters with French and German boys and hiking in the Swiss Alps.

The following year, Watt conceived of the idea of having the American students live with French and German families. This never-before-tried concept came to be known as the homestay and allowed students to develop friendships and understand different cultures in a personal, meaningful way.

Since those early years, The Experiment has grown in size, scope, destination, and concept. After 85 years and more than 70,000 participants, The Experiment remains a leader in the field of international cross-cultural education for high school students.


Highlights and Accomplishments

The following is a short list of efforts and initiatives that have kept The Experiment on the cutting edge of international education for young people throughout the past eight decades.


Access and Inclusion

By 1940, The Experiment, seeking to attract the most dynamic students from across the U.S., started offering scholarships to a wide cross-section of young people from different geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. This practice continues today. More than 50% of Experimenters receive some form of financial support. Learn more about The Experiment’s scholarship and financial aid opportunities.


First Generation Community Service Programs

Immediately following World War II, The Experiment began sending groups to Western Europe to help assist in the rebuilding of communities across the war-ravaged continent. These were some of the first generation of community service and volunteer programs integrated into cross-cultural education.


Connection to Sargent Shriver and the Peace Corps

Sargent Shriver, the architect of the Peace Corps, had a life-changing experience as a participant on one of the first Experiment in International Living programs. Two years after his program, he returned to serve as an Experiment group leader to Germany and Austria, and he later served as a group leader to France. These experiences helped Sargent Shriver craft the founding principles of the Peace Corps. He ultimately invited Experiment president Gordon Boyce to help train the first Peace Corps volunteers to Gabon and Pakistan, which was the start of a deep, decades-long partnership between the Peace Corps, The Experiment in International Living, and World Learning, the parent organization of The Experiment.


White House and Recognition

In January 2011, the White House put out a press release acknowledging the efforts of The Experiment and other educational institutions committed to increasing educational and civic engagement between the United States and China. Building upon decades of experience, The Experiment continues to launch new programs in countries like Mongolia, Peru, and Tanzania. These efforts led to name The Experiment as the top summer abroad program for high school students.


A Global Network

The Experiment in International Living is the flagship program of World Learning, a nonprofit that advances leadership through education, exchange, and development programs in more than 100 countries, and is part of the World Learning Inc. family. This global network also includes the School for International Training SIT Graduate Institute and SIT Study Abroad.