History and Mission

The Experiment in International Living has been offering immersive experiential learning programs abroad since 1932. Today, The Experiment offers three-, four-, and five-week summer programs for high school students in more than 20 countries around the world.

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 80 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 United States, 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 Worth.com 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 Worth.com to name The Experiment as the top summer abroad program for high school students.

A Global Network and Family of Programs
The Experiment in International Living is the founding program of World Learning, a nonprofit that advances leadership through education, exchange, and development programs in more than 60 countries. In addition to The Experiment, the World Learning family of programs includes SIT Study AbroadSIT Graduate InstituteWorld Learning International Development Programs, and World Learning International Exchange Programs.