Mission & History
InterFuture, whose name stands for “intercultural studies for the future,” is a network of internationally-minded professionals who help promising students conduct intercultural research. It was founded in Princeton, New Jersey in 1969, as a private, non-profit educational organization. InterFuture Scholars undertake an extraordinarily challenging experience in overseas cultural immersion and cross-cultural research. Students who qualify as InterFuture Scholars become part of an exceptional group of outstanding, imaginative undergraduates form around the United States who are give the remarkable opportunity of designing and carrying out a personalized intercultural research project. Between 1971 and 2013, InterFuture has worked with 419 student InterFuture Scholars from 54 colleges and universities.
Our goal is to offer one of the most exciting and challenging alternatives in intercultural education available to undergraduates in the U.S.—a synergistic combination of honors programming, cultural immersion, and undergraduate research.
Our commitment is to intercultural research, international understanding, and to providing talented undergraduate students with unparalleled opportunities for intellectual and emotional growth. The heart of the InterFuture program is individualized preparation for and one-on-one experience in study abroad, an approach that personalizes, intensifies, and magnifies the impact of the individual's exposure to new political, social, economic, and cultural environments, and to new aspects of her of his own.
The ideal of intercultural education is to help students develop perspectives from which they can recognize cultural contrasts and begin insightfully to formulate comparative questions about them: to challenge their accustomed ways of seeing and judging, and to find footing in the foreign environment which comes only with knowledge of the foundations of both home and host cultures. In this process, knowledge, empathy, and reserving judgement are invaluable and indispensable.
Of the experiences available to undergraduate students, study abroad is among those with the greatest potential to add, through cultivation of cross-cultural sensibilities, the most practical value for a student's future employability or graduate/professional education. It does not much matter whether a student majors in economics or humanities--a well-crafted study abroad experience results in personal growth and enhanced understanding of the Other so necessary in the world we live in. Through its focus on helping participants acquire and sharpen these intercultural skills, InterFuture offers maximum value for monetary investment.
Study abroad should provide not an exercise in touristic exoticism but rather an experience in how to integrate difference into one's world. The InterFuture program aims to allow participants to get the most out of their time overseas that they possibly can, and not to settle, as study abroad participants too often do, or only a small fraction of what a study abroad opportunity has the potential to offer them.
The primary goals of intercultural programs are:
- firstly, to enhance students' sensitivity to and understanding of the inner workings of other cultures;
- secondly, to teach them to appreciate and respect these cultures as they do their own;
- and thirdly, to lead them to self-reflection, and to re-evaluation of both the culture visited and their home culture.
As their awareness is sharpened by the ways in which they are products of the American cultural paradigm, InterFuture participants come to understand better their position and biases as American "observers" of non-U.S. culture(s). They thus become better able both to understand the culture that they are visiting and to appreciate (and, to some degree, to compensate for) the "American" characteristics, attitudes, and preconceptions that influence their perception and valuation of the non-American "Other." Once acquired, these techniques and skills of intercultural parallax can be applied constructively in future to any cross-cultural interactions, whether in the U.S. or abroad, in which the trained individual finds her- or himself.
InterFuture aims to heighten cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity in our participants through a judicious combination of intensive pre-departure training in intercultural problemitization and research skills, of the formulation and execution by each undergraduate of an independent intercultural research project, and of on-locale cultural immersion and personal, individual encounter with the "Other." Through the collaborative educational, research, and leaning experiences involved, we aspire to nurture, in participating students and in participating academic and non-academic professionals alike, sensibilities supportive of international community (scholarly and otherwise), solidarity, and cooperation.
We proceed on the operational premise that study-abroad programs have a profound and lasting impact on the attitudes and perceptions of participants in direct proportion to (1) the amount and intensity of preparation that precedes the sojourn overseas and (2) the degree to which students are required to interact, as individual, directly and intensively with the people and the culture of the study-abroad locale. The InterFuture program makes these two crucial features available to participants to a much greater degree than most college-run, group-oriented study-abroad programs.
We undertake to assemble, in any given academic year, a group of outstanding, imaginative undergraduates from around the United States and from all academic fields--social sciences to humanities, natural sciences to business and management--who will be provided the remarkable opportunity to design and carry out, in the U.S. and overseas, personalized intercultural research projects, designed to reflect participants' diverse interests. It is InterFuture's aspiration, additionally, that the Scholars will become, over time, members of the community of InterFuture volunteers who pass forward their opportunities and experience by themselves participating in the organization's training and advisory activities.
InterFuture attempts to encourage in its participants an awareness of humanity's precarious position in the world and a consequent willingness to seek--through experience--the tools, materials, and tests by which we may live with ourselves and each other, while preparing for our planet's future needs.
To facilitate intercultural interaction, observation, dialogue, and cooperative analysis, InterFuture Scholars interact while abroad primarily with advisors, scholars, families, and other individuals and groupings from within the cultural locale being visited.
Through these approaches, tested and honed over forty-two years of field experience, InterFuture aims to provide intercultural education of the highest quality to students from cultural and ethnic backgrounds of the widest possible diversity, based on the conviction and on our experience that such diversity expands the minds and tests the preconceptions of all participants.