InterFuture is an independent non-profit organization offering a unique study-abroad experience for exceptional undergraduate students. Each year a select group of undergraduate students are accepted into the InterFuture program to design cross-cultural research projects and then conduct their individual research projects in one or two locales overseas.
Students who qualify as InterFuture Scholars join a group of outstanding, imaginative undergraduates from around the United States who have the remarkable opportunity to design and carry out, a personalized intercultural research project.
InterFuture Scholars typically travel abroad during the second semester of their junior year. During an eight-month preparatory period, students design a cross-cultural research project and attend three InterFuture conferences. InterFuture students orginate from all academic fields, from the social sciences to the humanities, from the natural sciences to business and management. Each research project is designed to reflect the participants’ diverse interests.
Participants conduct their research abroad, in both a European and a non-European nation, if possible. Overseas for three to seven months, InterFuture Scholars become immersed in the host culture, studying with a local expert and living with local families. Upon returning home, Scholars prepare a final research paper documenting their cross-cultural research and share their findings through classes, workshops, exhibitions, and action projects. The research papers prepared by InterFuture Scholars are submitted to their home institution for appropriate academic credit, usually equivalent to that which would have been earned at the home campus during semester(s) they were abroad.
Through this approach, tested and honed with over forty years of field experience, InterFuture provides intercultural education of the highest quality to students from cultural and ethnic backgrounds of wide diversity. The program is committed to intercultural research, international understanding, and unparalleled opportunities for talented undergraduate students to experience intellectual and emotional growth.
InterFuture offers twenty research locales for students to conduct their cross-cultural research. The full InterFuture program is designed for students to visit two research locales: a semester in a European locale and a semester in a non-European locale. During the eight month preparation prior to overseas departure, students work with InterFuture staff to design their research projects and choose research locales accordingly.
Candidates normally apply for InterFuture early in the spring semester of their sophomore year. Applications are due in the InterFuture campus relations office in Boston, MA before April 1.
Students prepare for their InterFuture experience by attending three training conferences, completing reading and language study, undertaking specified coursework at their campus, designing a pilot study, and writing a project plan.
InterFuture Scholars from across the U.S. gather three times during the course of their preparation to plan and refine their projects with the assistance of InterFuture staff, alumni, and guest advisors. These three conferences feature small group discussions, workshops, individual consultations, and cultural awareness exercises.
The first conference gives candidates the opportunity to weigh alternative project topics and research locales. By the end of this conference most participants have developed a manageable question to guide their forthcoming research.
The second conference follows a summer of background reading and, if needed, language study. Students are aided in clarifying their research designs and methodologies, deciding on appropriate data-gathering techniques, and beginning the work of structuring interviews. Exercises, such as role-playing and community explorations, acquaint participants first-hand with some of the challenges encountered while carrying out intercultural research.
The third conference emphasizes self-awareness and sensitivity to culturally influenced attitudes and behavior. Simulations and other exercises help InterFuture Scholars identify their own preconceptions, develop a sense of how they are perceived by others, and become aware of the underlying cultural factors that may influence the actions of people they meet in unfamiliar surroundings.
In the U.S. during the fall semester, each participant includes the following elements in his or her accredited academic schedule, either as courses or supervised individual study.
With the help of a faculty advisor, the InterFuture Scholar reviews the literature on the topic to be investigated, examines relevant research methods and completes readings on the locale(s) to be visited.
Unless a student regularly speaks the language to be encountered in the field, InterFuture Scholars going to countries other than the U.K., Ghana, Ireland, Jamaica, the Republic of South Africa, and Tanzania engage in language study. Students will arrange for class or tutorial work emphasizing conversation skills and the vocabulary of the intended project.
InterFuture Scholars conduct a small-scale field investigation on the research question in the U.S., usually in a community near the student’s home campus, to test research methodology and hypotheses.
During the Preparatory period, the InterFuture Scholar is engaged in writing, revising, and expanding a comprehensive project plan. This outline sets forth the research question and sub-questions; the justification for the study; methods to be employed in identifying, gathering and analyzing data; background material on the issue and related studies; and a plan for sharing findings on return. As it develops, the project plan is reviewed by the student’s on-campus advisor, members of the InterFuture staff, and members of the InterFuture network who have knowledge of the topic.
To enable an InterFuture Scholar to conduct a research project in the field overseas, InterFuture provides the following support services.
InterFuture arranges in advance all living arrangements for each student in the research locale(s) overseas. Typically, InterFuture Scholars live with host families to allow for full immersion in the host culture. Occasionally, students may live in student housing or in private lodging. Each living arrangement varies by the research locale and the student’s needs for their research project.
At each overseas research locale an InterFuture National Coordinator (a local scholar, teacher or administrator) assists the student during the entire duration overseas. This National Coordinator will be the students’ primary contact overseas, typically greeting the student at the arrival airport, helping the student get settled in their living arrangements helping the student begin research, forwarding mail, and assisting with any problems or needs that might arise during the student’s stay overseas.
In each research locale, the National Coordinator makes arrangements for an InterFuture Project Advisor based on the student’s research project. The Project Advisor is an academic or specialist knowledgeable in the student’s field of study who can offer advice on initial contacts, readings, and field study. A student normally meets with this advisor weekly, during the duration of their entire stay overseas.
Reflection, Analysis & Evaluation Conference
April (3 days)
The final conference takes place in Europe immediately after the first locale, where all InterFuture Scholars gather to present, compare and examine their findings.
The InterFuture experience culminates in the InterFuture Scholars presentation of their findings upon return to the U.S. A final project paper or equivalent project is produced based on investigations carried out in the U.S. and overseas. In addition, returning Scholars also share their findings with various campus organizations, academic programs, and community groups interested in the project.
Participating InterFuture students may receive credit for the semester(s) they are abroad either from their home institution (if arrangements for credit-granting for IF currently exist or may be worked out in timely fashion on that campus) or from InterFuture, through its academic base Charles University in Prague.
Project Title: "Drum-Making: An Examination of the Cultural Factors that Influence the Making of Drums by Artisans in Central and Southeastern Ghana and Northeastern United States."
“InterFuture was for me both humbling and empowering. It was humbling in that I was dropped into a completely new environment where I was a newcomer and had to start completely from scratch. I've lived in a number of places, but have never let go of so many aspects of myself and opened myself up to as many different experiences as I did in Ghana. Though I was prepared and had researched my topic as much as I could prior to going on locale, there was obviously so much to learn and there were countless times when Irealized how little I knew. What was empowering was precisely this realization. I know that the past year and a half could not have been what they were, were it not for the help of InterFuture staff and people in Ghana, the support of my wonderful host family, and my determination and hard work.”Rea Zaimi, InterFuture Class of 2010