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The Experiment in International Living

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The Experiment, a non-profit making organisation, was founded in 1932 in the USA to try to find an answer to the question:

How can people of different nations understand each other well enough to see to it that their governments live peacefully together?

A basic tenet is that the individual is an indispensable means of furthering peace.

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.

What Does the Experiment Do?

This organisation provides opportunities to travel abroad or to have people stay with families in the UK in a way which promotes the understanding of other cultures. It also gives the opportunity to understand cultures from the inside. Cultural differences are seen as a source of personal enrichment rather than causes of conflict.

Currently almost 20,000 people per year take part in the Experiment's programmes. Programmes may differ from country to country and at the time of writing are available in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, US.

The Experiment organises or facilitates educational travel, international community service, homestays, language study, gap years, school exchanges, worldwide study programmes, multinational cultural travel programmes, cultural awareness training, conflict resolution, and so on and so forth.

Participation in one of the programmes can be deeply rewarding and sometimes quite challenging. Homestays are one of the basic tools of the programme. One recommendation to Experimenters is 'Be quick to observe and slow to judge'. And, 'Expect the unexpected and don't be upset when you meet it' - all sound pieces of advice.

How Are the Programmes Funded?

The Experiment is a not-for-profit, non-religious, non-political organisation.

Generally speaking, participants pay a programme fee in order to take part. Depending on the country and the programme, there may be scholarships available, and some subsidies from foundations, or other sources.

A ten-day programme available in the US to the Navajo Nation, staying and living with a host family, costs $3000 (at the time of writing). Experimenters can learn about sandpainting, silversmithing, weaving, and basket making; take classes in Navajo language and culture; learn about prehistoric technologies; explore the area on foot, mountain bike, or horseback; travel to a dude ranch and hot springs.

Awards and Celebrations

The Experiment was designated a Peace Messenger organisation in 1989 by the United Nations.

The Experiment celebrates its 70th Anniversary in 2002 in India, where former participants can meet together and exchange experiences, renew friendships and have an amazing time.

Experiment in International Living is a link to the parent site. It has links to sites in all participating countries.

This Researcher's Experience

Funded in the UK by the Thwaites Scholarship, 20 young people set in July for a six-week stay in Tanzania.

Arriving in Nairobi airport in Kenya, the group spent two days there (in the YMCA and YWCA), before boarding a bus and travelling the long and bumpy road to Moshi, in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. There, the aim was to carry out a two-week workcamp, constructing a building, which was to be a base camp for climbers.

The water tap placed outside the two huts where the Experimenters lived drew streams of villagers with water pots and it became obvious what a precious commodity water was.

Experimenters were given the opportunity of climbing Kilimanjaro in two groups. This was a five-day climb, three days up, two days down. This Researcher was in the first group, which went up rather too quickly and mountain sickness resulted. This produced dehydration on the way down with the saliva drying into ridges on the tongue and mild hallucinations. Still, drinking the first melt water, which was some way away from the third hut, was pure nectar - bliss!

Following the work camp, a two-day trip was made to Lake Manyara, where lions (which were sitting in the trees), a family of elephants and flamingoes could be seen. Then it was on to the Ngorongoro crater, where there were masses of zebra, wildebeest and the odd rhinoceros and lion.

Next came a long bus journey to Dar es Salaam, where the abiding memories were of buying an African Madonna and Child and bathing in the sea at midnight. The sand was covered in scuttling white crabs. Then came police with rifles slung over their shoulders, frightening to look at at first, who advised that it was not safe to bathe, so a hasty exit was made.

Finally, a two-week homestay. This Researcher was based in a girls' school with another Experimenter. The children there were very enthusiastic about learning - somewhat in contrast to the general attitude back home! One class was taught an English folk song and by the second verse, the girls were singing harmonies. African voices have a very special timbre and it was pure magic.

One difficulty was the attitude of some of the teachers, who were very suspicious of the Researcher. They thought all white people thought they were monkeys. This was completely shocking. However, by the end of the stay, that barrier was broken down, family photographs were shared and there was a feeling that a better understanding had been gained.

Comparing experiences on the way home and at a reunion later, it appeared that each of the group had had completely different homestay experiences. Friendships had been made and correspondences lasted for many years.

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