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Highlights of the Collective History of Federation EIL

A History of Experiment Offices Around the World
Federation EIL has put together a publication that represents a first attempt to document and present the history, development, and impact of Federation EIL over eight decades. Articles were solicited from Federation EIL members to tell their own story, expressed, in some cases, in both English and in their own language.

The publication, About Our Institution: Federation EIL – Collective Histories, was edited by Alvino Fantini, SIT professor emeritus and educational consultant to Federation EIL, with technical assistance from Mokhtar Bouba, instructional technologist, and editorial assistance from Fred Breunig, assistant director of Communications.

In the upcoming months, we’ll highlight some of those stories here on this blog; but first, we’ll begin, where we began–in 1932:

The Experiment in International Living was one of the first organizations of its kind to engage individuals in intercultural living and learning. Originating in the United States, The Experiment introduced the homestay concept to the world, carefully preparing and placing Experimenters in the homes of host families to establish personal bonds across borders and to learn other languages and cultures firsthand. Over the years, the organization expanded to many countries around the globe as it also expanded its activities beyond education into areas of service and development.

In 1954, Experiment national offices worldwide joined forces to establish Federation EIL, a Swiss-registered association, and developed an international constitution to coordinate their network of educational exchange programs and other intercultural activities.

This worldwide federated network (Federation EIL) provides members not only with worldwide outreach, but it also reflects a basic tenet — that intercultural exchange and activity is a collaborative experience. It requires working together across cultures. It allows all participants to explore their differences and build on their commonalities. Most importantly, it ensures that when going abroad, participants enter into the local culture in the German way, or the Mexican way, or the Moroccan way, rather than doing “one‘s own thing” in someone else’s backyard.

The Experiment is truly a one-of-a-kind institution. That other institutions have imitated programs and activities initiated by The Experiment, is a testament to its value and effectiveness. It is also important to reaffirm what is most distinctive about The Experiment, and to continue to build upon these unique qualities. The path into the future is directly linked with the past because of these shared qualities and values.

Today, over twenty autonomous national organizations comprise the Federation of The Experiment in International Living. By coming together as a federation and utilizing the power of their combined experience and resources, these organizations have developed — and continue to maintain — high standards of quality in the programs they conduct.  It is through such intercultural contact and collaboration of differing perspectives and experiences that Federation EIL promotes the development of intercultural competencies so necessary in the world today.

 ~International Office, Federation EIL

Next week’s Collective History highlight: Phyllis Watt Ingersoll, daughter of Experiment founder, Donald B. Watt.

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