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Uncontrollable Education through Immersion: An InterFuture Curriculum

Abstract: An educational institution is always in tension with the multiplicity of student
experiences. This article uses the notion of curriculum-as-lived-experience to rethink the
curriculum of InterFuture a forty-year-old independent organization which prepares and
supports undergraduates to conduct intercultural research projects of their own design in two or
three locales around the world. Following descriptions of the organization and of curriculum-aslived-experience, three autobiographical narratives from program alumni present images of
student experiences through InterFuture. These narratives explore the connections between
programmatic intentions and the multiplicity of lived experiences, a productive set of tensions
that rely on uncontrollable educational forces to create powerfully affective moments of
transformative learning.
Over the past decade, we have each been deeply involved in a program called Intercultural
Studies of the Future, or simply, InterFuture an experiment in undergraduate education through
which students design and independently conduct intercultural research projects in two or three
locales around the world. We were each students in the program and have come back around as
staff to prepare new classes of InterFuture scholars. Through this institutional recycling, we are
keenly aware of the unavoidable disconnections between the intensive eight-month preparation
process and the transformative educational experience of being culturally immersed while trying
to carry out a research project. The teaching we do as staffers with each new InterFuture class is
always very incomplete; we feel this acutely every time we hear returning students excitedly try
to explain what happened during their projects and how they have been deeply effected. It
reminds us that our written curriculum is distinct from the curriculum as lived by students. In
part, this is because our most affective educational tools immersion, dislocation, disorientation,
and struggle are beyond our pedagogical control.
This article first provides a brief synopsis of InterFutures history. This is followed by a
discussion of pertinent theories of curriculum as they relate to InterFuture. Three
autobiographical stories from program alumni Kristen Wallerius, Halley Cohen, and Christine
Azzaro - illustrate the nature of the experience, and the article concludes with a discussion of the
stories in relation to the notion of curriculum-as-lived-experience.
What is InterFuture?
InterFuture was founded as an educational experiment by Paul Conner in 1969. The intent was
to create a completely different kind of intercultural educational experience than was unavailable
in American colleges and universities at that time and remains largely unavailable still
(Streitwieser, 2009). Instead of exchanging ones own college for a college in some other
country, thereby exchanging one college experience for another college experience often with a
sizable group of other American students, an InterFuture student would create her own project

and carry it out in a foreign place. This is education through independence, inquiry, and
Though much about the program has changed over forty years, the InterFuture program is still
centered on the research projects designed by each student. These form the core academic work
of InterFuture scholars to design an intercultural research project to be carried out in the United
States and one or two foreign locales (to be selected from a list of roughly twenty). The projects
can investigate any topic so long as they focus on aspects of human life that can be crossculturally compared. In recent years, these have run the gamut from examining how professional
sports franchises respond to anti-doping initiatives in the United States, Mexico, and the United
Kingdom to how reuse and recycling occur in low-income households in Boston, Accra, and
Asuncion. Indeed, the three autobiographic stories below reflect upon the experience of
conducting three very different projects: technology use in Belgian secondary schools; genderconscious feminist theater in South Africa; and women entrepreneurs in Tanzania. The common
thread through all of this work is the exploration of ways in which cultures shape and are shaped
by human endeavors.
A common refrain: how can undergraduates possibly do this work? In short, InterFuture students
do this with intensive preparation and tremendous effort. The program focuses on recruiting
eight to twelve students per year from the top-ten percent of a small cadre of colleges and
universities. These students apply and, after review, matriculate into InterFuture roughly eight
months prior to starting independent research. In June students attend the four-day Exploratory
Conference in which they develop a research topic, identify research locales, and cull a research
question to frame the project. It should be noted that at InterFuture preparatory conferences
there are typically as many staff as there are students; this allows for scheduled one-on-one
consultations, informal consultations, and large group discussions to occur where a range of
ideas and perspectives can be brought to bear on each students topic. Structured activities, such
as community explorations in which students head out into the local area to apply what they have
learned about research and then report back, also push the development of topics and students.
A month following the Exploratory Conference, students submit their first of four project plans
in which they outline their project, research methods, and topical background information. A
few weeks after this, students attend the Research Design conference in which research questions
are finalized and a set of methods for carrying out the project (typically interviews, participant
observation, and documentary research) are specified. InterFuture students continue to develop
their project plans as they return to their college campus in the fall to take related courses and
work closely with a faculty member. During this time, students also carry out a pilot study.
Immediately before departing for their first research locale, students attend the Intercultural
Skills conference in late-January. Here the focus is on improving the interactions and the ways
of conducting a research project that must be attended to when working in an unfamiliar culture.
InterFuture scholars leave from the conference for a semester of independent research in their
first foreign locale. Their work is supported by a national coordinator who often enlists the help
of others with appropriate connections or knowledges to assist the student. There is no direct
connection to a college campus; instead, scholars usually live with families and structure their
own time with respect to familial responsibilities and their project work. The actual location of

homestays ranges widely, from a town of roughly 500 on the Maasai Steppe in Tanzania to
suburban London to Seoul, South Korea. The emphasis in these arrangements is on immersion,
on the student being deeply embedded into local culture and social relations in order to stimulate
deep understandings of how everyday life relates to the formation of cultural life and shape the
particular nature of their research interests. After three months in locale, all students come
together in the Netherlands for the Reflection and Analysis conference at which staff helps
students begin to make sense of the research materials they generated and make sense of their
lived experience. The conference is held in the Netherlands because InterFuture has had a
partner program in Amsterdam for over twenty years InterFuture Netherlands which sends
students to the United States for intercultural research projects similar to what American students
From this point, itineraries diverge. Some students continue on to a second research locale
immediately; some student return to the United States for the summer to conduct American
research and prepare for a second foreign locale in the fall; and some return to the United States
having elected to do only one international locale. No matter the case, the scholars gather again
for the Intercultural Research Colloquium in September to present their tentative findings to a
public audience. These sharing activities have long been a key facet of InterFuture; each scholar
is required to perform five sharing activities (construed broadly) upon return from locales in
order to contribute in some small ways to intercultural understanding among diverse peoples.
Completion of five sharing activities must be documented and a final write up of the full research
project must be submitted for students to receive academic credit for their work. Typically, an
InterFuture is granted a full semester of credit for each foreign locale researched.1
This educational process, from the cultivation of an interest to the public sharing of experiences,
primarily catalyzes transformation within the individual student as well as in microscopic
understandings between peoples across cultural differences. At the personal level, it seeks what
Dewey deemed the transformation of more or less casual curiosity and sporadic suggestion into
attitudes of alert, cautious, and thorough inquiry (as quoted in Doll 1993, p.137). As might be
quickly surmised from the above description, the InterFuture pre-locale preparation process can
only partially spark this transformation. It is the independent work conducted in locale, the
experiences had while immersed in a new cultural setting, and the attempt to make sense of it all
that hold transformative educational power. In this way, InterFuture draws upon forces much
larger than its own written materials and teaching practices to create an educational experience.
The very structure of the InterFuture educational program is based around the notion that
schooling-like learning is not enough to catalyze transformative education; the preparation
conferences, the written materials, the organizationally traditional teaching practices, the tasks
required of students, and the well rehearsed addresses to the students are, in sum, incomplete.
The most meaningful learning that takes place through InterFuture occurs out in the locales
during interviews, in host family homes where conversations take place, and in frustrating
moments when things so common at home are ever more difficult in a new cultural context. For

For more descriptive information about InterFuture works, see:

forty years now, InterFuture has worked from the notion that its curriculum is the lived
experience of its students.
This notion of curriculum-as-lived-experience takes an original cue from Dewey in that the
curriculum is located in the space of the students experience; that is, learning occurs where ideas
enter the active experience of the student (1902/1997). For all the commonality that educators
provide in the well-reasoned sequencing of learning activities, the interaction of personal
historical experience and present situation create individuated education. Still, though, the
Deweyan curriculum is not fractured or transient; it is rooted in the practical effects and
continuity of the student (1938/1990). In order to stimulate a transformative educational
experience, the lived curriculum requires students to do differently and to create newly. This is
the pragmatic strategy to recast ones past and to open up other futures. It is the products of
experience that mark this learning, not the experience of production.
To excavate this type of educational experience, recent curriculum theorists have turned to
autobiography. Scholars such as Doll (1993), Pinar (2004), and Miller (2004) use a multifaceted
conceptualization of curriculum as an active process to invigorate new sources of curricular
knowing. Here, curriculum refers back to its Latin root, currere, the course that is run, in order
to elevate the phenomenological and the plural into complicated conversation with the
institutionalizations of education (Pinar 2004). As Miller (2004) explains in one of her
autobiographical pieces, she learned not only schooling-content in at school, but was also
educated in the ways of being a girl, of being a particular social class, and of being a certain age.
Millers experience in these learnings is mutually affective and inseparable, yet only a fraction of
this is formalized as official school curriculum.
In order to tap into the currere of the InterFuture curriculum-as-lived-experience, this article
centers on three autobiographical stories from past scholars who also serve as current program
staff: Kristen, Halley, and Christine. It is from this view that the transformative is visible and
visceral, not merely printed as an ideal goal of the learning experience. These stories each
investigate a key moment of struggle and great difficulty in conducting a research project in a
foreign cultural setting. This is where the educational experience becomes individuated the
personal historical interacting with specific circumstance to profoundly alter future possibilities.
But the specificity of these stories is always in close relation to their common task. Each take
place through an undertaking: the creation of a research project, the carrying out of that project,
and reflection upon what it was that happened. This is where the I of currere must be
complicated with the transactionalism of Dewey. Learning occurs in the situation of experience,
the personal historical, and contexts; education happens in the space of experience and not acts
of narration. As such, the self, as either personal or sociological construct, is only part of the
educational product; the things made out of experience also constitute the learning. In the
InterFuture sense, the transformative power of the program is at once a recasting of ones sense
of self, ones perspectives on the socio-cultural world, and the things one makes. This is why the
sharing activities are as important as the final written project the lowly undergraduate becomes
a researcher by creating a research report and further becomes a creator of knowledge by
bringing new concepts of the socio-cultural world into the experience of others.

Conceiving of a curriculum-as-lived-experience in this way highlights the multiple nature of
Deweyan thought (Semetsky 2006); that is to say, curriculum does not happen in a progression
from introduction to action to reflection, but instead that the lived experience of curriculum
makes these simultaneous occurrences. Further, this complicates and attenuates distinctions
between teacher and student as well as between teaching practice and content. This is often one
of the most striking things to new InterFuture students there is as many staff as there are
students and it is the interests of the students that form the core content. In the common college
classroom, the curriculum is rooted in the experience of the professor as she tries to cohere it
across a class of students. But the InterFuture curriculum is open to the extent that it is
unpredictably made within the lived experience of the student.
In a way, it makes InterFuture staff ignorant schoolmasters (Ranciere 1991) in respect to
interests of the student; the method of teaching is often questioning from a position of authentic
not-knowing such that articulated understanding and new conceptualizations are the desired
results. But this refers mainly to the process of preparation, which is in many ways only ever
partial preparation for the independent work in locale. Indeed, by sending students off to be
immersed in a project and in a culture, larger forces are conjured into the experience of the
student. In the absence of familiar social contexts and familiar academic tasks, the very question
of who the student is comes into question. Who am I here? What am I doing? What do I know?
Where am I? And what is I, anyway? Doing differently interrupts familiar schooling and
materializes products of learning and a new student, a transformed student. Through InterFuture
students are charged with work that is new to them and put to carry it out in foreign places. No
staff member can control what happens here, when the project and the place situate the
experience of the student. It is an education that relies on the uncontrollable.
Three InterFuture Stories
Kristen. It was a bad French day, what I called those days when I seemed incapable of
translating my English thoughts into French phonics. As I waited in the teachers lounge at this
Belgian secondary school, I watched teachers fly in from a chaotic hallway. I pined for one of
these teachers to approach me so that I might be forced into practicing my French before the
interviews; I also hoped that nobody could see me sitting there. Soon, a short, frazzled looking
woman approached me, Christine? I had been answering to Christine because Kristen
seemed odd and ugly, and unpronounceable in French.
As she swept me into my first interview of the morning, it was like a scene from a movie, where
a new teacher has no idea how to control an unruly class; this teacher, however, had been
teaching at this secondary school for decades, and she screamed at the boys to stop their vulgar
gestures and paper balls and harassment. This interview did not look promising, so I took a
moment to ask the teacher if I could distribute some short questionnaires to the students. With
permission, I did so only to discover later on that most of the students had responded with
obnoxious answers like, Ill tell you the answer if you will go on a date with me (insert mobile
phone number). I continued asking my interview questions to the teacher about the ways in
which teachers and students at this school use computers to achieve educational objectives.
Because any of the computer labs only have about four functioning machines, she told me, there
simply werent enough computers for the students or teachers the to use, period.

After the class ended, she grabbed my arm and led me to another classroom for my next
interview. I wanted to cry. I had just spent an entire hour in a classroom, and had nothing to show
for my time. Worse than that, what I did have to show for my time was a statement from my
interviewee that she thought I was wasting my time.
The next room was Mme. Renards secretarial class, full of inquisitive young women. At this
point, my sentiments were a mix of stage fright, and sheer exhaustion. Any leftover spirit I could
dredge up to complete this project was invested in simply understanding the Belgian-accented
French words flying at me. Mme. Renard moderated the conversation for a few minutes, then
asked her students to quiet down and complete my questionnaire.
I began my interview with Mme. Renard, and it quickly became apparent that she had little to no
creative license in her approach to teaching; there was a series of secretarial tasks her students
would need to perform, and her job was to help her students become competitive in the job
market. Some chatter began to buzz around the classroom. One student interrupted my
conversation with Mme. Renard to ask for stories about the US. Mme. Renard answered in
English, You shood prac-teece yeur Ang-leesh avec Christine! The girls began firing away
questions in English. How many people are en chomage in the US? Chomage? Yes eets like
when someone does not have work. Unemployed? Yes! Oui! I had no idea, I explained, but there
were lots of homeless people around New York City, which was near my home town. (They
gasped.) New York! September 11! Were you there? Did you see it? One black girl asked whether
there were a lot of black people in the US, then giggled, and whether there was a lot of racism
today; one girl asked whether the cost of living in New York was high Questions persisted, and
I was happy for a few opportunities to ask some of the students questions back to them. I found
myself feeling overwhelmingly humbled by the opportunity to speak with these wonderful young
women about their lives.
That evening, despite my pleasant experience in Mme. Renards class, I couldnt help but feel
defeated. I sat awake in my flat in Limauges. I sipped sugary tea out of a beer glass, and tried to
wrap my head around what I had gotten myself into. I wasnt a researcher by course of study I
was an English Literature major who had somehow been sideswiped by the InterFuture tidal
wave. After today, I was convinced that I was a complete failure.
I thought the whole experience that day was background noise a distraction from my research
focus. But this was my first whollyimmersive participant-observation experience. This was the
experience, and it brought to my attention that my project wasnt going to develop in a neat
parcel. Maybe, I thought, I had better begin to examine why these schools and students did not
have access to computers. What was the greater implication here? The experience opened my
eyes to the soul of my project.
Halley. I expected to walk off a London side street into a dimly-lit performance space
where the writer-director, or maybe her girlfriend-performer, was selling tickets. I expected the
room to be full of attractive women with sexy politics. I expected to meet people earnestly

proclaiming the ways in which theatre could be used to reconstruct social realities. I expected to
hook up with these women.
I expected these things in part because I had read about venues like the WOW Caf in New York
City and groups like the Scarlet Harlets in London. I carried my battered Routledge Reader in
Gender and Performance with me everywhere, and was never far from stacks of other books and
articles. I felt completely prepared interviewing these professional female actors, writers, and
directors about the cultural factors influencing their work. At the same time, I had no idea what I
was doing.
The other part of my expectations came from a romanticized vision of this theatrical genre, a
vision based on a past history. I knew that my vision was not quite accurate, but it imagined the
kinds of spaces in which I wanted to find myself. I wanted to do more than just read about this
work. If my desire had only been for basic study, then I could have just stayed home and written
a long paper for a few independent study credits, and worked the system, and gotten an A that
did not matter. But I cared about this topic. Much of the artists earlier works were often acutely
linked to the self and based in the shared autobiographies of everyone involved, so to be
involved it seemed necessary for me to be there and associate myself in whatever way I could.
What I really wanted was connection, to be part of this exciting, living phenomenon. However,
the way I imagined the connection was not the way I would most-fully find it.
I left London for Johannesburg, South Africa for the second part of my research. It was only
about a year after the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings and there was
still a strong value placed on hearing long-silenced and undervalued voices. I wanted to be part
of the performance communities again, but I worried about how that might happen there where
race was part of everything and as a non-South African, apartheid was not my personal story to
tell. I worried about cultural appropriation. I worried about wanting to be part of the
performance dynamic and not being able. The politics of presence weighed on my mind.
Near the Market Theatre complex, I interviewed an actor named Thoko. I believed her when she
told me that the only way women had survived and advanced was by helping each other. She
had meant during apartheid, when women were expected not to distract from the main struggle
with their own issues, but I saw the way she brought another actor friend with her who gave me
the advertising materials for her show, and how a writer friend named Nomhle (whom I had
interviewed the week before) put me in contact with Thoko, and how Thoko was just as
passionate about others new works as her own; and I knew these networks were still strong.
When I brought articles for Nomhle to this meeting, I felt like I was, in some minor way, being
initiated into this tradition. The articles I gave to Thoko were the new journal commentaries on a
recent South African production I had mentioned to Nomhle the week before, articles that would
then be handed off and circulated through a chain of friends and colleagues.
Thoko also understood that I would be going back to America and, as she put it, as a traveling
American theatre scholar and actor, that I must have connections back home, and perhaps I
could put them in touch with some of my contacts As the Nomhle had said at our interview a
week earlier, after answering my many questions, I have helped you, now you can help me. I

did not expect that level of directness, but I later realized that this statement and our earlier
exchanges were not only a matter of making contacts, but an indication that I was a small part of
their larger network. I was not just linking myself to them; we were connected to each other.
And while that connection was true, another truth is this: in that foreign context, I could only
ever be foreign. Sometimes that distance is useful, sometimes it is not.
Christine. The memories of passing long evenings with Dr. Msinjili, my Tanzanian host
father, still swim in my head. During these nights, I struggled to understand our differences and
place my American ideals within a Tanzanian framework. I, a wide-eyed twenty year-old from
New Jersey, asked ignorant questions of this Russian-trained veterinarian who spoke seven
languages fluently, for which I was instantly forgiven. Dont you want to come to America? I
blurted out once. I had been told my whole life this was what everyone wanted. He looked at me
with a gentle smile on his face and turned his eyes downward. You have such big dreams. It
was a statement, free of judgment, that had the air of an inside joke I was on the outside of.
My research was an analysis of the role gender plays in entrepreneurship. Looking back, I had an
idealistic perspective of the reasons why women start businesses. This perspective was intimately
connected to American ideals of independence and hard work and the rewards you reap therein.
In this vein, as an InterFuture staff member, I often speak to students about the importance of
generating research that explores comparable individuals, groups, organizations, or ideas existing
in their selected locales. I can laugh at myself thinking of this notion in light of my own project.
For me, the real learning came in those disorienting first days in Monduli, Tanzania where every
conception I had from reading journal articles and books was thrown out the window.
Growing up in the shadow of New York City, Monduli was pretty close to the middle of
nowhere. Along the dusty bypass into the small town center, women chatted the days away in
front of makeshift stands pieced together from some old wooden planks and nails. They sold
sodas, sacks of dried beans, water, and charcoal. During my first pass through Monduli, I was
stopped dead in my tracks by the realization that these local women sellers were the towns
entrepreneurs. They worked side by side with their children without the conflict of daycare
looming overhead. They were not preoccupied with building codes, inspections, regulations,
glossy marketing materials, and all of the other sound bites ringing in my head from my
interviews in Boston and Spain.
Dr. Msinjili had scheduled an interview for me. I can recall his lively face as he built what he
envisioned as an intrinsic connection between my project and a local factory where women
rented space to make and sell t-shirts. For my part, I was a bit confused about whether or not
these women fit my sample. The wheels in my head were turning as I attempted to fit this square
peg into my carefully-developed round hole. Nonetheless, my being invited to speak with these
Tanzanians made me feel triumphant like a legitimate researcher.
Three p.m., Tuesday, the dusty office of the t-shirt shop: After being offered an array of
beverages which I politely declined, I was introduced and made the requisite small talk with a
male manager. It was clear through both his words and actions that he wielded a significant
amount of power over the women entrepreneurs I was there to interview. In this moment,
terrified, I realized the questions I had on my page represented my own understandings and did

not reflect the realities of these Tanzanian women who sewed t-shirts to sell at local markets. I
stared down at the questions to see what last minute alterations could make. Why did you
choose to become an entrepreneur? How do you define success? How does the society
define success? As the afternoon heat became almost unbearable, the women huddled near the
door way, filing in one by one to occupy the seat across from me Tumani, Elizabeth, Zulfa,
Naomi, Eliakunda. I nervously flipped through my notes and recorded their polite and literal
responses. In those moments, I felt blonde, white, dizzily awkward, and unquestionably stupid. I
couldnt wait to leave the dark factory behind and be out in the African sunshine the whole
ordeal safely behind me. Of course, post-interview, it was not behind me.
InterFuture An Uncontrollable Curriculum
Kristen, Halley, and Christines stories illustrate experiences of InterFuture students as they are
immersed in conducting their research projects and immersed in foreign cultures. In this section,
their pieces are read against the notion of curriculum-as-lived-experience to identify and describe
the affective forces that sparked learning. These are thematized as struggle, disorientation, and
Each of the above autobiographical pieces articulates many struggles faced in all facets of the
InterFuture experience. On one level, there is a basic struggle to understand what is going on at
any given moment. For Kristen this is heightened by the rapidly spoken French in an unfamiliar
dialect to what extent is the present moment actually understood? Moreover, what is ones role
in this? Halleys both/and position in a community of South African performers both part of
and inexorably separate from presented a constant struggle to thoughtfully participate in ways
that are honest and meaningful. Behind this is always a specter of failure, which Christine
sensed was immanent in her serial interviews with women at a t-shirt factory. With her notions
of what it means to be an entrepreneur already upended from the moment she realized that a
group of women entrepreneurs worked under the management of a man in factory, Christine
pressed ahead asking questions that made good sense in the context in which she wrote them. As
a research activity, this was a failure, but Christines audacity to place herself in a situation in
which her carefully crafted interviews fell flat initiated a deeper struggle how to make sense of
a reality not yet fathomed? All of these struggles involve the intrusion of a new culture, with its
unfamiliar practices and different perspectives, into the worldview of the student. As all of the
pieces above indicate, this is not a gentle event, but an onerous struggle for the student.
Part of these struggles includes a visceral sense of disorientation. InterFuture students are
usually well aware that things in a foreign culture will be different, and oftentimes they are eager
to experience that difference. But the stories above illustrate that disorientation occurs between
the expectation of difference and the real experience of difference in a new cultural context. This
is reflected in Christines interviews at the t-shirt factory, but was also presaged by her
conversation with Dr. Msinjili about traveling to the United States. Here she expected there to be
similar basic understandings and desires that under girded different life experiences. Even
Kristen and Halleys thorough background research left them facing unexpected realities.
Kristen worked from the assumption that computers would be readily available and teachers
would creatively employ them in Belgian schools. When she finds that this is clearly not the
case, Kristen searched for ways to reorient her work while acknowledging her basic premise was

faulty. Halley, for her part, was well versed in the research literature and well expected some
differences to emerge, but she did not predict the ways in which she would grapple with
interpersonal relations; as much as she was learning from the women she was studying, these
women were drawing materials and expecting connections through Halley. Her expectation to be
a student was complicated by expectations of her as a peer. In each of these pieces, there is no
resolution to this disorientation, which suggests that the learning experience was not in working
out a new equilibrium, but instead that the experience of struggling with disorientation is in itself
educative and ongoing.
In these disorientations, there is also struggle with dislocation. Each familiar self Kristen,
Christine, and Halley was made unfamiliar in a new cultural setting. There had to be acts of
personal translation where ones self was recreated so as to be intelligible and livable in a foreign
culture. Starkly and symbolically, Kristen went by the name Christine as her given name was
unrecognized in Belgium. But the students Kristen encountered also asked her to represent the
United States, to be their informant on a disparate range of American topics. She was caught
between having to remake herself and being tethered to a home. Christine was also struck by a
heightened sense of being American and of being a near-New Yorker by being in Tanzania while
Halley negotiated having her role cast for her by the women she studied. These positions are all
interdependent and mutually informing: to be American; to be a researcher; to be a peer; and to
be a local (for a short while). These positions, in such immediate intensity, are new to
InterFuture students, and there is only very limited opportunity to prepare for them in advance.
This means that the lived experience of being an InterFuture scholar entails a deep sense of
dislocation and provokes a series of personal translations in an attempt to become part of a new
The autobiographical stories from Kristen, Halley, and Christine touch on many more themes
and ideas than are discussed here, but struggle, disorientation, and dislocation are commonalities
that illuminate the learning experience of each. What comes through in the open-ended nature of
each piece is that new insights came not through a focused intention, but from being immersed in
new kinds of academic work and in new cultural contexts. The learning was continual, but it was
catalyzed by moments that could not be set up in a teacher-lead classroom: struggling to make
sense of what seem like basic ideas being not-so-basic in a new place; being disoriented as to
what is going on when something very different was expected; and feeling dislocated when being
ones self necessitates very different ways of being.
All of the immersive experiences describe above range far beyond the pedagogical control of
InterFuture as an educational program, and it has to be so. As Ranciere (1991) articulates, for the
will and intelligence of the student to follow the will and intelligence of the teacher is to enforce
stultification. As such, teacher-directed transformative education is an oxymoron. Something
else must intervene, and the intelligence of the student must obey only itself. From the
programmatic view, this means that the formal curriculum has to be left open to outside forces
and to create space for the unpredictable pathways of student intelligence.

From the curriculum-as-lived-experience perspective, this is a given. There is never a sole focus
on the teacher since the teacher is always contextualized into some situation with a diverse set of
students. Instead, it is the alchemy of experience mixtures of personal history, activity, and
situation that catalyzes learning. What further generates transformative learning is the nearcomplete immersion of the student into new activities and new situations. In InterFuture, this is
the research project carried out in foreign cultures that dislocates the student, disorients the
student, and causes the student to struggle. And while all of this the intended goal of InterFuture,
the program knowingly has no control over the process. The staff prepares students to
thoughtfully seek new experiences through the research project and then anticipates that Belgian
classrooms, South African actors, Tanzanian entrepreneurs, host families, and everyone else
complicit in an InterFuture students lived experience will spark transformative learning. In this
way, the InterFuture curriculum relies upon the uncontrollable.
As always with the uncontrollable, there is a danger that lurks in an InterFuture curriculum. It
sometimes happens that it is all too much, that a student finds himself overwhelmed by the
experience of cultural immersion and attempting to complete a research project. This is not
surprising; it is likely more surprising that over 400 undergraduates have been able to muster the
program over the past forty years to realize their own transformations. But this is the tenuous
work of a curriculum-as-lived-experience: the educational process conjures forces that far
outstrip its ability to control them, yet it is those very forces that forge the transformative
experience. The learning lay not in the structuration or anticipation of all this to occur, but in the
place where vital forces come into the experience of the student. It is in the context of cultural
and academic immersions and the brutalizations that often occur through struggle, disorientation,
and dislocation that the student is recast and transformed. All told, this points to the possibility
the probability that all meaningful education relies upon the introduction of powerful social
forces entering into the experience of the student. And as much as we educators attempt to
master these forces, to meter out their entrance into lived experience, we honestly only grasp the
very edges. Our desires to control the whole thing are what narrows, what deadens the
experience. We must better reckon that our pedagogy is necessarily and productively

Dewey, J. (1902/1990). The Child and Curriculum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Dewey, J. (1938/1997). Education and Experience. New York: The Free Press.
Doll, W. (1993). Post-Modern Perspectives on Curriculum. New York: Teachers College Press.
Miller, J. (2004). Sounds of Silence Breaking: Women, Autobiography, Curriculum. New York:
Peter Lang.
Pinar, B. (2004). What is Curriculum Theory? Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.
Ranciere, J. (1991). The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. (K.
Ross, Trans.). Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Streitwieser, B. (2009). Undergraduate research during study abroad: Scope, meaning, and
potential. In R. Lewin (Ed.), The handbook of practice and research in study abroad (pp.399420). New York: Routledge.

About the Authors

Christine Azzaro is a Co-Chair of InterFutures Research Design Conference and a member of

the Board of Trustees. She holds a Masters degree in International Policy Studies from La Trobe
University in Melbourne, Australia and currently works at Harvard University managing the
supply of anti-retroviral drugs to Nigerians infected with HIV.
Halley Cohen is a Co-Chair of InterFutures Intercultural Skills Conference and a member of the
Executive Committee. She recently earned her third Masters degree, an MFA at American
University, and in 2008 was named one of twenty-five Emerging LGBT Writers by the Lambda
Literary Foundation. She is currently at work on a collection of essays involving gender and
solo travel.
Charlie Tocci is Director of Studies of InterFuture as well as a Research Associate at the National
Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, & Teaching at Columbia University. He recently
completed his doctorate in Curriculum & Teaching at Teachers College writing an experimental
dissertation on the history of grades (As, Bs, Cs, etc.). His interests include using Deleuze &
Guattari to reimagine schooling and finding ways to survive as a Red Sox fan in New York City.
Kristen Wallerius is a Co-Chair of InterFutures Exploratory Conference, a member of the
Executive Committee, and a member of the Board of Trustees. She holds a Bachelor of Arts
degree in English Literature from Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. She currently
edits academic texts at Pearson Education in the Higher Education Division.

Contact Information
Christine Azzaro
Supply Chain Associate
Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)
School of Public Health, Harvard University
1637 Tremont Street
Boston, MA
(781) 626-2468
Halley Cohen
1954 Columbia Rd NW #507
Washington, DC 20009
Dr. Charles Tocci
Research Associate
National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, & Teaching
Teachers College, Columbia University
Box 110
525 West 120th St
New York, NY 10027
(312) 545-7737
Kristen Wallerius
341 Hickory Street
Twp. of Washington, NJ 07676

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