American Experience Academy

What is the American Experience Academy?

Indiana University Bloomington, College of Arts + Sciences

From the American heartland in Bloomington, Indiana, you will witness the breadth of the U.S. represented in one region—its cities, its rural agricultural areas, and a quintessential college town. You’ll join a group of diverse and intellectually curious participants, delve into the social fabric of the United States, and explore the qualities and contradictions that define this unique country. Cultural and recreational activities will complement presentations and seminars to illustrate and explain U.S. society. This 2-1/2 week Academy (July 1-19, 2020) offers a truly American experience that prepares you for working in the global economy. You’ll also make valuable connections with fellow classmates from around the world!

Where will the Academy take place?

Indiana University Bloomington is the flagship campus of the state’s largest university system. Known for its stunningly beautiful campus, IU is a public research institution with over 40,000 students and over 2,000 distinguished professors among its faculty.

This module will explore questions such as: What constitutes citizenship and makes one an American? Is the idea of a melting pot real? What unites and divides people in the U.S.? How might U.S. Americans’ image of themselves differ from the image of Americans from outside the country?

The U.S. Midwest, and Indiana specifically, will be examined as a microcosm of the nation. Its agricultural and manufacturing enterprises, combined with the service industry, technology, and medicine, illustrate the complex economy of the country. The heartland also has some of its own cultural attributes that distinguish it from the coasts, attributes that are frequently revered but may also be seen as provincial.

The United States has a remarkable history of invention and entrepreneurship. In this module, participants will look at why the U.S. environment is conducive to innovation and risk, and how it has helped propel the U.S. to global leadership over the past two centuries. The module will also focus on American-led global popular culture, from movies and music to advertising and the ever-growing use of English.

This module will consider the origins of the American Dream and the notions of a classless society, upward mobility, and the application of the Protestant work ethic. Participants will get a snapshot of the debate in the U.S. over the current meaning of the American Dream, particularly as it plays out in politics and popular culture. They will also look at the image of The Frontier, and how the U.S. has mythologized its story of taming the Wild West and pursued new frontiers in the oceans and outer space.

Participants will gain a thorough understanding of U.S. demographics and the diversity represented in its population: racial and ethnic; religious; gender and sexual; socio-economic; geographic, including cross sections that examine differences between urban and rural; coasts and heartland; and immigrant and native-born populations. This module will also address the country’s historical attitudes toward diverse groups and the social movements that have effected change, along with the contemporary political and social issues that still affect U.S. society.

By looking at multiple sides of complex issues, participants will explore the evolution of political ideas under the Constitution of the United States, the associated promises and problems, and political controversies. They will consider the areas where U.S. national interests lead to a clash, or consonance, between domestic policy and foreign policy. A review of the impact of U.S. actions on global affairs and an examination of U.S. leadership, past and present, will complete the module.

Participants will learn about elementary and secondary education in the United States and the role of higher education institutions in society. The module will review the policies and practices governing workforce preparedness as youth move from the world of school to the world of work. Historical and contemporary workplace conditions and issues will be discussed, including the role of unions, the use of technology and automation, income disparity, labor rights, and more.

This module will showcase interdisciplinary approaches to a cultural genre (e.g., science fiction, pop art, jazz), discourse (e.g., individualism, family values, globalization), or medium (e.g., comics, television, the internet). Participants will look at the role of the news media in shaping Americans’ worldview—from 24-hour news cycles, sensationalism, and sound bites, to the rights endowed in the First Amendment, investigative journalism, and the responsibility of the media watchdog. The module will also touch on the global media and how they transcend boundaries and shape societies and on the growing importance of media literacy.

Program features

During the Academy, you will create individual or group projects for an in-depth investigation of a particular aspect of U.S. society. Our faculty will guide you in employing art, storytelling, debate, experiments, or other mediums that demonstrate the research and critical analysis utilized for the project.

You will attend cultural activities, such as a concert and sporting event, as well as an outdoor picnic and the Independence Day parade on July 4.

students meet in a conference room


The American Experience Academy fee is US$2,295.

The fee includes:

  • All educational components, including seminars/workshops, field trips, and materials
  • University shared housing
  • Most meals
  • Local transportation
  • Group cultural activities

The fee does not include a passport, visa, round-trip international travel to the U.S. (Indianapolis International Airport, Indiana), off-campus meals, health insurance, or daily spending money (snacks, souvenirs, laundry, phone, etc.).


Participants must be:

  • At least 18 years of age by June 1, 2020
  • Currently enrolled in good standing at an accredited university
  • Proficient in English
  • Able to enter the U.S. on a B1/B2 visitor visa or the Visa Waiver Program
  • Mature, academically motivated, and ready to experience a different culture

Academic credit will not be issued by Indiana University.

The Academy is oriented toward an international audience, but U.S. students are welcome to participate.

Admission to the Academy

To apply, you must submit the following:

  • Application form
  • Personal statements
  • A recent transcript OR certification (such as an official letter) that you are a student in good standing as determined by your home institution
  • Demonstration of proficiency in English (see below)

Applications will open in late 2019. Sign up above to be notified.

Visa information

Participants must apply for a B1/B2 visa to enter the United States or, if eligible, will utilize the Visa Waiver Program. Applicants who are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program should submit application materials as soon as possible so that they can begin the visa application process well in advance of the Academy.

Language proficiency

The Academy will accept any one of the following criteria as evidence of a suitable level of English:

  • TOEFL (internet-based test) score of 90 or higher with a minimum of 22 in each skill
  • IELTS score of 6.5 or higher with a minimum of 6.0 in each skill
  • Letter from your professor of English testifying to your language skills at the high/upper intermediate or advanced level
  • Holding citizenship from an English-speaking country or enrolled in an English-language institution

Note: The Academy will consider other tests of English language qualification. If you are interested in submitting a test not included in the list above, please contact us at We reserve the right to verify your English language level through additional means if necessary.


Contact the Office of International Affairs in the IU College of Arts and Sciences at Please write Academy 2020 in the subject line of your email.

Not applying this year? Tell us why.