Course Description

The United States can seem like a very confusing place to international students and visitors. If Americans are supposed to be oriented to progress and the future, why do they seem obsessed with the Wild West? How can a country that is on the cutting edge of science and technology continue to have controversies about teaching the Theory of Evolution in its public schools? Why do so many Americans seem to love their country, but hate its government? If the United States claims to be committed to equal opportunity for all, why are race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality still "hot-button" issues in the US?

This course is designed to help international students sort out these and similar cultural paradoxes by exploring three of the foundations of the American Experience and how they remain relevant to life in the US in the 21st Century: America's Enlightenment Heritage, its Religious Heritage, and its Frontier Heritage. We will first lay a solid foundation for understanding these three central facets of the American experience, and then examine how they have influenced American's past and continue to influence the United States today.

The course also features five Keys to Academic Success Workshops during the first week. These workshops are designed to explain clearly what US professors expect of their students and what international students need to know in order to succeed at an American university. The workshops include practical assignments on which students will receive important feedback and helpful suggestions for improvement.

We plan to visit the beautiful Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and to explore Connor Prairie, a beautiful living interactive museum where you will experience some of America's historic roots. Students will also have opportunities to learn about the experience of growing up in the US from students in other IFS courses.

GenEd Information: Not currently approved for IU Bloomington GenEd. See the GenEd Website for more information.


IFS course instructor photo

Course Instructor: Rex A. Sprouse

Rex A. Sprouse is Professor of Second Language Studies, a department which he co-founded in 2006. He earned his Ph.D. in Germanic linguistics from Princeton University and taught at Bucknell University, Eastern Oregon University, and Harvard University before coming to IU in 1994. Professor Sprouse's primary research interest is investigating how adults acquire new languages, and his teaching includes the structure, history, and acquisition of languages, as well as the cultural foundations of the United States and Europe. For eleven years, he was the Resident Director of IU's summer study program in Graz, Austria. Now he is focusing much of his teaching on introducing international students at IU to US American culture.

Foundations of the American Experience for International Students

Foundations of the American Experience for International Students: Courses: Intensive Freshman Seminars: Indiana University Bloomington