FAQ for International Students

Application/selection process

How do I apply to the program?

Once the application cycle is open, you should carefully read the program's How To Apply page for application details. The application process is different depending on where you live. International applicants apply through the Cultural Affairs Office at the U.S./American Embassy in their country. Embassy deadlines vary, so contact them sooner rather than later.

What exactly are you looking for in a student?

We want applicants who are passionate about creative writing. In the writing samples we want to see what best represents you as a writer today. Given our belief that in order to write, you have to read, we expect you to be an avid reader as well. This doesn’t mean that you have to have straight As, or that you have to be able to quote classic literature at will. Read with your heart open and your mind curious.

Since you will be spending a lot of time with fellow students, teachers, and staff from different countries and cultures, it's very important that you be open to learning about the many different ways people live in the world and willing to share your own life experiences and unique point of view. Our ultimate goal is to create a community of friends that will continue to support each other in their creative efforts long after they have all gone home.

How old do I have to be to participate?

Participants must be ages 15-18 by the start of the program.
The IWP can make no exceptions to the rules regarding ages.

Do I have to know another language to participate?

All students, both American and international, must be proficient in English in all forms (reading, writing, and speaking). It is important to note that international students are chosen based on their skills in English and not their own language.

I want to apply to a session of Between the Lines (BTL) as an international student, but I do not live in any of the countries listed for this year. Can I still apply?

Each year the U.S. State Department, which funds BTL: Peace and the Writing Experience, determines which countries' U.S./American Embassies will be invited to submit nominees. Only citizens of those countries are allowed to apply, and they must apply via their country’s U.S./American Embassy. That said, if you are a citizen of one of the countries listed, but you do not reside in that country, contact the U.S./American Embassy in your country of citizenship to see if you qualify. BTL hopes to one day expand to additional countries.

How do you select students for the program?

A selection committee reviews all applications and supplemental materials and determines the final group of participants.

When will you notify applicants about your decision?

International applicants will be notified in April.

In my writing sample, can I include the same story and/or poem in two different languages?

No. Each work submitted should be original and untranslated.

Can I include essays, school newspaper articles, or blog entries in my writing sample?

If your blog entry contains original creative prose and/or poetry, then yes, it can be included. Academic essays, school newspaper articles, book reports, and other academic writing will not be accepted.

Tuition and fees

How much does it cost to attend?

For accepted international students, all fees, including travel, lodging, and meals, are waived – participation is free of charge. As required by the U.S. State Department, students will travel with an adult chaperone, hired by the International Writing Program, on the transcontinental flight to and from the United States.

Is there financial aid available?

Participation is free for accepted international students, as described above. No additional financial aid is available.

Life during BTL

Where will students live?

Students will live in a dorm on the University of Iowa campus. Dorms are clean, comfortable, well-lit, and very secure. Doors are locked each night and security personnel visit each floor regularly. A residence hall manager is available 24 hours a day. Students will be on floors separated by gender, and will live in double rooms. Also living with the students will be counselors, who are hired by the program and undergo background checks and University training. They help maintain a fun but safe environment. Chaperones who traveled with students also reside in the dormitories.

I have relatives in the Iowa City area. Can I reside with them during the program?

No. Between the Lines requires all participants to live in the dorm for the duration of the program.

What happens if there's a health concern or emergency?

If a student falls ill or is injured, he/she will be taken to the appropriate UI Hospitals and Clinics facility. All costs are the responsibility of the students and/or parents. In order to participate, students and parents must sign a set of forms that include basic health information as well as emergency contact and consent information, all of which is kept strictly confidential.

International students will receive basic health coverage through the U.S. State Department. This coverage is not all-inclusive. The U.S./American Embassy contact in your country will have more information.

Classes and schedule

Do you offer college credit for this program or the courses taken?


What will a typical weekday be like?

After breakfast (all meals are served in Burge Dining Hall, which is near the dorm), students and staff will meet to receive announcements about the day's events. Afterwards, all students will attend a world literature seminar, taught in English, in which they will discuss various prose pieces and poetry with an eye towards craft: How do these writers do what they do and how can we as writers learn from them? Lunch is followed by a short period of free time during which students can rest, hang out, or prepare for the next class. The remainder of the afternoon is taken up by a writing workshop, in which students will try their hand at writing various forms of prose and poetry and share their work with each other. Workshops are conducted in English. After the workshop, instructors are available to talk with students about their work. Evenings will consist of at least one activity scheduled by program staff, which may or may not be optional. Most evenings students will have plenty of free time to read, write, use the computer, or explore the campus and nearby downtown.

All students are required to be in the dorm building by 10:00 pm, on their floors by 11:00 pm, and in their rooms by 11:30 pm. This rule is in effect every day of the program, including weekends.

Do you offer writing workshops in languages other than English?

Writing in multiple languages is encouraged in workshops, but English is the common language of the camp. Feel free to engage in cross-translation: there will be special workshops for thinking about language, intimacy, literature, and power designed for just this purpose.

What can you tell me about the instructors in the program?

Between the Lines carefully chooses writers who are also great teachers. See Past Sessions for details about instructors from previous years.

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