International Studies

What is International Studies?

International Studies & Exchange is an independent study course for students in 10th through 12th grade. In this course, you'll gain an international perspective and establish cross-cultural, interpersonal skills that will contribute to your success in today's global world. You'll develop an awareness of cultural differences, understand world views and their role in intercultural competence, improve your communication skills, and learn how to behave effectively in intercultural situations.

There are three components to the program:

  1. Build a relationship through weekly communication. Each student establishes a relationship with a student "correspondent" from either China, Germany, India, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Netherlands, Norway or Spain. You'll communicate with your correspondent one to three times a week using a combination of Skype, email and/or Facebook.
  2. Complete assignments with your correspondent. There are eight major topics addressed in a series of assignments to be completed for each month of the academic year. Assignments can include essays, research projects, online discussion boards, and multimedia projects and presentations. You'll be required to compare cultures, school systems, economies, challenges facing each country and personal family history.
  3. Meet with your Minnetonka teacher and classmates. Twice a month, you'll attend class during zero hour to discuss assignments and reflect on your learning.

Travel abroad and hosting

Although not required for participation* in International Studies, you will have the opportunity to travel abroad and/or host a foreign student. Students who travel to their correspondent’s country attend school, work on service projects and immerse themselves in the new culture.

*Note: Minnetonka students in the German program are expected to host in February–March and are strongly encouraged to travel to Hamburg mid- to late June.

Independent study, grading and course credit

If you choose an independent study course such as International Studies, you'll be required to complete most coursework outside the regular school day. Upon successfully completion of all requirements, you will receive a semester grade and credit, which will be acknowledged on your school transcript. This credit is above and beyond what is required for graduation.

Purpose of International Studies

In the Minnetonka School District, we are focused on developing 21st century learning skills in our students that will allow them to thrive in a global environment. This course is key in making that goal a reality as it gives students the experience of meeting and working with international students on academically rigorous assignments that require students to master communication technology, international social interaction and self-motivated time management skills.

This program is an opportunity for students to expand their cultural understanding, reflect upon their own cultural and national heritage and develop skills in working with overseas students on specific academic assignments. Our objective for each student enrolled in the course is that they:

  • Develop self-motivated qualities of innovation, independence and resourcefulness
  • Gain an informed understanding of cultures and people
  • Cultivate a global perspective and sense of responsibility as a citizen of the world
  • Experience the challenges and benefits of working together with students from other nations
  • Establish credentials as students committed to International Studies when applying to colleges

Our partner schools


Link to videos

What our students say

"I hope to take away a different perspective of China. I think America has a lot of ideas that may not be 100 percent correct ... through talking with him I'm able to look past my fears of China. So it's been a very enriching experience." Jake paired with Chinese partner – 10th grade, Minnetonka

“Being paired with Marissa was like being paired with my best friend. I got to learn about another culture so similar, yet so different from mine.” Marisa paired with Dutch partner - 11th grade, Minnetonka

“I'm really missing the time I spend with you. I now spend more time on the Study Program as we know each other better... I also corresponding with some other students I made friends with at your school.” Chen Yejia from China

“The 21st century can be considered a very global world. By learning through this program, we had the opportunity to learn about a country, and gain a global understanding of that country; which will overall help us in a global community.” Caleb paired with Russian partner – 12th grader, Minnetonka

“I’ve never built a friendship with a textbook, but when you actually email someone and get to know them as a person, it makes it more memorable.” Marisa paired with Dutch partner – 11th grade, Minnetonka

“The generosity and hospitality of American people: I was so impressed by that.” Sophie from the Netherlands

“The earth has become a global village, so it is necessary to know what other people do in different countries.” Pan Leying from China

My favorite part of the class was learning about a completely different culture through someone who's my own age. I'm looking forward to experiencing this culture first hand when our group travels to the Netherlands.” Annabelle paired with Dutch partner – 12th grade, Minnetonka

Minnetonka teachers in the program

Chet Masteller, Director, India and South Africa
Chet has taught in the District since 1999 and is an Advanced Placement reader for the College Board in U.S. history. He has an undergraduate degree in history and a master’s degree in social studies education from the University of Minnesota. Chet teaches AP United States and AP World History at the high school along with coordinating the International Studies Programs for India and South Africa. Chet has a quest for knowledge and understanding among cultures that he loves to share with his students.


Grant Hendrickson, Russia and Serbia
Grant has taught at Minnetonka since 2006. He is the advisor for Russia and Serbia in the International Studies Program. In the Social Studies department he teaches World History and IB European History. Grant coordinates the Minnetonka High School Russian Club and is an assistant coach with the Minnetonka Boys Rugby Club. He previously taught at a charter school in St. Paul and spent three years teaching English in Russia at both the high school and colligate level. Grant completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth and has a master’s degree in education from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.


Emily Nelson, Spain
Emily has been teaching English at Minnetonka High School since 2013. She previously taught at following schools: Tartan High School in Oakdale, MN; Taejon Christian International School in South Korea; and the American School of Madrid in Spain. She has an undergraduate degree from North Park University in Chicago and a Master’s degree from Bethel University. Emily teaches English 9 and 10. She served as the International Studies Spain advisor this past school year, and she looks forward to potentially hosting the San Ignacio students in the fall!


Peter Gausman: South Africa

Peter Gausmann began his teaching career in 1997 in the English department at MHS. Since then, he’s taught students at every grade level from K-12 as English teacher, media specialist, and technology instructor. He’s currently MHS’s media specialist. Peter spent his junior year in college studying English at the University of Exeter in Exeter, England. Peter earned Bachelor’s degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and St. Cloud State, and a Master’s degree in Composition and Rhetoric from Ohio University.


Gwynneth Wacker, Germany and Norway

Gwynneth has taught science in Minnetonka for 24 years. She coordinates the Germany and Norway components of the International Studies and Exchange program. Having been raised in a bilingual household, her first language is German, which she continues to speak with her children. She is currently learning Norwegian. Gwynneth has traveled extensively in Europe and has been to Germany many times, especially Hamburg, where many relatives live. She has also traveled to Norway.

Gwynneth teaches biology and IB Biology at the high school and is the MHS Wellness Coordinator. She received her B.S. cum laude in both Botany and Zoology through the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota. She has been a Nationally Board Certified teacher since 2011.


Stephanie Lolich, The Netherlands
Stephanie has been teaching Business and Marketing at Minnetonka High School since 2015 and previously taught at Mound Westonka High School and Cromwell-Wright High School. She has undergraduate degrees in Business and Education from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND. In addition to teaching Business in a Global Economy and Graphic Design and Product Development within the Minnetonka Vantage Program, Stephanie is one of the DECA advisors. She has previously traveled to various places in Mexico, Europe and China. She is eager to work with the International Studies program and Minnetonka’s partner school in the Netherlands.


Jordan Cushing, China


Chet Masteller

Register for International Studies

  • Specify a first-choice country during the regular course registration period.
  • Complete the application process after spring break.
  • Await acceptance and status of first choice in May (students may be asked to select a second choice program). Correspondents will be assigned at different times depending on the country assigned.

Scholarship Application

Apply for the Minnetonka Foundation International Studies Overseas Travel Scholarship