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Why is students’ mobility a key tool to foster the intercultural learning?

Students can develop their intercultural competences in many ways without a learning mobility experience, for example by reflecting on facts from multiple perspectives and discovering diversity in the surrounding. However, learning mobility – accompanied by adequate support – remains the most transformative and immersive experience for students to advance considerably their intercultural competences. In fact, being placed in a completely different reality and everyday life, they continuously develop their attitudes towards diversity and their tolerance of ambiguity. They experience being a minority and the challenges of adaptation.

Different types of learning mobilities at school

  • Individual short-term mobility: one student spends a period between 1 and 8 weeks in another country, in a host family, attending a local school.
  • Individual long-term mobility: one student spends a period between 3 and 10 months in another country, in a host family, attending a local school.
  • Class exchanges: a group of students, usually all belonging to the same school class, travel to another country for a period from 5 days to 3 weeks. They are placed in host families and attend an educational programme at a hosting school. This type of mobility is usually organised by the teachers of the two school classes that are involved in the exchange.

Both individual mobility and school exchange can be reciprocal and embedded in a school partnership.

All these programmes can be organised by the school independently thanks to their contacts to other schools, through organisations expert in learning mobility such as AFS, and through funding programmes or agencies, such as Erasmus+ or cross-border cooperation organisations such as the French-German Youth Office.

How to Support Students on a Mobility Programme

The school plays a key role in the learning of students within a mobility programme, whether they are in the position of sending or hosting. Below you find some recommendations on how to support individual mobility. For class exchanges, since they are organised on the basis of specific learning objectives by the teachers accompanying the students during the exchange, the support in hosting and sending teachers is usually guaranteed; however, most of the recommendations below can also apply to class exchanges.


How can I help a student who wants to study abroad?

It is extremely important to inform parents and students on existing programmes and guide them through their decision on which type of mobility to choose, and which sending organisation. You can use your local contacts with sending organisations, brochures, websites, testimonies from former students who experienced mobility programmes.

Tools to assess mobility: partnership agreement and study contract

In preparation for the mobility, the student needs to be aware that individual mobility means attending a school year/term abroad with learning objectives. The sending school is responsible for providing the student and the hosting school with tools to assess the year requirements (see annex). Both schools should sign a partnership agreement. Teachers can organize a meeting with the parents, the student, the school principal and a representative of the sending organisation to define the terms of the study contract in specific subjects.

Is the period of time studying abroad recognized by the national education?

For information on the general policies and benefits for recognising study abroad, visit this webpage.


How to improve the student’s integration?

  • Announce the arrival of the student(s) to all teachers beforehand
  • Introduce the student to the class and the teachers in the beginning of the year (or the mobility period). On their first day at school, welcome the students by introducing them to the headmaster, giving them a tour of the school, explaining the timetable. You can assign a partner student to sit with him or her in class.
  • Include the student in every project and class as you do with the other students. When s/he has gained better skills in speaking the tuition language, you can ask the student to give a short oral presentation in class (on the differences/similarities between school systems for example) and debate with classmates.

What kind of difficulties can students face when studying in a foreign country?

Students can face difficulties in learning a new language, experience miscommunication due to cultural differences, strong emotions due to cultural shock etc.

Finding the right place in a new family is not always easy.

At school students will need time to understand what is expected from them: they discover a whole new organization and approach, different teaching and assessment methods, relation with the professor, time and pace of the class, participation in class, etc.

How to fill the school report?

Students could have different objectives when going to study abroad, and the teachers should know if the student is planning on taking the national exams. Check with the student if s/he signed a study contract with her/his school before leaving, so that hosting teachers know what needs to be assessed before the student goes back home.

In general, the school report should focus more on the assessment notes rather than the grades. The transversal competences are more valued: language learning, adaptation to the school integration, understanding of the rules, behaviour facing differences etc.

Who to contact if there is a problem?

At the beginning of the year, the hosting school should make sure there is a contact person in the sending organization/school, and pass it on to the teachers. Tutors can be named in the sending and hosting school.

Welcoming students back

If you have several students coming back from a mobility at the same time in your school, you can organize a meeting to officially hand them their mobility certificates.

You can also organise a meeting with the school principal, the student, the parents and the teacher in charge of the class to ask the student what s/he was taught during the mobility programme (subjects and general competence assessment). The objective of the meeting would be to value the student’s learning, showing links with the local curriculum and the benefits of the intercultural competences developed, and provide some advice on how to catch up with the class and the curriculum, especially if they have an exam that year.

How to make mobility of some, a meaningful experience for all


Before departure, the student going on a short or long-term exchange can present to his/her class the information about the hosting country and the expectations. During the exchange, conference calls and joint educational projects can be organised between the sending and hosting class/school of the students. Upon return, the student(s) can present what s/he believes they have gained from this experience. This could be the opportunity to explain how different are school systems, share their feelings with others and discuss the positive as well as the negative aspects of their mobility. If the school conducts more than one mobility (classe exchange or individual pupil mobility) during the year, the presentation of the outcomes of all the exchanges can be combined in one day aimed at promoting mobility and intercultural learning. Often students also take part to learning mobility programmes outside of school: this can also be the moment where their experience is shared.


The foreign student will bring to the class a different perception in different subjects, such as geography, history, civic studies, social sciences, languages etc. The student can provide presentations in his class or also in other classes, related to a specific subject bringing his/her country perspective. S/he can write an article in the school newspaper about their perception of their hosting country etc. S/he can facilitate an activity during an intercultural event (e.g. the Intercultural Dialogue Day), organise a conference call with his/her classmates in the home country. The teacher can also develop some joint project with the sending school. If the school is hosting several foreign students, either as part of class exchange or individual pupil mobility, a welcome and goodbye party can be organised, where all the pupils of the school and their families are invited. If the class exchange hosted is part of an educational project which has a performance (theatre, singing, photo exhibition…) as an outcome, this can be showed to the whole school and the parents.


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