Before its inception in 1955, Intercultura was called the “AFS Association of Italy”, a name that marked its affiliation with the AFS network, the worldwide organization that invented and promoted educational exchanges of teenagers since the end of World War II. In more than 65 countries, AFS is an international, voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit organization that provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.
As an AFS partner, Intercultura promotes and offers a lifelong intercultural learning experience, sending every year about 2,200 Italian high school pupils to live and study abroad in about 65 countries and welcoming to Italy almost 1,000 young students from all over the world, hosting them in Italian families and schools. Over 4,500 volunteers in 155 local chapters in Italy constitute the deep root of Intercultura programs, guaranteeing professionalism and efficiency to participants and their families.
Intercultura is not only part of the international networks of AFS Intercultural Programs, but it also belongs to EFIL, the European Federation for Intercultural Learning. Thanks to these affiliations, Intercultura has a consultative status at the Unesco and in the Council of Europe and in 1995 was presented with the award of the President of the Council of Ministers for its outstanding service in the field of volunteerism.
The main objective of the program is to allow the students and the host family members to grow as people and to have a more peaceful approach towards cultural differences and towards the world as a whole. Students and families must be guided to overcome their natural tendencies to be judgmental and intolerant. It is necessary to encourage them to be open, adaptable and curious to understand the cultural differences that they will inevitably encounter, as well to reflect on their own personal culture (by asking themselves why it is the way it is, recognizing that there are other ways of being and doing which are just as valid).
Intercultura students live with a host family and attend a local secondary school as full-time students. These programs focus on home stays, school attendance, language skills, cultural activities. Participants live with host families, participate in educational activities and enjoy their new communities. All components of the exchanges are supported and guided by our local volunteers in order to recognize the value of the intercultural encounters and to develop their intercultural competences.
To find out more about our programs, including the participation costs and any scholarship possibilities, please see the Italian pages here and here.
- Colle Val D’Elsa (Siena) - main office, 35 employees: Program organization, Participant support team, Volunteer development and training, Administration, Logistics, Information Technology.
- Rome - legal seat, 9 employees: School relations and Class exchanges, Fundraising and scholarships, Ministerial and consular relations.
- Milan - branch office, 5 employees: Marketing and Communication.
Each of the 155 so-called local chapters (volunteer groups) located throughout the country are formed by various numbers of volunteers, some are very large (30 volunteers) and some are very small (up to 10 volunteers). All local chapters have the same internal organization, which includes a President, Hosting coordinator, Sending coordinator, School Coordinator, Training and Development coordinator. The remaining volunteers support the others in various capacities.
Intercultura provides training for the volunteers on a national, regional and local level in various moments of the year, with both internal and external trainers. There are also various tools that the volunteers have available to them, particularly handbooks and manuals produced by the Association.
The groups that participate in the exchange programs in Italy usually represent one class at a time, or students who come from the same class. Groups can also consist of students from two or more classes; in this case students have a uniform preparation prior to the arrival in the hosting country. Any matching of an Italian high school with a foreign one is done according to some “homogeneity” standards, where the type of the school, the age of the students and the language of communication is being taken into consideration and, when possible, the requests and preferences presented by the applicants.
The exchange is composed by two phases:
The Intercultura Foundation operates in Italy and abroad with the purpose of scientific research and of solidarity. It aims to:
- promote scientific research of particular social interest, conferences and high-level courses on the major transnational issues and on the study and work relationships among people of different cultures;
- document existing study and internship programs abroad and study their effectiveness, publish up-to-date data on participants, survey “best practices” and disseminate their knowledge;
- experiment with innovative youth exchange programs, especially with emerging countries (China, India, countries with predominantly Muslim culture), awarding scholarships to young people who have no economic means to participate in these programs.
The Observatory is also a useful tool for principals, teachers and class tutors. It provides training, good practices, relevant legislation material, researches, a guided “intercultural education tour” for students who participate in class exchange experiences, a monthly newsletter.
In 2017 the Observatory focused its research on the discovery of China: the existing relationships between Italian schools and China and the Chinese language; the perception of this country by students; the added value that a period of study in China during high school can ensure.
For more information visit www.scuoleinternazionali.org
For more information, visit www.fondazioneintercultura.org
- Building Europe through school exchanges (2008)
- Italian identity between Europe and multicultural society (2008 - www.identitaitaliana.org)
- Reconciling Babel: education for cosmopolitanism (2011 - www.ricomporrebabele.org)
- The body and the web, tools for intercultural learning (2013 - www.corpoerete.org)
- Learning To Live Together. Humanitarianism, Reconciliation, Education For Plural Societies (2015 – http://www.sapervivereinsieme.org)
- The Unspoken Sacred. The Religious Dimension Of Intercultural Dialogue (2017- www.silenziodelsacro.org)
- Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange (annual event)
- Intercultura Assessment Protocol
- Cooperative Learning And Intercultural Education
- The perception of boundaries by Italian adolescents
- School internationalization and pupil mobility. The role of teachers
- The school I would like
- What is success?
- Kaleidoscope project
- Transversal skills. Evaluation and enhancement of the experience of studying abroad
- “Bye Mom, I’m going to China!”
- Behind the screen. Teenagers and communication in the Facebook age
- The skills of an intercultural generation