INTERCULTURA is a non-profit, volunteer based, educational organization, promoting intercultural learning through student exchanges since 1955. Today Intercultura is the largest not-for-profit Italian organization in the field of pupils’ mobility with thousands of participants moving to and from 65 countries in all continents.
Intercultura adopted this name in 1977, when this term was practically unknown in Italy. Today “intercultura” has become a popular word, written with a small “i” and it is included in Italian dictionaries and used in everyday conversations. In adopting this name, the Association meant to underline its scope: to promote intercultural education in secondary schools through the exchange of pupils at the age of 16-17.
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. 5,000 volunteers in 160 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.
Aims and Objectives of the Intercultura programs
In order to reach the highest level of satisfaction amongst the organizations and their stakeholders (participants, natural families, host families, schools), it is fundamental that the main scope of the Intercultura program is shared and understood by all involved.
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).
School intercultural exchange programs
The School Programs offered by Intercultura to incoming and outgoing students are for one academic year, semester, trimester or bimester. 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
Intercultura has 3 national offices:
- 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.
Intercultura also has 10 staff who serve as “Regional” coordinators
(some regions have been combined). Their main role is to support the volunteer structure, promote volunteer development and organize training.
Intercultura volunteers come from all walks of life. Anyone who is at least 18 years of age can become an Intercultura volunteer
. The majority of our volunteers are between the ages of 21 – 60. Many have had past experiences with Intercultura: as participants on a program abroad, as host families, as teachers in schools in contact with Intercultura. Other volunteers who have not had direct experience simply share the desire to promote the values and mission of the Association.
Each of the 160 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.
Programs in Italy
For more than 60 years Intercultura has been offering to an increasing number of families the opportunity to host a young student coming from another country. Hosting a young student from another country implies the constant comparison with different habits and the chance to see the world from another point of view
. Guided meetings between cultures can generate new intercultural competences that help to solve or to prevent potential conflicts. That’s why, thanks to its years long experience, Intercultura can walk at the side of the students and their families for all the period of their intercultural growth
. Foreign students interested in participating into an exchange program in Italy have to apply through the partner organization affiliated to Intercultura and AFS. For a complete list, please see www.afs.org
. To read a presentation of our program, please go visit the page "Come to Italy
The Class Exchanges Program is one of the many activities of Intercultura. Intercultura runs several Class exchanges with foreign partners every year. By attending school activities and living with a family abroad, both the students and the teachers have the opportunity to live an intercultural experience that enriches and encourages their global understanding and their awareness of sharing common values and make them better world citizens of tomorrow
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:
students and teachers from the school A travel to the hosting country; they are hosted for two weeks by the families of the school B students; during the exchange period, they attend school and follow the program set by the hosting school.
afterwards (usually after a few months) students and teachers of the school B travel to the partner country, where they are hosted by families of the school A students, attending school and following the hosting program.
For more information, visit the dedicated page
Fondazione Intercultura Onlus
The Intercultura Foundation was established in 2007 as a separate legal entity from the Intercultura Association
: its aim is to nurture and expand the knowledge acquired in 60 years of work in the field - as well as to promote more research, documentation and experiments in the field of educational mobility. The bulk of the endowment came from the reserves of the Association, while many banks, corporations, foundations and public institutions, including the Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Education, have contributed to its growth.
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.
For more information, visit www.fondazioneintercultura.org
The Observatory on the internazionalisation of Italian schools and pupil mobility
The Observatory was established in 2009 to document the internationalization processes within Italian secondary schools, the best practices, their evaluation and their replicability, the various types of student exchanges and, especially, medium and long term individual exchanges.
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
The Foundation promotes international youth exchanges by awarding scholarships to worthy Italian pupils
. Many other organizations and foundations support the Intercultura educational project and contribute with scholarships. For a complete list, please see the Italian page
. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs co-finances scholarships for high school pupils from China, India and Russia to in Italy for a full school year. The Ministry of Education supports the scholarships program for Italian pupils to European destinations. At the university level, the Foundation funds research doctorates in various fields of intercultural education.
For more information, visit www.fondazioneintercultura.org
The Intercultura Foundation organizes conferences on intercultural education and events related to the presentation of its researches. Among others:
- 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