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Exchange students by AFS


Name of the teacher
Fabrice Dubard
Subject taught:
Years of experience:
7 (including 2 years of experience with newly arrived students)


Name of the School:
Athénée Royal Crommelynck
School Typology:
Lower Secondary School, Upper Secondary School
Web site:


Background and Context:
School of mainstream education that promotes solidarity and citizenship, notably by opening onto the world and interculturality.

Fabrice Dubard is an English teacher in upper secondary school.

All the activities of his course are focussed on culture, confronting students’ ideas and individual experiences.

Since he found it artificial to work on these matters using only textbooks, press articles and audiovisual supports, he decided to cooperate with AFS (American Field Service) within the framework of “Bouge Ta Culture”.

For three years, his classes have welcomed foreign students.
Factual Description:
The project starts in April. The AFS representative meets the class (a fifth year class, for example) which is supposed to receive a foreign student the following year.

It proposes pre-selected profiles of students who want to spend a year in Belgium and gives Belgian students those students’ cover letters.

Students discuss in groups the profiles and choose one person. If everything works as planned, that person will spend a school year with them from the following beginning.

Once the AFS has confirmed, the class takes contact with the student through the Facebook group of the English course. They invite the student to join the group and start with them a welcome relationship.

The teacher tries to involve his students in all the steps of the welcome experience. Among other, he asks them to find a host family for the student. This is done by distributing flyers in the school and its neighbourhood.

One year, the teacher also asked one of his students, who loves video, to produce a promotional video with the exchange students.
Activities carried out:
According to F. Dubard, going abroad is not just commanding another language. It is immersing oneself in another culture, trying to understand and enjoy differences.
It is putting oneself in a situation to develop one’s adaptation skills, open-mindedness, self-knowledge – and knowledge of the other – one’s critical mind and independence. It also means considering new horizons, both personal and academic/professional.

Examples of activities run in the class:

• Welcome day of a young Slovakian girl
Where possible, the teacher tries to organise a visit of Brussels with the students of the host class and the exchange students. In September 2015, one of his classes received a Slovakian girl. During a car-free day, the class did a bike tour of the city centre, then went for a drink together. It helped create a spirit of cohesion within the class, and to make the student feel she was part of the family.

• 5th year class – English course
Writing about stereotypes
During a sequence about cultural stereotypes, and as an introduction to a comparative reading of two articles about families in Africa and Asia, the teacher asked the class to make a list of all stereotypes about nationalities.
He took advantage of the presence of several students of foreign origin and of a young AFS exchange girl from Hong Kong.
Some students purposely chose to present stereotypes about the Chinese. The Chinese student listened with attention to what her Belgian classmates thought of the Chinese, and with much humour, unravelled some of those stereotypes, while confirming others, and then explained how she lived in her Hong Kong family.
Following this feedback, students imagined the life of a young person in Hong Kong, in their family, and wrote a two-page text about their family life, school life, aspirations in terms of studies and career.

• 6th year class – English course
Analysing the results of the American elections.
In a first phase, the teacher asked the students of the class to express their feelings about the results of the US elections.
Everyone offered their point of view, both about Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton’s campaigns, and the candidates’ personalities.
He then asked the AFS student from the state of New York to comment what they said and to give his point of view as an American.
Then, the students had to explain how they thought things were going to change for them, as young Europeans, what Trump nomination could involves for international politics.
The AFS student reacted, then explained what he felt, as an American, and shared his family’s and American friends’ reaction, and as an American experiencing the events on our side of the Atlantic.

Education expert involved
AFS (American Field Service) located in 50 countries:
AFS intercultural programmes in French-speaking Belgium:

This organisation aims to raise young people’s awareness about meeting cultures and to train them to better understand other cultures, in order to foster peace and intercultural respect.

Education tool applied
“Bouge ta Culture” project developed by AFS in French-speaking Belgium:

"Bouge ta Culture" is an opportunity for a class and its teacher to choose the student they want to host, to take contact before they arrive in order to create links as soon as possible, to help them find a host family and of course to benefit from their presence in order to give the school year a common theme.

The objective of this initiative is to turn the hosting of an exchange student into a real class project. Instead of seeing this as an administrative and practical burden, it considers all the benefits of having a foreign student in the class
The protagonists (students, teachers, exchange student) are supported by AFS all along the project so that all of them can make the best of the experience.
Assessment and lesson learnt:
For F. Dubard, hosting a foreign student is a fun experience. It energises the hosting class, and all its members benefit from it. The student life, that may seem ordinary to them, is extraordinary for the exchange student, and vice versa.

The students and their “new family” create strong relations and emotional links forts that lead to an inestimable sense of family.

Hosting also offers the opportunity to change a life course. The exchange students who come to Belgium for a school year are changed, more mature, more autonomous when they leave, they have a new perspective on the society around them, and a positive energy that helps them start adult life with confidence.

The same is true for our students, who love receiving an exchange student in their class, sharing their points of view, and cultural and linguistic aspects of the student’s country of origin, confronting it to theirs. It sometimes launches interesting debates on various topics.

If F. Dubard sees great benefits in hosting a foreign student, not all his colleagues do.

For some teacher, hosting an exchange student is a burden. It is therefore sometimes difficult for F. Dubard to make them understand the initiative. He admits it is easier for him to benefit from this experience in his course.

He thinks a more “political” support is lacking, a more official approach by exchange organisations, to communicate to headteachers, or training opportunities for all teachers.

The “Bouge Ta Culture” project is accessible to all secondary school.
Description of the Case Study in National Language:

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.