Intercultural Link News Magazine v4 i2&3 – Global Edition


The newest edition of the Intercultural Link News Magazine has just been launched. Read it on-line or download it here. Enjoy!




AFS Intercultural Programs is pleased to announce the new issue of AFS Intercultural Link Newsletter volume 4, issues 2 and 3 – Global Edition, which can be shared with everyone interested in learning more about intercultural education.

At AFS we understand that intercultural learning goes far beyond that of our exchange students. This issue brings you some ideas on how to use intercultural learning with host families, both on the level of concepts and in practical activities, featuring:
  • a look at what potential obstacles to intercultural communication exist and how to overcome them;
  • a new Learning Session Outline to help you introduce basic notions of intercultural learning to new host families;
  • an interview with Fred Dervin, whose work focuses on the intercultural learning and communication;

and much more!

The AFS Intercultural Link News Magazine is the quarterly magazine on intercultural learning in the AFS Network. The magazine features content shared by the Intercultural Learning Work Group as well as other AFS Partners and guest writers, including information on trends in intercultural education, interviews with experts in the field and overviews of upcoming and previous conferences.


Search Google for Stereotypes

What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think about another nation, country or a group of people? That Asians are so hard working? The French are really romantic? Old people are boring, but young are too careless? These assumptions are wide spread and they fall into the categories of generalizations and stereotypes.

Generalizing about cultures means that you assign the similar characteristics to most members of that particular culture, but you are still flexible enough to incorporate new information about that group once you have it. Hopefully, this flexibility can also turn into more cultural curiosity and awareness and improve your intercultural relationships. Generalizations are unavoidable and they can even be helpful in making sense of complex intercultural settings.

Generalizations become stereotypes when you assume all members of a group have exactly the same characteristics. Stereotypes can be linked to more than just gender, age or nationality. More often than not, they are very negative and tend to be less flexible to new information. They often create prejudice and discrimination, not allowing us to understand individual differences and understand others.

Even though everyone was at least once confronted with a generalization or a stereotype about a group they belong to, we often like to think that the internet is the one fair arena where equality prevails. But what happens when you type a question into a search engine starting with, for example, “Why do Germans…”? A list of suggested endings to those questions immediately pops up, and it might not always be a flattering one. Have you ever tried googling for your country or social group using this principle? We took a few examples, and here is what came out:

What results did you get?

Cultural diversity is of paramount importance for AFS programs, enabling our exchange students to have first hand experiences with other cultures rather than relying on old stereotypes. If you want to read more about generalizations and stereotypes or other intercultural topics, we encourage you to visit the ICL for friends of AFS section on our website.


Host Families are Key to Successful Cultural Adaptation

Researchers at the University of Essex, in collaboration with AFS, recently completed the The Impact of Living Abroad, an 18 month study that involved almost 2500 sojourners enrolled in a 10-12 month AFS program, as well as 578 control group participants.

The project investigated four central components of intercultural contact: acculturative stress, cultural learning, intergroup contact, and the effect of cultural distance. More information about this research can be found in the Intercultural Link news magazine or on our website.

This article looks at how the relationship a sojourner has with her/his host family influences the exchange experience.

We at AFS know that our host families play a critical role in the intercultural learning experience. Families are among the first members of the host culture that the sojourner meets and are often people with whom s/he spends the most time. They introduce exchange students to cultural traditions, support the language learning process, serve as “cultural informants” and provide the basis of a new social network to complement the one the traveler left behind in her/his home country.

The Impact of Living Abroad study further confirmed that the sojourner-host family relationship significantly influences a sojourner’s sociocultural and psychological adaptation and overall exchange experience in several ways. Here, the researchers define sociocultural adaptation as adjusting to lifestyle, social norms, language use and other practical considerations in a different culture; psychological adaptation refers to one’s sense of belonging, feelings and other emotional aspects of being in a new environment.

Here’s how:

  • Strong social identification with members of the host culture, most notably the host family, is related to success. The more a sojourner can see her/himself as a part of the host community and feel strong attachment to it, the more likely they will be to have a positive adaptation process.
  • Adopting and/or incorporating traditions of the host culture, which are frequently and deeply learned directly from the host family, has a positive effect on adaptation. Called acculturation orientation in the study, sojourners adapt well when they try to take on local customs and ways of behaving within a new place (even if this orientation also remains high with the home culture, too).
  • Quality contact – or the amount of time where interactions are perceived as good, close and strong – with host nationals, particularly host family members, is connected to several other positive outcomes in addition to successful adaptation:
  • an improvement in cross-cultural competence, which, in this study means the ability to adjust appropriately to new cultural environments and interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds
  • high satisfaction with life during the exchange,
  • an increase in the level of cultural knowledge of both home and host cultures, and
  • positive evaluation of the exchange.

In other words, host families play a determining role in how intercultural adept, happy, culturally savvy, and satisfied the exchange student is. In sharing the AFS Educational Goals with families and ensuring they are well-prepared to help facilitate sojourner learning – and are open to learning themselves – AFS optimizes our education and mission impact.

For more information about The Impact of Living Abroad study results, contact us at

Teacher Education for Change: Pestalozzi Programme

As governments and leaders around the world realize the growing importance of the change in how we educate the 21st century citizens, we can see intercultural and global competencies making their way to educational policies and more concretely into curricular documents around the world. This trend as such won’t make a difference unless it’s embraced by educators and that’s why we should be asking: How does the policy get translated into practice, into the day-to-day reality in the classroom?

One of the initiatives that strives to respond to the above mentioned challenge is the Council of Europe Pestalozzi Programme. It is a program for the professional development of teachers and education actors which aims to deliver the message of the Council of Europe and its values – democracy, respect for human rights and dignity and the rule of law – into the practice of education (formal, non-formal and informal). It supports its member states in the move from education policy to education practice in line with these values by offering training activities, publishing and sharing resources and creating an on-line Community of Practice.

The program targets teachers, school principals, inspectors, educational advisers, teacher trainers, textbook authors and other education professionals and supports them in the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes they need in order to guide and facilitate the learning of the young members of their societies.

The growing need for the development of transversal knowledge, skills and attitudes among teachers to make them fully equipped for educating the 21st century citizens is a belief that is also strongly present in the work of AFS Intercultural Programs, which cooperates with teachers and educators in many of the Council of Europe member states, as well as with those outside of Europe.

Pestalozzi program represents an inspiring and valuable resource for anyone who works on intercultural competence development of pre-service and in-service teachers, educators and other related audiences. Visit the FAQs to learn more about the program or explore how to take an active part in the training events and modules.



Atlantic & Aspen Institute – New York Ideas Event: How AFS Can Get with the “Blended Learning” Program

Today, we are reposting a blog article from the Global Education blog of AFS USA, one of the AFS Intercultural Programs’ member organizations, with permission of the author Sarah Ingraham.

What a spectacular day at the Atlantic/Aspen – New York Ideas event on May 7th, a gathering of innovative thinkers and groundbreaking discoverers who monitor trends, create possibilities, and navigate our increasingly globalized 21st century world with excitement and good intention. From the founders of Google to Zipcar to women on Wall Street to a socially conscious eyewear designer with 100% carbon neutral products, the room was buzzing with brilliant minds. And online education, fused with traditional, brick and mortar education – now known as “blended learning” was definitely a hot topic.

As AFS approaches its 100th year anniversary, it is good time to reflect on the valuable advancements our world has made in e-learning, new technologies, and their application in a disparate world – and how AFS will become part of the innovative mix. David Levin, co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) spoke about serving under-resourced communities with online, open-enrollment, college preparatory schools, and noted the successful interplay between guided and independent practice and strong student retention rates.

Anant Agarwal, President of edX, talked of online courses reaching remote locations. He was asked, “Does e-learning equalize or widen the social divide?” and responded with a scenario of a student in rural Mangalore, India, where university professors are few and far between so are merely required to hold a Bachelor’s degree to teach at this level. Would this student be better off taking an online science technology course at Berkeley from a PhD expert on the topic? Good point.

David Levin asserted that in the long run access to technology and e-learning tools will only serve to democratize education and narrow the gap. However, the importance of great principals and quality teachers alongside e-learning tools is of paramount importance for the best possible results.  How can AFS-USA help to promote e-learning in its intercultural programs for students and teachers? An important question to consider.

For more information on blending learning, please see the following helpful resources on the topic:

The Basics of Blended Learning

The Definition of Blended Learning

Evaluating What Works in Blended Learning