Intercultural Student Exchange Overview


The term intercultural exchange applies to the activity of attracting language learners in mutual or reciprocal action and cooperative project work with associates from different cultures and share diverse ethical beliefs through the use of communication instruments such as e-mail, video conferencing and discussion forums. The goals intended to be attained from such interactions is to widen student’s communicative skill in the targeted systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols, to widen intercultural sensitivity and to contribute to the progress or growth of learner independence (Micheal 636)1. In the past, the activity has been Made reference to in several unlike ways including ‘e-pals, keypals, e-tandem, mediated intercultural foreign language education. However, there has also been some discussion in which reasons are advanced for and against some proposition or proposal as to the quality of this terminology being suitable. There have been several questions whether terms such as ‘keypals’ in some way trivialize this endeavor of the cognitive process of acquiring skill or knowledge.

In differentiating the brief description given for purposes of identification in both multicultural and intercultural education, the two most frequently used terms, in addition to cross-cultural education and international education is occasionally complex and the line indicating the limit or extent are often blurred. Furthermore, the term multicultural education is at present the most desirable term in literatures.

History of Intercultural Educational system

History will disclose the ongoing efforts by the educational system of some politically organized body of people under a single government to act in response to issues of race, ethnicity, and intercultural interaction. Banks and Banks (2004)2, two of the most intellectually productive multicultural educators in the United States, made a proposal that the inspirational condition of belonging to a particular place or group by virtue of social or ethnic or cultural lineage of multicultural education were launched in the 1800s by African American scholars who were disgruntled with the quality of education experienced by most Blacks. Early African American scholars produced such works as History of the Negro Race in America which categorically stated that the nation’s schools and colleges were mis-educating African Americans by teaching them European culture in an advanced state of social development (e.g., with complex legal and political and religious organizations) and not the African civilizations and cultures of their own people.

Literature Review of Intercultural Education and Multicultural Education

The phrase intercultural education, which appears to be valued more than all others in Europe, is used to amalgamate related and frequently coincide partially or wholly and reciprocally connected approaches. For many, Intercultural education has a to some extent diverse integrated set of attitudes and beliefs than multicultural education. However, multicultural education is relevant to unconnected juxtapositions of acquaintance about given groups lacking any perceptible interconnection between them.

Intercultural student exchange, however, expresses the relation based on similarities and differences, exchanges, joint operation, and collection of different viewpoints. From this point of view, intercultural education is more proactive and action oriented than multicultural education, and instead of directing attention towards specific problems such as learning style differences or language development, it recognizes that a philosophical doctrine of pluralism in a society can be a possibility due to a favorable combination of circumstances for majority and minority groups to learn from and with one another, not a problem as it might be viewed by some.

Consequently, if majority people who inhabit a territory or state are to be members who compose a social group of an international community, which most claims to be, then they must gain knowledge of how to effectively make a logical or causal connection with other cultures. Nevertheless, it is by chance the most current abstract or general idea of multicultural education in the United States that gives evidence to the propositions of intercultural education. In many places and in many respects, however, the terms have been used in an interchangeable manner.

The main objective of intercultural education in relation to exchange programs has been to help young people and teachers not only to comprehend the nature or meaning of the diversity of thought, expression, belief, and practices of those who are different from themselves, but also to direct development so that individuals are highly competent at living and working in an effective manner with others. Furthermore, pedagogues in the present day must endeavor to incorporate fully an intercultural education and way of regarding situations or topics while carrying on with the traditional educational needs of communities and nations.

Nonetheless these are not easy issues to address in an adequate manner or to an adequate degree. Moreover, Intercultural education and training is a sensitive and complicated endeavor that must be approached with the maximum sensitivity.

Bennet (1993) pointed out that intercultural mutual or reciprocal action among human populations has in a typical manner been associated with turbulent state resulting in injuries, destruction and aggression: (191)3

Bennett (1993) distinguished that intercultural understanding is not ordinary. It is not part of our primate elapsed time, nor has it portrayed the character, qualities or peculiarities of most of human history. Cross-cultural close mutual or reciprocal action has more often than not been associated by shedding of blood resulting in murder, the state of being kept down by unjust use of authoritative force, and the systematic killing of people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, political opinion, and social status (193).

Additionally, education and activities leading to skilled behavior in intercultural communication is an avenue to changing our “natural” performance. With the abstract or general idea inferred or derived from specific instances and skills gained through experience in this field, learners are asked to exceed traditional belief in the superiority of one’s own ethnic group and to discover new relationships across cultural line indicating the limit. This conscientious activity intended to accomplish change must be implemented with the most possible care.

In addition to the reactions of possessing or displaying a distinctive feature to a heightened degree as identified by Bennett, knowledge on which to base belief for the quality of being unnatural or on natural principles of intercultural contact can be seen in people’s daily ways of acting or controlling themselves. Several people, together with those who do not entertain extreme prejudices, declares that mutual or reciprocal action with culturally different from others seem to be of more nervousness infuriating than interactions with much related people. To some extent, this relatively permanent state of worry and nervousness leads to a strong predisposition for interactions with others and an energetic averting of intercultural interactions. Such people, however, will not proceed or get along well in the current world where intercultural interactions are progressively commonplace.

Approaches to giving attention to situations or events that is thought about of intercultural education are moderately diverse. The Service Bureau for Intercultural Education was formulated in the United States, and as a result was brought into existence in the beginning of the intergroup education movement. All the way through the 1940s, the intergroup education movement made an effort to lessen characteristic of race and ethnic anxieties between citizens across the United States. Among its actions, it made something new and presented school assemblies and in-service system of projects to strengthen ethnic perception of minority and immigrant children.

Intergroup educators brought out an overabundance of pedagogical and methods relating to an academic course of study, above all instructional units on marginal groups and several racial, ethnic, and religious groups. The prohibition of books especially by legal means is carefully weighed as stereotypic and causing awareness of shortcomings to ethnic groups was also common. The movement gave birth of many establishments and organizations set aside or apart for a specific purpose to intercultural pursuits. As an example, the American Field Service (Known as AFS Intercultural Programs today), the world’s biggest student exchange organization, and follow, discover, or ascertain the course of development of its roots to the years instantaneously after World War 11 when it was an ambulance service without payment on the front lines.

Possibly the most spectacular notable achievement to administer with noticeable heterogeneity in American society and in its schools took place during the 1960s and 1970s. Caused to occur rapidly by the general social state of agitation or turbulent change or development of the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam, many educational development movements were came into existence in the United States, including school of incorporating a racial or religious group into a community, multicultural and bilingual education, putting into the mainstream students with extraordinary needs into normal classrooms, and gender-sensitive education. All of the mentioned programs showed approval or appreciation of the philosophical doctrine of pluralism of the society in an encouraging rather than negative sense. Each made an effort to assist some educationally underprivileged group to be given a better education surrounded by a pluralistic framework.

In the recent past, notable achievement by researchers made efforts to set not segregated conception of multicultural education firmly in a global context and a conception that is designated as available to all races or groups. Most American multiculturalists however, would agree with Banks (1993) who said, “The most important goal of multicultural education is to reorganize schools so that all students will acquire through efforts the knowledge, attitudes, and skills considered necessary to operate in an ethnically and racially distinctly dissimilar nation and world” (p 27)4. School programs and practice teaching focused on Europe and the Europeans (or any “centric”) experience, practices that are handed down from the past by tradition and perspective that keeps out others views must be given a completely different form or appearance, and young people must be assisted to develop the knowledge, motivation, and skill to challenge and transform systems characterized by unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice and subjugating by cruelty.

In relation to this, a somewhat different course has been taken in their countries as each have favorably reacted to their radically distinctive and without equal blend of internally and externally driven affairs. Several different ideas or actions relating to noticeable heterogeneity can be identified, each being more important at one time or another, still failing to pursue some organized and continuous non spatial whole or succession in which no part or portion is distinct or distinguishable from adjacent parts. However stable increase in the number of people to a foreign country to live there permanently from a large indefinite number of nations has been matched by a similar reaction on the part of the educational system to deal with the needs of a progressively more multicultural society.

Though, educational approaches of attending to issues of diversity are quite varied. Various scholars have differentiated or distinguished a number of approaches to multicultural education, among them are Sleeter and Grabt, who differentiated five approaches discovered in practice: education of culturally different, the human relations approach, single group studies, multicultural education, and education that is multicultural and Social Reconstructionist.

Eldering (1996)5 recognized four approaches to multicultural education aimed at two different target groups. The quality of having an inferior or less favorable approach assumes that students from ethnic or cultural minority groups have educational disadvantages not shared by the majority group members. This approach without any others being included or involved targets students from these groups as they are taught skills fashioned for success in the mainstream.

Stumbling Blocks to Intercultural Communications

There are many points of view in relation to the practice of intercultural communication among exchange students but a familiar one is that ‘ people are people,’ in essence pretty much alike; therefore increased mutual or communicative reciprocal action through travel, student exchange programs and other such ventures should result in more understanding and friendship between nations. Yet, other take a quite different view, particularly those who have done research in the field of speech communication and are adequately conscious of the complexities of interpersonal interaction, even within cultural groups.

They do not consider or describe contact as similar, equal, or analogous with communication; do not believe that the simple experience of talking with someone insures a successful transfer of meanings and feelings. Even the basic sharing of common attributes of birth, hunger, family, death, are detected by instinct or inference rather than by recognized perceptual cues and treated in very much different ways by persons with different backgrounds. If there is a universal, it might be that each has been so subconsciously influenced by his own cultural background that he assumed that the needs, desires, and basic assumptions of others are identical to his own.

In most cases, the method employed in accomplishing and improving chances for successful intercultural communication is to collect or gather together information about the customs of the other country and a little understanding of the language. The behaviors and attitudes are sometimes researched, but almost always from a secondhand source. The information is hardly ever enough and may or may not be of benefit or helpful. Knowing ‘what to expect’ too often blinds the observer to all but what is Serving to support or corroborate his image or preconception. Any contradiction evidence that does filter through is likely to be treated as an exception (Fouts 1993)6.

An improved approach is to study the history, political structure, art, literature, and language of the country if it permits. But more important, one should expand a complex investigative liberal mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways and a high tolerance for expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context which means lowered defenses.

The process of becoming highly sensitive to specific events or situations should be done to the kinds of things that has to be taken into account instead of developing behavior and attitude stereotypes, mostly because of the individual differences in each encounter and the rapid changes that occur in a culture pattern. As a result, Edward Stewart concurs with this view.


One way to gain with effort, an increasingly enhanced state of awareness and responsiveness to external stimuli to what might go wrong is to examine five quantity that can assume any of a set of values in the communication process that seem to be major stumbling blocks when the two items of the same kind or small group is cross-cultural. The first is so easily perceived by the senses or grasped by the mind and it hardly needs mentioning- language.

Vocabulary, syntax, idioms, slang, and dialects all cause difficulty, but the person exerting strenuous effort with a different language are at least aware when he’s in this kind of trouble.

A more intense language state of difficulty that needs to be resolved is the persistent determination with which someone clings to ‘the’ meaning of a word or phrase in the new language once he has gotten the meaning of one despite the consequences of the idea that is implied or suggested in the discourse that surrounds a language unit and helps to determine its interpretation. The reason the difficulty is worse is because each thinks he understands.

The nationwide misunderstanding of Khrushcev’s sentence “We will bury you” is a classic example. However, answers like ‘yes’ and no, also causes the trouble misunderstanding. When a Japanese hears “Won’t you have some tea?” and listens to the interpretation or embellishment meaning of the sentence and answers, “No,” meaning that he wants some. “Yes, I won’t” would be a better reply because this tips off the hostess that there may be an understanding of the language that is not correct. In some cultures, also it is polite to refuse the first or second offer of refreshment. Many foreign guests have gone hungry because the third offer is never presented.

Nonverbal Signs and Symbols

The skills required in learning a language, which most foreigners and exchange students consider as the only stumbling block to understanding is in fact the beginning. A researcher once stated that, “To enter into a culture is to be able to hear, in Lionel Trilling’s phrase, its special hum and buss of implication”. This brings in nonverbal areas and the second stumbling block. As regard this, people from different cultures spend most of one’s life in different nonverbal sensory worlds. This group of people sees, hears, feels, and smells only that which has some valuable meaning or importance for them. They consider abstractly or theoretically whatever fits into their personal worlds of recognitions and then assign a meaning to it through the frame of reference of their culture.

A critical look at the story of a student in an intercultural communication class who asked a fellow exchanged student from the Arabia continent how he would signal nonverbally that he liked her. His reply was to smooth his hair back which she believed was just a common anxious sign suggesting nothing. The same question was repeated thrice by the female student. However the exchange student smoother his hair three times and, finally realizing that she was not recognizing this movement as his reply to her question, automatically moved his head downward and stuck out his tongue somewhat in embarrassment. This anxious reaction was being observed by the girl, and she understood it as his communicative way of expressing his feeling for her.

The lack of an ability to understand the meaning or importance of obvious nonverbal signs and symbols such as gestures, postures, and vocalizations is a explicit and clearly defined communication barrier, but it is possible to learn the meaning of these messages (once they are perceived) in much the same way as a verbal language is learned.

It is more difficult in an accurate manner to note the unspoken coding system used for transmitting messages requiring brevity or secrecy of the other culture that are further from awareness, such as the handling of time and spatial relationships, subtle signs of respect or formality, and many others.


Stereotyping is a process which has a logical consequence on the developmental categories or schematic or preliminary plan that helps us to make conscious awareness of strange behavior and align it with our own frame of reference. In relation to this, creating mental categories can be a positive process to help us identify and respond to unfamiliar behavior, but it may tend to hinder the achievement of communication goal if we judge all members of a group or class by the characteristics or behaviors we observe in just one or few.

Stereotype can also be described as a comparatively firm and oversimplified event that occurred at the beginning of a group of people in which all persons in the group are categorized with the groups distinguishing quality and communicative skills. Stereotype can be classified according to racial groups, multicultural nationality and ethnicity of various exchange students. To any degree or extent these stereotypes can manipulate interactions, feelings, and anticipation. Stereotypes may also be a hindrance or obstacle to communication when they cause us to accept without verification or proof that a widely held belief is true of any individual or culture, hence, having some effect in the communication skills or knowledge of foreign or exchange students.

A typical psychology study in the 1970s had two groups of undergraduates read stories about a woman. The stories were indistinguishable; except that one had the sentence “Betty is now a lesbian”. On a test one week later, individuals in the group who had read that Betty is now a lesbian never dated men. The group’s stereotype of a lesbian influenced what they recalled having read (Synder 1978)7.

Stereotype can become a “self-fulfilling prophecy” for the person lacking spontaneity, originality or individuality. Research by psychologists has shown that a negative stereotype creates a threat that can distract the individual stereotyped and lower performance.

When stereotypes lead us to interpret an individual’s behavior from the perceptual screen of the stereotype, they impede communication. Were you to believe that Armenians are dishonest, then if you saw a man you knew to be Armenian taking package from a car, you would be more likely to assume he was stealing it. A police officer arrested a man mistaking him to be a Chinese gang, just because the young man had cigarette burns and a tattoo of an eagle on his arm.

Assumption of similarities

Putting the wrong interpretation and or abandonment occurs when many people unpretentiously presuppose there is enough quality of being similar among people of the world to make the activity of conveying information trouble-free. They anticipate that without extravagance or embellishment being human and having common required activity of food, structure that provides privacy and protection from danger, and security, makes everyone alike. Regrettably, they overlook the fact that the forms of responsive adjustment to these common biological and social needs and the values, beliefs, and attitudes closely encircling them are immensely different from one culture to the other. The biological sharing of common attributes are not of much help when it comes to communication, where exchange of ideas and information is paramount.

The similarities of statement that is assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn does not frequently widen to the anticipation of a common verbal language but it does hinder with caution in decoding nonverbal symbols, signs, and signals. No cross-cultural studies have proven the existence of a common nonverbal language except those in support of Darwin’s theory that facial expressions are universal.

This seems useful until the realization that a person’s cultural upbringing influences whether or not the emotion will be made visible, apparent or suppressed as well as on which occasions and to what degree. The situations that bring about the passionate feeling also differ from culture to culture. This is illustrated like the death of a loved one may be a cause of joy, sorrow, or some other emotion, depending upon the accepted cultural belief.

Development of Intercultural Communicative Competence

Research has discovered that the development of intercultural communicative competence (ICC) is one major objective in temporary foreign language teaching of an exchange student, thereby playing an important role in the structure of directives for foreign language teaching, as well as those embedded in the common student exchange framework of reference for languages. Its ideal is the intercultural exchange, a model for learners which is not oriented towards a native speaker (Guilherme 230)8 but can be described as a person who participates in a conversation, intercultural communication, interaction, and to mandate between cultural identifications or to critically negotiate them (Byram 299)9.

The notion of the intercultural student exchange can be characterized in more detailed model of intercultural communicative competence, which describes five essential factors in intercultural communication. In terms of knowledge, international exchange students must be familiar with social groups and the cultures of their own country, as well as with those of his interlocutor’s country. Furthermore, exchange students should acquire knowledge relating to the processes of interaction at individual and societal levels.

An intercultural student exchange must be skilled to understand texts and occurrences from a foreign culture and to tolerate them to their own culture, as well as to discover and to interact. The skill of discovery enables the exchange students to recognize culturally significant foreign remarkable development and to understand their meanings, connotations and relationships towards other phenomena. The ability to be able to interact covers the establishment of relationships, the handling of real-time communication, the management of communication dysfunctions and mediation in general. Further conditions that are prerequisite of Intercultural communicative competence are: the attitudes of curiosity and openness, the readiness to suspend disbelief and judgment with others meaning, beliefs and behavior, and to esteem other people and cultures. Intercultural student exchange must be able to consider or treat as relative to their own culture, to dismantle their prevalent structure of subjective reality and to re-construct it according to new norms.

Summary and conclusion

As intercultural exchange students encounter ever greater cultural and co-cultural diversity, the detailed and sensible study of intercultural communication competence becomes increasing important. Only through competent intercultural communication can exchange students from different cultures understand each other. Sitaram and Cogdell (1976)10 publicly stated that, “All people of the world irrespective of their nationality should study intercultural communication.” This broad authoritative declaration emphasizes the necessity for all human beings to learn more about their selves and members of other cultures rather than their own.

Competency in communication has been studied for a long period of time, but its application to intercultural interaction continues to undergo development or evolution.

The approaches to the study of intercultural communication competence discussed in this paper lead to a three-perspective model which are classified as: ( a) The efficient perspective represents intercultural understanding, which is promoted through positive self concept, open mindedness, nonjudgmental attitudes, and social relaxation; b) the cognitive perspective represents cultural awareness, which includes self awareness and the comprehension of other cultural awareness; and c) the behavioral perspective represents intercultural skillfulness based on communication skills.

Directions for future research along these lines have been proposed, focusing on the theoretical and operational difficulties that scholars and intercultural exchange students face.

Furthermore, cultural disparities should be considered in a positive light in order to show intercultural exchange students that there are always several ways to achieve goals or to solve problems, depending on national preconditions, traditions, conventions and needs. This prevents thinking that is limited to one idea or thought and counters unsupported belief in the existence of an ideal solution, which is frequently assumed by exchange students and maintained by their daily life at school.

On the linguistic level, a turning away from the principle of linguistic accuracy and a definite fault forbearance, are necessary to let learners and intercultural exchange students conquer their inhibitions, and to permit genuine communication in addition to the negotiation of cultural, social and political identifications and presentations.

Works Cited

Banks, James A., and Cherry Banks. Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. 2nd edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 1993. Print.

Banks, James A., and Cherry Banks. A Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education. New York: Macmillan.2004.Print.

Bennett, Milton J. Basic concepts of intercultural communication: selected readings. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 2007. Print

Byram, MIcheal. Teaching and assessing Intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.1997. Print.

Eldering, Lotty. Multiculturalism and multicultural education in an international perspective. Anthropology and education quarterly, 27(3), 315-330. 1996.

Fouts, John. Multicultural education and the idols of the mind: Why multicultural education is under attack. social Education, 57(7), 356-358. 1993.

Guilherme, Manuela. Intercultural Competence. New York: Routledge 2000. Print.

Michael, H. Long. The Handbook of Language Teaching. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley and Sons, 2009. Print.

Sitaram, K.S., & Codgell, R. T. Foundation of intercultural communication. Columbus, OH: Merrill. 1976. Print.

Snyder, Mo. Cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal consequences of self-monitoring. In P.Pliner, K.R. Blankenstein, I.M. Spigel, T. Alloway, & L. Krames (Eds.), Advances in the study of communication and affect: Perception of emotion in self and other. New York. NY: Plenum.1978. Print.


  1. Michael, H. Long. The Handbook of Language Teaching. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley and Sons, 2009. Print.
  2. Banks, James A., and Cherry Banks. A Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education. New York: Macmillan.2004.Print.
  3. Bennett, Milton J. Basic concepts of intercultural communication: selected readings. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 2007. Print
  4. Banks, James A., and Cherry Banks. Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. 2nd edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 1993. Print.
  5. Eldering, Lotty. Multiculturalism and multicultural education in an international perspective. Anthropology and education quarterly, 27(3), 315-330. 1996.
  6. Fouts, John. Multicultural education and the idols of the mind: Why multicultural education is under attack. social Education, 57(7), 356-358. 1993.
  7. Snyder, Mo. Cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal consequences of self-monitoring. In P.Pliner, K.R. Blankenstein, I.M. Spigel, T. Alloway, & L. Krames (Eds.), Advances in the study of communication and affect: Perception of emotion in self and other. New York. NY: Plenum.1978. Print
  8. Guilherme, Manuela. Intercultural Competence. New York: Routledge 2000. Print.
  9. Byram, MIcheal. Teaching and assessing Intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.1997. Print.
  10. Sitaram, K.S., & Codgell, R. T.  Foundation of intercultural communication. Columbus, OH: Merrill. 1976. Print.