Intercultural exchanges, like the ones offered by AFS, often lead young people to re-examine their values and even adopt some new ones based on their experiences abroad. That is why Fondazione Intercultura, the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL) and AFS Intercultural Programs organized the eleventh annual Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange (November 4-6, 2021 in Italy) to explore the theme “The values of living together: how to assess their evolution within intercultural student exchanges”. 

Attendees included academics, practitioners, educators and volunteers working together to break down the taboo on values, and reflect on recommendations and concrete ways to guide young students through their learning experience in developing and strengthening their  values. Keynote speakers included Anat Bardi of University of London, Tarek Mostafa of OECD, Mitalene Fletcher of Harvard University, and other notable researchers from prestigious universities who presented their latest research results. 

The event showcased the early results of the Fondazione Intercultura research ‘Developing Intercultural Competence Through Adolescents’ Mobility’ (DICTAM). This groundbreaking research is exploring which elements of exchange programs and personal traits of participants are more likely to contribute to the development of intercultural competence.  The study run by Roberto Ruffino, Secretary General at Fondazione Intercultura; Mattia Baiutti, Researcher and School Training Coordinator at Fondazione Intercultura and Darla Deardorff, Executive Director of the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) has so far concluded that there is a need to develop a more evidence-based theory on pupil mobility, the need to personalise orientations and support to participants according to intercultural development stages as well as design exchange programs on academic evidence-based research. 

Elisa Briga, Head of Advocacy at European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL), led a concluding dialogue with Dr. Darla Deardorff, stating that intercultural exchanges should place values at the center of the reflection and learning process for students and all actors surrounding them. The event ended with an invitation to rethink the current practices in the field of intercultural exchange and to conduct further research on values.

Look for sincerity and honesty in the work you do. Analyze how coherent your institution is with the values you are promoting. Don’t forget that you are working for the community, not just for your own institution,” said Roberto Ruffino at the closing of the eleventh edition of the Forum.