Article by Marco Tosi
Ciao da Roma! My name is Marco and I would like to tell you something about our Class Exchanges programme, an activity I love very much…and I’ll tell you why.
This programme was born in 1989-90, from an intuition of one of our senior volunteers, Ms. Paola Cesana, a teacher. She coordinated the Class Exchanges for 12 years, from Treviso (near Venice) where she lived. At that time, I was working in our national headquarters in Colle Val d’Elsa, Tuscany, as Hosting Coordinator.
Then, in 2001, a few weeks after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, Intercultura decided to establish a School Sector in Rome, and I moved back to the city where I was born and started to work on Class Exchanges. My work consists of talking and writing to teachers, all over the world, every day. This is very interesting and gives me an opportunity to look deeper into the school world, into the daily school life. This is what I particularly enjoy.
Class exchange Roma-New Dehli, 2012: welcoming ceremony where ALL the indian students welcomed the little Italian group at the “Daly College” in New Dehli.
The decision-making process that leads a class to agree to host foreign students and teachers and then travel abroad to meet them again in their own environment, is very different from the decision-making process of a single student leaving on an individual exchange programme.
Many actors are involved: 20-25 students, their families, the Principal (who usually focuses on practical issues such as insurance and budget), the school secretary, and of course the teachers who are involved in the exchange as well as those who are not.
It is a complex situation and the decision-making process can be affected by external events and especially the way they are perceived : like the spread of SARS and the invasion of Iraq in 2003; or the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 when Europe was covered by dust and about 20 countries closed their airspace; or more recently, the terrorist attacks in France and Belgium. The process can also be influenced by internal aspects. Some exchange projects have failed because of one single apprehensive parent, whose worries can easily influence many others; or because of teachers who prefer not to get involved.
Triple exchange Castelvetrano – Doetinchem – Brno 2016: a tree created by the students of the three classes, when they met in Castelvetrano (Sicily) in April 2016.
So, getting the schools together is not always easy, but when a class exchange has overcome the initial hurdles, nothing can stop it, and the rewards are many! Schools involved in class exchanges very often look for new projects, often with the same partners, or also with schools in other countries. It looks like class exchanges induce a kind of addiction. Once you’ve tasted it, you cannot do without!
During the almost 26 years of Class Exchanges activity, Intercultura has organised more than 750 class exchanges, hosted more than 14.000 foreign students and sent as many Italians abroad. Most of the exchanges were with Eropean schools; however, the number of Italian schools who ask for a non-European partner school is increasing.
The Intercultura School sector is coordinated by Flaminia Bizzarri, with Marco Tosi and Violetta Valentino.
For further information please write to: [email protected]
Class exchange TRIESTE, Italy – IZMIR, Turkey 2011: the two classes in Izmir, in front of a portrait of Kemal Ataturk, 2011.