Virtual as a concept
Virtual exchanges are becoming increasingly popular as a way to share information and ideas across international borders. There is no exact formula for these exchanges, but they usually take the form of online intercultural courses between individuals worldwide. At the same time, online tools for communication and collaboration have been developed to facilitate the interaction. In virtual exchanges participants interact in small groups, often using synchronous video conferencing tools. What distinguishes them from other forms of online learning, is that they focus primarily on dialog and interaction between people from different cultures and backgrounds rather than on content learning. There exist more and more virtual exchange platforms to discuss current issues, share ideas or develop joint projects with peers from all over the world. Two leading organisers are
Sharing Perspectives Foundation
Transformed into Virtual
The situation is different for mobility actors who, until the Covid19 crisis, organised purely physical youth exchanges. These exchanges take place outside the school environment and allow groups of young people from different countries to meet, live together and work on joint projects for short periods. The best-known youth exchanges are those organised under the Erasmus+ programme, but there are also a number of other organisers, such as the NGO Youth for Understanding (YFU) or Franco German-Youth-Office (FGYO). They all had to find a solution to continue the current projects or to develop alternative offers in the long term.
Franco German-Youth-Office (FGYO) – « First Contact » project
With the Covid19 health crisis and the limitation of travel, many intercultural exchange projects for young people with fewer mobility opportunities had to be suspended in 2020. The NGO “Une Terre Culturelle” and its German and Euro-Mediterranean partners did not stop their activities and continued their Franco-German and trilateral youth exchanges thanks to a mixed format: young people met face-to-face at the local level, and virtually thanks to digital tools. The “First Contact” project allowed young people who had never participated in an exchange before to start their project and prepare their future meetings.
The programme included virtual activities (thematic workshops on journalism and media or professional integration, digital language animations, online meals, etc.) and face-to-face activities (discovery of the city, work in small groups on site, creation of postcards for the other participants, etc.). The aim was to create links, to allow a first contact between these young people coming from very different backgrounds. Digital tools were used alongside more traditional educational tools. This hybrid format proved to be very enriching from an intercultural point of view and made it possible to organise an exchange project despite the restrictions linked to the health crisis.
Watch the video about this project: