In our definition, intercultural mobility is the passage of individuals through cultures (between or within countries) either through geographic movement or through movement in the system of social hierarchy.  Mobility implies the separation from the well-known surrounding, the immersion in and progressive adjustment to new cultural environments, which results in a set of changes on the level of self-perception, self-definition, attitude, behaviour patterns as well as in the development of new skills and competences.

Why is it important to talk about intercultural mobility?

We live in an increasingly mobile world, characterised by an ever growing and diversifying number of travellers: migrants, international students, expatriates, global nomads, etc. Data from the International Organization for Migration shows that there are roughly 214 million international migrants in the world today. If migrants would be a nation, they would be the 5th most populous nation. What’s more, intercultural mobility is not just occurring across international borders. Cross-cultural interactions also take place at the local level in classrooms and workplaces across the globe. According to UNESCO, the number of tertiary students has multiplied by six since 1970, going from 32 million to 159 million university students worldwide. This implies that an ever greater number of young people engage in studies further than their parents, embarking on social mobility.

We consider 3 different types of intercultural mobility:

Stéphane: A Sojourner in Jujuy, Argentina (short-term geographic mobility):

When Stéphane, a young Frenchman, arrived in Argentina for an internship, it was his first time travelling outside Europe. He spent four months in Jujuy, a poor community nestled in the mountains. He found himself with no television, no indoor toilet, and limited Internet access. This proved to be life-changing for Stéphane. Now back in France, he looks back on his short stay in Jujuy as the most beautiful experience of his life and is planning for a definitive return.

Keiko: A Migrant in Paris, France (long-term geographic mobility):

Paris was not at all like Keiko had expected. Instead of the romantic boulevards and stylish Parisians she had imagined while studying French in school, Keiko was confronted with the noise, dirt, and bustle of city life. She struggled to understand not only the language of the French, but also their culture. Despite her initial culture shock, Keiko’s open-minded personality and curious nature made her eager to expose herself to new experiences in France. She now sees things from a different perspective, drawing on both French and Japanese culture to inform her decisions. Today, Keiko feels completely at home in Paris.

Kati: A Striver in Budapest Hungary (social mobility):

Kati grew up as the daughter of working class parents who did not attend college, but instilled in their children the importance of doing so. Kati was accepted to one of the most elite universities in Hungary. Despite struggles including feelings of isolation and conflicts with her parents and friends from home, Kati has managed to flourish. After finishing her studies in Budapest, she will soon enter a doctoral program at Oxford. After completing her doctorate, Kati plans to return to Hungary to be a professor and to help improve the Hungarian educational structure.