What were the project’s main achievements and results?
Getting the students to think and talk about the importance of integration is one of the things we hoped to achieve. We had many discussions and comparisons between the two cultures, in which we contrasted different areas, e.g. school, food, and other typical things for the respective cultures. In the discussions, the students realised that we do things in different ways, but what is different is not necessarily wrong, it is just different.
Making them experience how difficult it can be to fit into a new culture (when living in a family in the other country) will help them understand how difficult it can be for immigrants when they arrive in France or Sweden, from a very different background. You cannot eat what you want, people speak fast in a language you don’t understand. Your personality has been shaped by the culture you grew up in, and in the new country everything you do might seem strange to others.
Making the students more aware of their own culture, why they do what they do, and see that there are often many ways of doing the same thing (not just one way – the right way). Opening their eyes to other ways of doing things will help them understand that they can learn a lot from immigrants and that their experiences can help make the new country better in many ways.
Working together on the poetry slam was a success even though it was hard in the beginning. When you are forced to work together the cultural differences become very tangible, and you have to overcome the differences in order to get the required result. In the end, the students pulled together and overcame the challenges.
Cooking together, different food from different cultures, improved the students’ skills at cooperating in the kitchen. Being proud of your own culture while remaining open to learning about other cultures is another thing they learned while cooking. Newly arrived immigrants in Sweden also participated in this, broadening the perspective to include other cultures than the French and Swedish.
In addition to the goal of social inclusion, we hoped that the students would develop their language skills. The French and Swedish students wanted to practice their English, and some of the Swedish students had been learning French and wanted to practice that as well. Living in a family that doesn’t share your mother tongue forces you to speak in the target language. The more the students got to know each other the easier is was for them to speak in English.
The long-term benefits for the involved students and their families correspond to our expected result. Their experiences will be a memory to treasure all life long, and the contacts they have made in a different country can be life-long if they choose to. We know that at least some of the students still stay in touch through social media and in other ways.