Foreign Exchange Student

Imports are nice!
Monique, Kim Possible

Is your work set in a school, or at least has some scenes there? Do you want to introduce a new character to your steadily expanding cast, but the New Transfer Student isn't exotic enough?

Don't get your panties in a knot, that's what the Foreign Exchange Student is for!

The Foreign Exchange Student, officially there to soak in the country's culture, will often be beautiful (often subject, however, to their home country's Phenotype Stereotype) and mysterious (due to their foreign background, duh). Their home country varies, but it's often from the United States (if the setting is Eastern) or Asia (if the setting is Western). Exchange students from Europe also pop up every once in a while (in that case, students from the United Kingdom are fairly common).

Common plot points will be the existing characters having quite a culture shock upon their arrival due to assumptions about what they would be like (and vice-versa), finding the exchange student interesting and exotic, which might rocket them to the top of the Popularity Food Chain, the exchange student having trouble with the language/customs of the area, and how they fit into the existing True Companions dynamic.

Personalities vary in fiction, but making the exchange student a Shrinking Violet, a Nice Guy, or a Defrosting Ice Queen seems fairly common (the last one especially). Moral alignment also differs as their "air of mystery" can mean either shyness or pure evil, but they're generally nice kids.

Naturally, the Foreign Exchange Student will commonly be the Love Interest of at least one character (which might cause complications when they have to leave). Unless, of course, they're around to cause trouble...

See also New Transfer Student. May overlap with Funny Foreigner or Foreign People Are Sexy. If the exchange student is European, Europeans Are Kinky is often used, especially if she's female. In this case, their comparative sexual liberation will be Played for Laughs, with everyone else feeling uncomfortable.


Anime and Manga

  • Sue Hopkins in Genshiken is technically neither an exchange nor a transfer student, just a freshman who came from America, but nevertheless is a source of confusion and comical situations, with her limited knowledge of Japanese language (majority of her lines being quotes from manga and anime), eccentrically extrovert (although good-hearted) personality, creepy child-like face and exotic looks (long blond hair and blue eyes). And, of course, being an Occidental Otaku.
  • Sharna Alamgir in Hayate the Combat Butler is an exchange student from India. Her main task in the series is to serve as Cloudcuckoolander's Minder to Fumi Hibino and provide snappy comebacks.
  • The Stanley siblings, Rachel and Ethan, in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Also Boris (a Russian). Tirawit (a Thai) also technically counts, but in his case there is little or no racial gap, and the cultural gap is not so prominent.
  • Patricia Martin in Lucky Star is an American exchange student and otaku who came to Japan to learn Japanese culture. Unfortunately most of what she know is based on manga and anime, which doesn't always match the reality.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: According to Cho, the "sword hunter", this what Kamatari becomes after the Jupon Gattana disbands. Though truthfully it was because Cho lied to Kamatari, by saying Shishio had wanted the remaining Jupon Gattana to spread word of his deeds, in case his plans failed. It was Cho's way of keeping Kamatari from killing him/herself. It's also implied that he/she was aware of it.
  • Midori no Hibi: Lucy Winrad is a foreign exchange student, from America, and is an expy of Tiffany Lords, who also happens to be an exchange student from the same country (seen further below).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX introduces four new characters in the 3rd season, each a champion from a different duel academy.
  • Tonari no Kashiwagi-san has Tina, from Germany. She lacks just about all inhibitions most Japanese people have.
  • In Assassination Classroom, Asano Jr. gathers four foreign exchange students from around the world to gain an advantage in the Bo-taoshi match against the boys of Class 3-E. All of them are gigantic, muscular 15 year old guys who excel in different physical sports and can easily annihilate anyone in their age group in challenges involving strength.
  • Chris Portman from Ojojojo is an heir born to a British noble family who transfers to the school in Chapter 20. As one of Haru's suitors, he originally came to Japan for a marriage interview but didn't take it well when she refused to have the arranged marriage.

Films — Animation

  • Squirt the baby sea turtle actually becomes one at the end of Finding Nemo.

Film — Live Action

Live-Action TV

  • Fez from That '70s Show. The name "Fez" is short for "foreign exchange student", despite the difference in spelling, which the series' official web site describes as "poetic license". His friends know Fez' real name but consider it unpronounceable.
  • Sunshine Corazon (from the Philippines) and Rory Flanagan (from Ireland) in seasons two and three of Glee.
  • James At 15. In the episode "The Gift", James lost his virginity to a Swedish foreign exchange student. It was in this episode that the series title changed to James At 16.
  • Dinosaurs: Charlene Sinclair went to pre-historic France while a foreign bird moved into the Sinclairs. Hilarity Ensues when Baby ate the bird and Earl tried to deceive the foreign family with a stand-in. Fran told Earl parents always know but he dismissed it as a rude generalization and stated foreigners were all the same. Fran was proven wrong when the foreign family pulled a similar stunt and Earl fell for it despite the real Charlene and her stand-in having different colors. Fran even showed a photograph of the real Charlene and Earl, once again showing he's Too Dumb to Live, still said the two girls were a lot alike.
  • Season 12 of Degrassi introduces several junior pro hockey players from the US and other parts of Canada who live with host families and attend school on a similar basis to exchange students.
  • Nina, Eddie and KT from House of Anubis, all coming from the United States.
  • Faymen from Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, from Brazil.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a plot with this in "Inca Mummy Girl". The boy Buffy and her mom were supposed to host was killed by the titular mummy girl, who did end up flirting with Xander, although she almost killed him as well before she was stopped.
    • Cordelia also had a brief fling with a Swedish exchange student named Sven.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Earl recalls that he picked on a French exchange student named Pierre back in elementary school. (Who, understandably, did not care much for Earl either.) Earl writes Pierre a letter and encloses a plane ticket asking him to come back and give America another chance. Pierre arrives, punches Earl in the face, and plans to leave (all the while grousing about what a terrible place America is). Earl steals Pierre's passport and credit cards, forcing him to stay, and attempts to show him what a great place America really is. (Which, being that he's presenting Camden and the Lower Class Louts that live there, doesn't go as planned.) Eventually, Earl helps Pierre use his accent to woo their now-grown female classmates (and their now-elderly teacher.) Unfortunately, Pierre has a wife back home...

Video Games
  • In Persona 3, one of the social links that helps augment the player character's power is with French foreign exchange student Andre Laurent Jean Geraux ("Zey just call me Bebe!").
  • Rival Schools has Roy, Tiffany, and Boman posing as a team of American exchange students, while investigating the attacks on each of the schools. Tiffany even gains an expy, in the form Midor no Hibi's Lucy Winrad.
  • Sakuya le Bel Shirogane of Hatoful Boyfriend arrives both French and wealthy. In the manga when asked to introduce himself he huffs that he has no name to give to fools, which backfires instantly as the teacher calls him Name To Give To Fools.

Web Original
  • In Demon Thesis, the four main characters attend MacPhee University in Canada, which is noted to have a rather large number of transfer students attending from different countries. Sure enough two of the four main characters (and both of the female main characters, coincidentally) are exchange students. Val is from America, while Clady is Danish.
  • In The School For GIFT'd Filmmakers, Ali a new staff member from England.


Western Animation
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bart became a FES in France while the Simpsons family got Adil, from Albania, who turned out to be a spy.
    • Also, Uter, the exchange student from Germany.
  • In Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown, Linus, Peppermint Patty, and Marcie go to France for two weeks as students. In the meantime Babette and Jacques come to the US to their school.
  • Rolf in Ed, Edd n Eddy.
  • In Danny Phantom one episode has a Hungarian transfer student coming in to be Sam's Romantic False Lead. Turns out that he was an American guy putting on a show just to mess with Sam.
  • Dexter of Dexter's Laboratory was a foreign exchange student in Japan in one episode. The Japanese kids were drawn anime-style
  • Recess: Yope, who came from Norway in one episode (and left in the same episode).
  • In The Adventuresof Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, there is foreign exchange student named Bolbi Stroganovsky.
  • Mike Mazinsky of Mike, Lu & Og.
  • An episode of Cow and Chicken has Cow falling in love with FES Slappy McCracken, who comes from a foreign county.