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Foreign Exchange Student

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"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 undies in a twist. That's what the Foreign Exchange Student is for!

The Foreign Exchange Student, officially there to experience the setting's culture, will often be beautiful (often subject to their home country's Phenotype Stereotype) and mysterious (due to their foreign background). Their home country varies according to the story settings and origins, but it's often from the United States (if the setting is Eastern) or Asian countries (if the setting is Western). Exchange students from Europe also pop up every once in a while, mainly from countries like the UK, Germany, France, Italy and even Russia.

Common plots will be the existing characters having quite a culture shock upon the foreign exchange student's arrival due to preconceived assumptions about what the exchange student would be like (and vice-versa) or finding the exchange student interesting and exotic, which might rocket them to the top of the Popularity Food Chain. The exchange student will also have 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.

Unlike the typical New Transfer Student, the Foreign Exchange Student is rarely the main character, but if they are, expect them to be a Naïve Newcomer. They 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...

Subtrope of New Transfer Student. May overlap with Funny Foreigner or Foreign People Are Sexy depending on how this trope is played. 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. Contrast Stranger in a Strange School, where the new kid is the only normal student.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Babibubebobubobu!! Sapp-kun by Hidemitsu Shigeoka features Bob Sapp as a foreign exchange student who becomes a giant when angry and fights aliens.
  • 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.
  • In Hungry Heart: Wild Striker, Jojyou Highschool has two of these: the Brazilian Rafael Rodrigo del Canto and the half-Swede, half-Japanese Sakai Jefferson Kouji. Both of them make it into the soccer team and become friends with The Hero, Kyosuke Kanou.
  • 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.
  • Kiniro Mosaic follows British teenager Alice as she studies in Japan. She's soon joined by her childhood friend Karen (who is half-Japanese but very European in her physical traits).
  • 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.
  • Nozomu from Nurse Angel Ririka SOS passes as a transfer student from England. In reality, he isn't even from Earth.
  • 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.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: According to Cho, "the Sword Hunter", Kamatari became one after the remaining Jupon Gattana disbanded. In truth, it was because Cho lied to Kamatari, by saying Shishio had wanted the Jupon Gattana to spread word of his deeds, in case his plans failed. It was Cho's way of keeping him/her from committing suicide. It's also implied that Kamitari was aware of it.
  • Maken-ki!:
    • Akaza Chacha is one of several foreign students enrolled at Tenbi Academy. She has a tanned complexion, green eyes, and white hair, and her nationality is never specified.
    • All the members of the Venus unit also hail from different countries. However, the only ones whose nationalities are specified are Yan-Min (China) and Celia (America).
  • Midori Days: 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).
  • Tonari no Kashiwagi-san has Tina, who came from Germany so she could be closer to her boyfriend (and because she's an otaku). She lacks just about all inhibitions most Japanese people have.
  • Underworld Academy Overload!!: Lamy is said to be an exchange student from the Snow Clan.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX introduced four new characters in the 3rd season, each a champion from a different duel academy.
  • A lot of the drama in Miracle Girls is due to Mika's crush Chris going away to be a foreign exchange student in England.
  • The light novel spin-off of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War reveals that the principal (who is established as being Parisian in supplementary material) attended Shuchi'in as a foreign exchange student back when he was in high school.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Yamucha's-Kung Fu Academy, the kung-fu school has two students, Hado and Happu, who are foreign exchange students. To accentuate this with the show's Anthropomorphic Food theme, the former is a hotdog and the latter is a hamburger, both well-known American foods, whereas the other students are Chinese foods.

    Comic Books 
  • 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank: Gerdis, a foreigner from an unspecified country who speaks broken English, stays with Paige and her dad for most of the story, and even plays a part in the robbery, though it's unclear how much he understands what's going on.

    Fan Works 
  • The Echo Ranger: Melissa Shield becomes one by transferring to the UA in Japan while Izuku is still in middle school.
  • The protagonist of Higurashi: Broken Chains Arc is Henry Parkinson, a student from the United Kingdom who moves to Hinamizawa on a foreign exchange program. Which places him at ground zero of the mass murder spree occurring there.
  • In The Unwanted Harem Of Nathan Adams, Toilettra poses as a Spanish foreign exchange student named Hanako Letrina in order to explain her presence in Nate's house.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 fic “The Power of a Kiss”, when Sha’re comes to Earth with Daniel and decides to start studying medicine, she basically presents herself as this to her new friends at college, claiming she comes from an isolated Egyptian tribe to explain her limited knowledge of modern culture.

    Films — Animation 
  • Squirt the baby sea turtle actually becomes one at the end of Finding Nemo.
  • Tracy Walker in Isle of Dogs is an American exchange student at a Japanese school. When she and the other members of the school paper attempt to reveal Kobayashi's misdeeds, he threatens to send her back to America.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Areola in Not Another Teen Movie, who was a parody of American Pie's sex-liberal Czech exchange student Nadia.
  • The Color of Friendship is based on a real life story of a white South African girl in the 1970s who becomes an American exchange student. The family she's staying with is black. This causes tension at first, but soon the girl, Mahree, becomes more open-minded. She becomes friends with the family's daughter, Piper.
  • You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah: One of Andy's friends is an Ecuadorian exchange student, Mateo, who harbors an unrequited crush on Stacy. He stands out among the Jewish cast.

  • The presence of government-sponsored foreign students in Japanese university track teams (specifically from Africa) is discussed in Run with the Wind. Majority of these students are noted to have come to study in Japan specifically to join their track teams and participate in the prestigious Hakone Ekiden; sure enough, most of them excel in track meets and typically come within the first couple of ranks. The Tanzanian exchange student Musa in the main cast, however, is the exception; coming to Kansei University to study Science and Engineering was his original and only purpose, and it takes a lot of training alongside his team to get whipped into form. Prejudice or stereotypes are touched upon but Musa otherwise gets along with his teammates well.

    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.
  • Samantha Woo in California Dreams, who is introduced three episodes into the second season as this, having come from Hong Kong (although her accent is more Americanized). She started out living with the Garrison family, arriving in the episode after that which set up original main character Jenny's departure, but moved in with the family of new character Lorena Costa the following season after Matt Garrison was written out of the series.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "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...
  • In Night and Day, Jane’s French penpal Francoise Jardin descends on Greenwich for a sustained period near the beginning of the show, before mysteriously disappearing, just like Jane did. It becomes clear that Francoise knew more about Jane and her secrets than many of her friends and family.
  • The Other Kingdom: Played with for Astral, as she's simply posing as Devon's exchange student as a way to pass off as an "other" and (mostly) blend in. Played straight however, with Winston Althazar (who actually ironically winds up taking the place of) a British student who was supposed to be Devon's original exchange student only to wind up in the wrong location.
  • In The World's Strictest Parents, Peter and Jocelyn became this during their stay in Pune, India at a Indian private school despite being the only foreigners. They did this to make up the mistakes they did in England. Also, they weren't too happy about it.

    Video Games 
  • Ensemble Stars! has Adonis, who transferred over from one of Yumenosaki's sister schools in an unnamed Arabian country. Though he speaks perfect Japanese, he's unfamiliar with a lot of aspects of Japanese culture and so is often seen asking the very traditional Souma for explanations.
  • In RPG Maker horror game GU-L, Irene is a blonde American, and her poor Japanese is represented through her dialogue, which is formatted in an odd blend of Hiragana and Katakana characters.
  • 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.
  • Natsai Onai from Hogwarts Legacy is an African witch who transferred to the titular British Wizarding School after her mother accepted a teaching position there.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel:
    • In the first game, Gaius Worzel from the Nord Highlands attends Thors Military Academy in Erebonia, under the recommendation of Zechs Vander, a military general he ended up saving when he was reassigned to Nord.
    • In the third game, Tita Russell from Liberl ends up studying at Thors II to be Schmidt's fourth disciple. She also ends up being one of Rean's students in the academy (though not his homeroom class).
    • Also from the third game is Juna Crawford, a citizen of Crossbell and one of Rean's homeroom students. However, she plays with this trope, due to Crossbell being absorbed into Erebonia at the end of the second game. While she was born a citizen of Crossbell, the annexation effectively makes her an Erebonian citizen.
    • Besides Tita and Juna, there are other students who come from countries besides Erebonia. There's Valery from North Ambria, and Louise from Remiferia. While Louise is a direct example, Valery is similar to Juna, in that her home country was annexed into the empire months before the start of the third 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 the Americans Roy Bromwell, Tiffany Lords, and Boman Delgado 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 Midori Days' Lucy Winrad.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has Sonia Nevermind, the Super High School Level Princess (or just Ultimate Princess) from the fictitious Novoselic. While all students enrolled at Hope's Peak Academy are technically transfer students, Sonia stands out, since she is a talent who doesn't originate from Japan. The school's description explicitly mentions that it is Japan's pride and hope and all of its students are the hope of their nation. It essentially makes Sonia the hope of her homeland, fittingly since she is her country's princess.
  • The Great Ace Attorney: Medical student Jezaille Brett is one of these, studying toxicology at Japan's Imperial Yumei University under Case 1's murder victim Dr. John H. Wilson. Unusually for the trope, she's a COLOSSAL racist, even for Victorian England, to the point where you might wonder why she came to Japan in the first place. Why, to carry out a hit, of course.
  • You play the role of one of these in Magical Diary: Wolf Hall, thought you're actually an heir to a magical family who's posing as a foreign exchange student at Iris Academy.

    Web Original 
  • Ayasaki-san: Luna is from Sweden who transferred to Kazuki's high school. She couldn't understand Japanese due to her parents' death, so Kazuki had to teach her.
  • Manga Room: Takashi becomes one when he decides to study abroad in America after his ex-girlfriend breaks up with him after finding out that she was cheating on him.
  • MoniRobo: Alexi is a Russian exchange student who became Ryuta's friend, which motivated the latter to learn Russian.
  • Both Natasha and her fellow spy Oleg Boynski are undercover as exchange student in Princess Natasha. Natasha comes across as fairly normal, while Oleg falls into Funny Foreigner territory.
  • In The School For GIFT'd Filmmakers, Ali a new staff member from England.
  • Shipwrecked Comedy's "American Whoopee" parodies this with a sweet and goofy Canadian transfer who still gets the Foreign People Are Sexy treatment from the girls.


    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, there is foreign exchange student named Bolbi Stroganovsky.
  • 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.
  • An episode of Cow and Chicken has Cow falling in love with FES Slappy McCracken, who comes from a foreign county.
  • 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.
  • Holger Holgaart on Detentionaire is a quirky transfer student from somewhere Norse by Norsewest and one of protagonist Lee's best friends.
  • Dexter of Dexter's Laboratory was a foreign exchange student in Japan in one episode. The Japanese kids were drawn anime-style
  • Doug: Doug is worried that the new student Fentruck from Yakistonia is trying to take Patty away from him, but it turns out to be a misunderstanding. The two soon become friends. Fentruck is soon joined by another Yakistonesian student, Loretta LaQuiggley.
  • In the Kim Possible episode "Exchange" Ron is selected for a student exchange program to Japan, in the Yamanouchi School (that is secretly a ninja school), while a Japanese student called Hirotaka go to Middleton High School (becoming an instant favorite among the female students included Kim and Monique).
  • In The Looney Tunes Show, Marvin the Martian was a foreign exchange student from Mars during high school. This experience was a horrible time for him, and, as such, spends his days plotting to destroy the Earth thanks to it.
  • Played with in the Molly of Denali episode "The Story of the Story Knife." Molly's school has an exchange student program, but it's for different Alaska Native tribes. Even though everyone is Alaska Native, they have different ways of doing things. Willow of the Yup'ik tribe is the exchange student in the episode.
  • Recess: Yope, who came from Norway in one episode (and left in the same episode).
  • 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.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil:
    • Star Butterfly is (after her parents provide a hefty bribe to the principal) accepted as a foreign exchange student in the series premier. She's a lot more foreign than the usual examples.
    • Gustav is a Scandinavian exchange student that stays with the Diazes in one episode, whose odd behavior leads Star to believe him to be a cannibal. He turns out to be an American pretending to be various nationalities in order to test out various ethnic dishes on his unsuspecting hosts.
    • Early in the third season, Star moves back to Mewni. This eventually causes Marco to become an exchange student to Mewni (where he becomes a squire and trains to become a knight).
    • In the fourth season, it's revealed that after Marco left for Mewni, Jackie Lynn Thomas spent that same year as a foreign exchange student in France.
  • An episode of W.I.T.C.H. involves a Swiss exchange student arriving at the school. Her looks make her an instant Dude Magnet from the moment she steps into the cafeteria. The main characters get jealous of her for her personality and behavior (being able to make her own clothes]], her complaints that Taranee didn't read War and Peace in Russian, etc). It turns out she's a Fauxreigner who buys her own clothes. She doesn't even know Russian.
  • Word of God is that Starfire from Teen Titans was designed to seem like one of these. She's an alien teenager who speaks in Spock Speak due to her inexperience with the English language (combined with her royal upbringing). In the comics she could speak perfect English, though due to the popularity of her cartoon interpretation aspects of her have transferred to her comics incarnation too.


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