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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.

Examples


Anime and Manga

  • 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.
  • 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", after the Juppongatana disbands, Kamatari Honjou masquerades as this outsider the country while, in reality, being a spy for the Meiji regimen. Though truthfully he accepted to become this because Cho lied to Kamatari, by saying Shishio had wanted the remaining Juppongatana to spread word of his deeds in case his plans failed. In reality, it was Cho's way of keeping Kamatari from killing himself over Shishio (he did tell Cho that he wanted to die after learning of Shishio and Yumi's deaths), and it's also implied that Kamatari realized Cho was lying but still went along with it.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Film -- Animated

  • 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.

Video Games

  • Rival Schools has Roy, Tiffany, and Boman as a team of foreign exchange students from America.
  • 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!").

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.

Western Animation

  • Fentruck from Doug.
  • 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 and 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)
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