Mobility trajectories of German students after graduating abroad

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
C3.17 (Oudemanhuispoort)
Sören Carlson , Institute of Sociology, Freie Universität Berlin
With regard to inner-European migration processes, geographically mobile students are seen as an important group. This has not merely to do with the significant size of the group, but also because it is widely assumed that student mobility promotes further transnational mobility, thus contributing to European integration and the functioning of a European labour market. Existing academic literature has repeatedly pointed to this relationship and explained such mobility (in a rather static way) as the outcome of different factors and individual decision-making. However, by asking how these former students become geographically mobile again, this paper takes a processual perspective, instead of perceiving mobility as the outcome of a one-time choice. Empirically, the analysis is based on narrative-biographical interviews with Germans who graduated abroad 2005 or earlier. Contrary to most research dealing with student mobility, the focus is thus not on students participating in the EU’s widely known ERASMUS scheme, but on the largely disregarded group of students who go abroad for a whole degree programme. The process of becoming mobile is analysed by reconstructing the interviewees’ different mobility trajectories, distinguishing between those who crossed country borders again after graduation and those who did not. Such a comparison allows the opportunity to regard mobility as the result of a process involving specific forms of social embeddedness, prior biographical experiences of mobility and specific sequences of events in order to occur.