Coming of Age in an Integrating Europe: Hopes, Dreams, and Aspirations of Young Mobile Europeans

Saturday, March 15, 2014
Forum (Omni Shoreham)
Lisanne Wilken , Aarhus University
Mette Ginnerskov Hansen , Institute for Culture & Society, Aarhus University,
Over the last decades there has been an increase in cross-border student mobility in Europe (Teichler 2009). More than 3 million students from EU and EEA have participated in EU's Erasmus exchange program, a growing number of 'free-moving' young Europeans pursue tertiary education abroad and scholarship opportunities available to students from EU's "neighbourhood" enable young people from across EU's border to study in the European Union.
This paper aims at exploring how students from different parts of Europe make sense of themselves as young Europeans in an integrating Europe. Viewing Aarhus University in Denmark as a meeting place (Green 2009) where students from all over Europe meet, interact, construct identities and negotiate distinctions between 'self' and 'other' we look at the various ways that students motivate mobility, how they construct network and friendships and how their perceptions of self and other in a European context changes over time.
The discussions in the paper draw on an elaborate survey of international students at Aarhus University (mapping national and socio-economic backgrounds, mobility histories, language abilities, social participation and educational backgrounds of incoming students) and on 50 loosely structured narrative interviews with students from different places in Europe conducted at different times during their stay abroad. The paper aims at contributing to our understanding of the generation of Europeans who grew up after the fall of the wall but in a Europe still divided.