9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Euroidentities. The Evolution of European Identity: Using biographical methods to study the development of European identity. Part II Building II, C2.02

Educational and other encounters: narratives of mobility and the biographical significance of international study and training in Europe

The European dimensions of higher education have developed through an ever-expanding set of research, teaching and infrastructure programmes. The EU Erasmus higher education mobility programme in particular has directly influenced the learning experiences of some 1.9 million students since 1987. Mobility also takes place outside Erasmus, the result of individual initiative rather than institutional schemes. However they occur, individual mobility and career paths merge with wide-ranging European strategies for economic competitiveness, innovation, modernization and cultural cooperation. Previous studies suggest that a period spent abroad not only adds new dimensions to academic learning but is likely to contribute to the acquisition of language and intercultural skills, and self-reliance. Internationally mobile students are more likely to have international careers, a cosmopolitan outlook and more developed awareness of European citizenship. The paper reports on analysis of data from biographical narrative interviews conducted by the seven research partners in the Euroidentities project. The selected interviewees were expected to be ?sensitized? to European identity issues by their educational experience in another country. The data is examined for evidence of biographical work continuing some time after the experience of educational mobility. Methods of autobiographical narrative interviewing and analysis allow an assessment of the degree to which educational mobility is integral to the telling of individual life stories and the ways in which individual trajectories are linked to the opportunities and constraints of collective life in the complex spaces of interaction between European societies and cultures. The analysis provides a way to understand these processes from the perspective of the individual. It demonstrates that identification with the ?European project? is not a foregone conclusion of educational mobility. Identity formation is more likely to be expressed through biographical work on topics including language, travel, career, cultural difference, and of course personal relationships. Understood in this way, European identity is not necessarily articulated as attachment to the institutions, civic life or symbols of the EU. It suggests that caution needs to be applied to aggregate-level data and generalized concepts of Europeanness.