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My Label Is Erasmus, But Am I European? The Impact of the Erasmus Exchange Programme on European and Cosmopolitan Identity

Karina Oborune

This research questions what kind of European identity is promoted by exchange programme and what are the geographic, demographic, socio-economic and cultural factors that promote European identity. This is a first longitudinal research combining quantitative (survey) and qualitative methods (in-depth interviews) by comparing new EU member states (the Baltic states) and non-EU member state (Switzerland). The survey of 776 students reveals that there exists ethnic, exclusive vs. inclusive political, exclusive vs. inclusive cultural, and supreme European identity. Cultural component of European identity was more present in students. Students felt that their fellow Europeans are closer to them than non-Europeans because of shared heritage, common history, religion, traditions, values, and norms. Those who travel often, have visited many European countries, speak three or more foreign languages, have lived abroad for more than six months, have participated in exchange abroad, have friends from other cultures, who live in large town, have parents with higher income, single, have no children, have siblings, religious, Catholic, going to participate in national and European elections more often think about themselves as Europeans, feel European and close to Europeans, in the near future see themselves as Europeans, and think that European identity exists. Therefore EU should develop exchange programmes to specifically target from less privileged backgrounds due to obstacles such as financial insecurities and language competencies.The in-depth interviews with 17 current mobile, former mobile, non-mobile, and future mobile showed that Erasmus students feel already European before exchange, and the Erasmus programme rather promotes cosmopolitan (global) identity than European identity. Also among non-mobile students there are so called 'passionate Europeans' - they have 'experienced' Europe through sport, music and art events, formal and informal education trips, NGO activities, parents and friends connections abroad, frequent leisure travel.

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