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European Identity and Erasmus Mobility. Insights from Romanian Students’ Experiences

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Author(s): Georgiana Udrea

Journal: Revista Română de Comunicare şi Relaţii Publice
ISSN 1454-8100

Volume: 14;
Issue: 5 Special Issue;
Start page: 21;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: European identity | Romanian identity | Erasmus mobility | intercultural contexts

ABSTRACT
The present paper approaches the relationship between European identity and other components of the identity of young educated EU citizens in intercultural contexts. Specifically, this study reveals how different layers of individual and collective identification co-exist and become prominent during short-time academicsojourns abroad. Emphasis is placed on the European sense of belonging and the contexts that favor its assuming.Literature dedicated to exploring European student mobility as a potential source in fostering a European identity has started to grow lately. However, very few studies have tried to test empirically the assumption that students' academic stages abroad increase their attachment to Europe. Likewise, empirical findings seldom discuss experiences of international students from the new Member States, such as Romania. In this context, the present paper focuses on Romanian students who have been enrolled in the Erasmus exchange program and have performed, during the last 3 or 4 years, an academic mobility of several months in Belgium, Germany and Italy. By means of 17 in-depth interviews, conducted between January and March2011, this study explored the relationship between the various layers of students' identity (such as local, national, European etc), highlighting and discussing the situations when each of them became accentuated abroad. Two research questions guided the analysis: Towhat extent do Romanian students activate a European identity in intercultural environments? What are the contexts that promote the assuming of a European identity and the identification with the European Community for the Romanian Erasmus students? Drawing on recent studies that affirm the emergence of a European sense of self in younger generations especially (Bruter, 2005; Fligstein, 2009; Risse, 2010), this research starts from the premise that people and,particularly, young educated mobile people possess multiple identities, among which a European one, if they are citizens of the EU. Although weak, the European identity is considered to be something more than a "theoretical construction", therefore it may become prominent in certain circumstances. Findings showed that, while abroad, students actualized different layers of identity in different situations, depending on the roles they assumed and the individuals they interacted with. Although national and groupidentity were the most powerful ones, in certain contexts, Romanian students perceived themselves as Europeans, if only as a second or third nature.
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