International Summer University Students Between Dwelling and Traveling - a Longitudinal Study on Processes of Learning and Transformation in Consideration of Different Dimensions of Mobility

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 10:12
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Silke LAUX, University of Hannover, Germany
Mobility as a social phenomenon particularly requires a multi-level approach which considers temporal as well as spatial dimensions. This is due to the fact that mobility is intrinsically linked to the change of places and to reflections on the 'self' in the light of the 'other'. My qualitative empirical study, which focuses on how international summer university students ascribe meaning to their short term stay abroad, aims at an encompassing contextualization: first, by being based on three levels of data collection (data acquired before, during and after the students’ trip abroad). Second, by incorporating into the analysis not only the destination visited, but also the usual places of residences. Third, by including into the sample students with or without migration background, with or without extensive experiences abroad. Since the beginning of my research, both dimensions have become evident as especially relevant for the experiences of students abroad. The analysis of narrative interviews – which were combined with participant observation and social media data – was based on the Documentary Method and indicates:
  1. Periods abroad either function as exchangeable stations or important liminal phases and rites de passage for processes of individuation, learning and transformation. They are perceived as ‘natural’ parts of biographical control and prerequisites for the acquisition of ‘universal’ competences.
  2. The dimensions ‘migration background’ and ‘previous experiences abroad’ go along with differences in the students' horizons of meaning. Those are either constituted by a reinforced search for the 'self' or the 'other', by an absent or existent sense for privileges or by multiple vs. one-dimensional schemes of comparison.
  3. The intercultural framing of the research – the sample includes students from different countries as well as different institutional learning environments (summer university programs) – promotes group-specific narratives based on conjunctive student experiences abroad and orientations of self-discovery, adventure, and authenticity.