Professional and personal paths for Europe’s qualified youth A survey of French, Italian and English ex-Erasmus students’ trajectories
Behind the image of a globalised, mobile elite there is a wide range of social realities. In Europe today, there are many types of international migrants. This paper focuses on the field of qualified, professional migration, a type that falls between the two extremities on the social spectrum: the elite corporation, top executives in the world of globalisation, and poor migrants or asylum-seekers, with little capital. Our starting point is the theory that today in Europe, certain young people from the "middle class” of the south of the continent and/or massified higher education establishments use geographical mobility as a means to social mobility (move out in order to move up). We also hypothesise that this often has consequences on both their lives and their original geographical region. We have chosen to show the "human side” (Smith; Favell, 2006) of globalisation, instead of the more common viewpoint of theory and rhetoric, by asking former Erasmus students about their careers and experiences, both professional and non-professional. We analyse to what extent their careers correspond to new injunctions and how these non-linear, reversible paths have an impact on the entry into adult life for young people from average social and professional categories. On the basis of an in-depth content analysis of around fifty semi-directive interviews with young Italian, French and English people, we show how student mobility corresponds to expectations of the economic and social world, which go beyond the expectations of the participants themselves. The question of a possible reinforcement of existing social and economic inequalities within the European Union is thus raised through the relative "freedom” of the students when confronted with exchanges.
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