The effects of international learning mobility on Russian participants

Peter Holicza,
Ph.D., Lead Researcher,
Society, Informatics and Business Research Group,
Óbuda University,
Budapest, Hungary

An increased budget, more inclusive policies, and the reach of the Erasmus+ Programme beyond European Union Member States points to a growth in opportunities for international students through European grants. Following the Tempus Programme, the Erasmus+ Credit Mobility became available for non-EU universities’ academic staff and students, as did EEA Grants, Norway Grants and other state-supported scholarships such as the Stipendium Hungaricum and the DAAD in Germany.

Unlike in Member States, the availability of funded short-term (3 to 12 months non-degree) mobility programs is quite recent and still limited in the EU’s surrounding area which results in relatively low popularity and participation rate. Further program development and effective implementation requires the measurement of early-stage effects, including participants’ reactions to particular cultural and professional impulses and main differences in attitudes between participants and their peers who are graduating from the domestic education system without international experience. These indicators and impact studies are missing from the (scientific) literature not to mention the evidence-based promotion campaigns on local level to increase youth participation.

The purpose of this study is to summarize and introduce the effects of international student mobility based on quantitative primary research data collected from Russian university students. This population is important to research as they are the next generation of active citizens and potential leaders of their country. The survey responses were divided into a non-mobile (without international experience) and a mobile group in order to compare cultural and professional skills, attitudes towards diversity, future plans and opportunities on the domestic labour market.

One of the most important findings is that – contrary to popular opinion – short-term student mobility does not have a long-term pull-factor to live abroad and does not contribute to brain-drain. Non-mobile students are more interested in leaving their home county, while the majority of mobile students plan to return. The illusions of an easier and more favourable foreign life seemed to be exchanged for using the mobility experience and the extra knowledge to gain a competitive edge in the domestic labour market. Explanations for these findings can be attributed to foreign experiences the mobile group faced, which gave them a more realistic view of differences between the home and host country, insights into difficulties of being out of their comfort zones and the so-called “mama-hotel”, administrative difficulties of operating in a foreign country, etc. In contrast, their unexperienced peers do not have a basis for comparison, and are generally unaware of these issues and challenges. As a result, they are likely to imagine an easier life abroad, where everything seems to be more convenient, being informed almost exclusively through the representations they see from (social) media.

There are distinct differences between the groups in other areas as well. Mobile students tend to participate in the social and political life of their community, which shows that active citizenship is associated with participation in mobility as well as increased interest in European topics and global news. These are key conditions of critical thinking where mobility plays a significant role trough citizenship education allowing individuals to go beyond geographical boarders to address and solve international challenges such as conflicts, environmental pollution, terrorism etc.

Russian students became more confident in their abilities after mobility, and they experienced easier access to quality traineeships or full-time jobs than their non-mobile peers. They also report clearer ideas about professional career aspirations and goals and generally perceive better chances for quality employment in the near future – especially in international jobs in the domestic labour market.

Their tolerance towards others’ (core) values and behaviour increased only slightly, while their will to develop intercultural cooperation skills showed significant increases after mobility. Foreign studies helped participants in dealing with the challenges and demands of a modern, multicultural environment, making them more open to learn and improve intercultural skills without leaving their home country permanently. This implies that mobility enabled students to increase their capacity to adapt to new situations and interact with people from different countries and cultures. As a result, they feel less threatened and frustrated when dealing with people from other cultures, leading to less (perceived) conflicts.


Expert article 2851

> Back to Baltic Rim Economies 4/2020

To receive the Baltic Rim Economies review free of charge, you may register to the mailing list.
The review is published 4-6 times a year.