In 2007 the topic of the ESN Survey is Generation Mobility. This name was used in 2006, during the Annual General Meeting of ESN, to describe the young dynamic and mobile ESN members as well as exchange students. They are: “Without roots, without barriers, without prejudices, mobile, multilingual, open and dynamic”.

Our aim was to understand if the experience of studying abroad has a deep impact on the way students think about many important topics like involvement in civic society and politics, religious belief, Europe and European Integration and the use of new technologies. We wanted to see if exchange students differ from those who did not benefit from a longer study period abroad. Therefore, our analysis included not only exchange students in Europe, those who studied abroad through the Erasmus Programme and those who went abroad through other schemes, but also students who have never been abroad.

In the first part of this report we describe the characteristics of the respondents. In the second part we concentrate on the analysis of “Generation Mobility”, their values and lifestyles. Finally, the last chapter describes students’ satisfaction with their stay in a foreign country and their satisfaction with the support provided by ESN and other student organisations. 

Key findings

Students’ characteristics

Most of 2007 respondents have enjoyed the experience of studying abroad (89%), but 11% have never studied abroad. Among the respondents who studied abroad, 90% did it through the Erasmus Programme. The respondents were more often female (64%) and on average 23 years old. They went abroad in the majority of cases (77%) for the first time the most frequent area of study was business and management studies (23%). The students usually stayed abroad for two semesters, on average from 7 to 9 months (56%). In terms of socio-economic background, 38% of all our respondents declared that none of their parents had a higher education degree. Generally the family financial situation was in line with the country’s average (58%). Most respondents came from a town or small city (38%).

Worldviews

Results show cohesive preferences among students as far as values are concerned. Friends and family were important for almost all students with leisure time and work featuring as important for the majority whilst politics and religion were important only for some students. 48% of students regard themselves as not being religious, with 34% saying they were and 18% stating that they were atheists. Most of the students said that protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs. One third of respondents declared a willingness to fight for their country. Students defined their identity more often in the international context. More students declared their European identity rather than a national one. However, they were interested in politics on a national rather than a European level. Despite the fact that students showed diversity in terms of their political views, they more often declared themselves as being on the left (44%) than the right (23%). The home country differentiated students as far as values and religiousness are concerned. The results showed the distinctive nature of students from the New Member States (e.g. Romania, Poland, and Lithuania) and Turkey. Students from those countries placed more value on religion and work. At the same time they said that politics was less important for them.

Lifestyle

Students were very mobile: 23% of them have studied abroad more than once and they have visited on average 5 countries in the last 2 years. 35% would prefer to work in a foreign country. Most of our respondents spoke 3 or 4 languages (including their mother tongue). The symbols of the Generation Mobility were the plane, as the favoured mean of transportation, the international sim card and Skype, as tools for international communication. As a result of an exchange, mobile students had many foreign numbers in their mobile phone address book and called abroad more often than non-mobile students. They also possessed a credit card and a laptop more often than non-mobile students. Interestingly, mobile and non-mobile students did not differ much as far as the possession of a mobile phone, their potential social network measured by the number of contacts in their mobile phones, or by usage of internet were concerned. Moreover, non-mobile students were often active members of online communities. Unfortunately, mobile students, as well as those who have never studied before, were not very active in organizations of a different kind, and the least in political parties.

Satisfaction with stay

With overall satisfaction with their studies and with their stay at 80% and 93% respectively, most of the students gave a positive answer. Students had the highest score of satisfaction with the atmosphere of the city and country where the university is located (mean: 4.41) and the lowest with their finances (mean: 3.23). Students got most information before leaving about living conditions in a foreign country and less about studies and universities. Students who had enough information had a higher level of satisfaction with their stay and their study. In terms of recognition of courses taken abroad, 56% had all courses recognised, 6% of the students had no courses recognised.

Satisfaction with ESN

62% of the students had heard of ESN before, and 57% had an ESN section at their host university. Students were most satisfied with ESN for getting in contact with other exchange students and organising parties and meetings. 70% of the students were satisfied with student organisations at their host university.

Authors

Authors:  Veerle Boomans, Seweryn Krupnik, Ewa Krzaklewska and Sara Lanzilotta

Note: ESNSurvey 2012 was renamed to 2013 according to the year of publication of the booklets and not to the publication of the questionnaire.

The Project

The ESNSurvey is the biggest regular European research project planned and carried out entirely by students for students. It is conducted annually and surveys students at higher education institutions. ESN shares the results with the main stakeholders in higher education and mobility programmes.

ESNSurvey aims at:

  • Exploring current issues connected to academic and non-academic mobility and education.
  • Gettting a better insight into student issues in order to represent their real needs.