Why is it so hard? And for whom? Obstacles to intra-European mobility


  • Emilia Kmiotek-Meier University of Luxembourg Maison des Sciences Humaines UR IPSE/Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning 11, Porte des Sciences L-4366 Esch-Belval Luxembourg
  • Jan Skrobanek University of Bergen & Western Norway University of Applied Science
  • Birte Nienaber University of Luxembourg
  • Volha Vysotskaya University of Luxembourg
  • Sahizer Samuk University of Luxembourg
  • Tuba Ardic Western Norway University of Applied Science
  • Irina Pavlova Western Norway University of Applied Science
  • Zsuzsanna Dabasi-Halázs University of Miskolc
  • Celia Diaz Colegio de Sociólogos y Politólogos de Madrid & Universidad Complutense de Madrid
  • Jutta Bissinger University of Luxembourg
  • Tabea Schlimbach German Youth Institute
  • Klaudia Horvath University of Miskolc




mobility, youth, obstacles , qualitative methods, quantitative methods, correspondence analysis, Europe


Even though intra-European youth mobility is valued as a boost for personal and professional development, few opt for it. While obstacles preventing young people to become mobile have been discussed broadly, less attention has been paid to the obstacles for the youth who are already on the move. We offer this rare perspective in regard to intra-European mobility. We focus on youth in four types: pupil mobility, vocational (education and training) mobility, higher education student (degree and credit) mobility and employment mobility, in six countries: Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania and Spain. Our analysis, based on qualitative (140 interviews) and quantitative (N=1.682) data, reveals that the perceived obstacles vary between the mobility types, with the greatest divergence between the educational and work-related mobilities. Obstacles such as lack of financial resources and guidance, the perceived incompatibility of institutional regulations within Europe, are shared by all mobile youth.


Metrics Loading ...


Abdullah, D., Abd Aziz, M. I. and Mohd Ibrahim, A. L. (2014). "A ''research'' into international student-related research: (Re)Visualising our stand?", Higher Education, 67 (3): 235–253. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-013-9647-3

Amelina, A., and Vasilache, A. (2014). "The shadows of enlargement: Theorising mobility and inequality in a changing Europe", Migration Letters, 11 (2): 109–124. https://doi.org/10.33182/ml.v11i2.233

Ardic, T., Pavlova, I. and Skrobanek, J. (2018). "Being international and not being international at the same time: the challenges of peer relations under mobility". In: H. Hogset, D. M. Berge, and K. Y. Dale (Eds.) Fjordantologien 2018 (pp. 206–222). Universitetsforlaget. https://doi.org/10.18261/9788215031224-2018-12

Backhaus, K. (2003). Multivariate Analysemethoden: eine anwendungsorientierte Einführung. Heidelberg: Springer.

Banov, H., Kammerer, A., and Salciute, I. (2017). Mapping Generation Z: Attitudes Toward International Education Programs. Retrieved from https://papers.iafor.org/submission36591/

Bilecen, B. and Van Mol, C. (2017). "Introduction: international academic mobility and inequalities", Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43 (8): 1241–1255. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2017.1300225

Brandenburg, U. (Ed.). (2014). The Erasmus Impact Study. Effects of mobility on the skills and employability of students and the internationalisation of higher education institutions. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Bühl, A. (2012). SPSS 20: Einführung in die moderne Datenanalyse. München: Pearson Higher Education.

Cairns, D. (2012). "'I wouldn't stay here': Economic Crisis and Youth Mobility in Ireland", International Migration, 52 (3): 236–249. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2435.2012.00776.x

Carlson, S. (2013). "Becoming a Mobile Student – a Processual Perspective on German Degree Student Mobility", Population, Space and Place, 19 (2): 168–180. https://doi.org/10.1002/psp.1749

Chankseliani, M. (2016). "Escaping Homelands with Limited Employment and Tertiary Education Opportunities: Outbound Student Mobility from Post-Soviet Countries", Population, Space and Place, 22 (3): 301–316. https://doi.org/10.1002/psp.1932

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: a practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage Publications.

Cohen, J. H. and Sirkeci, I. (2011). Cultures of Migration: The Global Nature of Contemporary Mobility. Austin: University of Texas Press. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781784714123

Cook, J., Dwyer, P. and Waite, L. (2011). "The Experiences of Accession 8 Migrants in England: Motivations, Work and Agency", International Migration, 49 (2): 54–79. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2435.2009.00595.x

Csedő, K. (2008). "Negotiating Skills in the Global City: Hungarian and Romanian Professionals and Graduates in London", Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 34 (5): 803–823. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691830802106093

Cundal, K., and Seaman, B. (2012). "Canada's temporary foreign worker programme: A discussion of human rights issues", Migration Letters, 9 (3): 201–214. https://doi.org/10.33182/ml.v9i3.92

Di Pietro, G. (2013). Do Study Abroad Programs Enhance the Employability of Graduates? (IZA Discussion Paper). Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor.

Dvir, Y. and Yemini, M. (2017). "Mobility as a Continuum: European Commission Mobility Policies for Schools and Higher Education", Journal of Education Policy, 32 (2): 198–210. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2016.1243259

Eichhorst, W., Hinte, H. and Rinne, U. (2013). Youth Unemployment in Europe: What to Do about It? (IZA Policy Paper). Retrieved from http://ftp.iza.org/pp65.pdf

Elliot, D. L., Reid, K., and Baumfield, V. (2016). "Beyond the Amusement, Puzzlement and Challenges: An Enquiry into International Students' Academic Acculturation", Studies in Higher Education, 41 (12): 2198–2217. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1029903

EU (2008). Conclusions of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council of 21 November 2008 on youth mobility, 2008/C 320/03.

Fries-Tersch, E., Tugran, T. and Bradley, H. (2017). 2016 annual report on intra-EU labour mobility. Brussels: Publications Office. Retrieved from: ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=738&langId =en&pubId=7981...yes

Gibbons, S. and Telhaj, S. (2011). "Pupil mobility and school disruption", Journal of Public Economics, 95 (9): 1156–1167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2011.03.004

Grabher, A., Wejwar, P., Unger, M., and Terzieva, B. (2014). Student mobility in the EHEA. Underrepresentation in student credit mobility and imbalances in degree mobility. Vienna: Institute for Advanced Studies.

Growiec, K. (2010). "Social Capital and Migration: The Case of Polish Youth". In: D. Cairns (Ed.), Youth on the move: European youth and geographical mobility (pp. 35–45). Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-531-92331-4_4

Gu, Q., Schweisfurth, M. and Day, C. (2010). "Learning and growing in a 'foreign' context: intercultural experiences of international students", Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 40 (1): 7–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057920903115983

Hauschildt, K., Gwosc, C., Netz, N. and Mishra, S. (2015). Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life in Europe. Eurostudent V 2012–2015. Bielefeld: Bertelsmann Verlag.

Hemming, K., Schlimbach, T., Tillmann, F., Nienaber, B., Roman, M. and Skrobanek, J. (2019). Structural framework conditions and individual motivations for youth-mobility: A macro-micro level approach for different European country-types. Migration Letters, 16(1), pp. 45-59. https://doi.org/10.33182/ml.v16i1.621

Karl, U. and Kmiotek-Meier, E. (2015). Legislative Background of the European Union – Framework for the MOVE-Project / The Discourse on Mobility within the European Union. Unpublished manuscript.

King, R., Findlay, A. and Ahrens, J. (2010). International Student Mobility Literature Review Report to HEFCE, London, UK: Higher Education Founding Council of England.

King, R., Lulle, A., Moroşanu, L. and Williams, A. (2016). International Youth Mobility and Life Transitions in Europe: Questions, Definitions, Typologies and Theoretical Approaches. Working Paper. Sussex Center for Migration Research.

Kmiotek-Meier, E. and Karl, U. (2017). Being forced? Getting far? Speaking the language? What matters in the process of going abroad as a student? Tér És Társadalom [Space and Society], 31 (4): 90-104. https://doi.org/10.17649/TET.31.4.2889

Kovacheva, S. (2014). Overview of the Implementation of the EU Youth Strategy in the Field of Employment, Slovak Journal of Political Sciences, 14 (1): 5–24. https://doi.org/10.2478/sjps-2014-0003

Lörz, M., Netz, N. and Quast, H. (2016). Why Do Students from Underprivileged Families Less Often Intend to Study Abroad? Higher Education, 72 (2): 153–174. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-015-9943-1

Molodikova, I. (2013). "Changes in tertiary education and student mobility in Hungary". In: I. Grabowska-Lusinska and A. Kuvik (Eds.), Mobility in Transition (pp. 191–214). Amsterdam University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9789048515493-010

Navarrete L., Lorenzo-Rodriguez, J., Diaz Chorne, L., Diaz Catalan, C., Suarez-Lledo, V., Fernandez Araiz, V., Cuenca Garcia, C., Pallares i Cardona, E., Zuniga, R., de Luxan, A., Skrobanek, J., Kmiotek-Meier, E., Hemming, K., Tillman, F., Manafi, I. and Marinescu, D. (2017). Deliverable D.4.7 - Public Work Package 4 Report.

Pemberton, S. and Scullion, L. (2013). "The Policies and Politics of Managed Migration: Exploring Mature Labour Migration from Central and Eastern Europe into the UK", Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 39 (3): 443–461. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2013.733863

Pimentel Bótas, P. C. and Huisman, J. (2013). "A Bourdieusian analysis of the participation of Polish students in the ERASMUS programme: cultural and social capital perspectives", Higher Education, 66 (6): 741–754. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-013-9635-7

Robertson, S., Harris, A. and Baldassar, L. (2017). "Mobile transitions: a conceptual framework for researching a generation on the move", Journal of Youth Studies, 21 (2): 203–217. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2017.1362101

Ruffino, R. and Hardt, E. (2001). Mobility of Secondary School Pupils and Recognition of Study Periods Spent Abroad: A Survey. EFIL. European Federation for Intercultural Learning.

Schartner, A. (2015). "'You Cannot Talk with All of the Strangers in a Pub': A Longitudinal Case Study of International Postgraduate Students' Social Ties at a British University", Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 69 (2): 225–241. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-014-9771-8

Souto-Otero, M., Huisman, J., Beerkens, M., De Wit, H. and Vujić, S. (2013). "Barriers to International Student Mobility", Educational Researcher, 42 (2): 70–77. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X12466696

Tanyas, B. (2012). "Making sense of migration: young Turks' experiences in the United Kingdom", Journal of Youth Studies, 15 (6), 693–710. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2012.671931

Teichler, U., and Steube, W. (1991). "The logics of study abroad programmes and their impacts", Higher Education, 21 (3): 325–349. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00132724

Van Mol, C. and Timmerman, C. (2014). "Should I Stay or Should I Go? An Analysis of the Determinants of Intra-European Student Mobility", Population, Space and Place, 20 (5): 465–479. https://doi.org/10.1002/psp.1833

Waters, J. and Brooks, R. (2011). "'Vive la différence?': The 'international' experiences of UK students overseas", Population, Space and Place, 17 (5): 567–578. https://doi.org/10.1002/psp.613

Weller, S. C. and Romney, A. K. (1990). Metric scaling: correspondence analysis. Newbury Park: Sage Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412985048

Wiers-Jenssen, J. and Try, S. (2005). "Labour Market Outcomes of Higher Education Undertaken Abroad", Studies in Higher Education, 30 (6): 681–705. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070500340028

Wilken, L. and Dahlberg, M. G. (2017). "Between international student mobility and work migration: experiences of students from EU's newer member states in Denmark", Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43 (8): 1347–1361. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2017.1300330

Wulz, J. and Rainer, F. (2015). "Challenges of Student Mobility in a Cosmopolitan Europe". In: A. Curaj, L. Matei, R. Pricopie, J. Salmi, P. Scott (Eds.), The European Higher Education Area (pp. 43–58). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20877-0_4

Zhou, Y., Jindal-Snape, D., Topping, K. and Todman, J. (2008). "Theoretical models of culture shock and adaptation in international students in higher education", Studies in Higher Education, 33 (1): 63–75. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070701794833.




How to Cite

Kmiotek-Meier, E., Skrobanek, J., Nienaber, B., Vysotskaya, V., Samuk, S., Ardic, T., Pavlova, I., Dabasi-Halázs, Z., Diaz, C., Bissinger, J., Schlimbach, T., & Horvath, K. (2018). Why is it so hard? And for whom? Obstacles to intra-European mobility. Migration Letters, 16(1), 31–44. https://doi.org/10.59670/ml.v16i1.627