Between a ‘student abroad’ and ‘being from Latvia’: inequalities of access, prestige, and foreign-earned cultural capital

2018-10-30T14:18:26Z (GMT) by Aija Lulle Laura Buzinska
This paper visualises tertiary-level students who study abroad as simultaneously both international students and members of an emerging diaspora. Coming from a country (Latvia) which is peripheral and relatively poor by European standards, students go abroad for multiple reasons not necessarily directly connected with study (e.g. family reasons, labour migration); yet their evolving diasporic status is instrumentalised by the Latvian government which wants them to return and contribute to the country’s development. Based on 27 in-depth interviews with Latvian students and graduates who have studied abroad, our analysis focuses on three interlinked dimensions of inequality: access to education at home and abroad; the varying prestige of higher education qualifications from different countries and universities; and the inequalities involved in getting recognition of the symbolic and cultural capital that derives from a non-Latvian university. Within a setting of neoliberal globalisation and conflicting messages from the homeland, students and graduates are faced with a challenging dilemma: how to balance their materialistic desire for a decent job and career with their patriotic duty to return to Latvia.