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Life Trajectories of Participants of FLEX International Cultural Exchange Program after Secondary School

Student: Nikita Bazhenov

Supervisor: Anna Shirokanova

Faculty: Saint-Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Area Studies

Educational Programme: Sociology (Bachelor)

Year of Graduation: 2018

Participating in FLEX exchange program was a really big deal. They were granted a year to live in a new culture, meet new people and then come back. This paper’s intention is to examine the life trajectories of exchange program students after high school. As it was such a big deal, it should have left a mark in student’s life, making it a turning point in their life trajectory. To reach this aim mixed-method would be applied: questionnaires and interviews with former FLEX participants and data analysis of their profiles in VK social network. The sample of the study are students from Russian Federation who participated in FLEX exchange program from 2009 to 2014. The results are estimated to be as follows: students who have participated in this exchange program are more likely to have a sense of identity achievement (due to adulthood and high self-awareness) and therefore choose universities and majors relying more on their own thinking rather than their parents’ and peers’ opinion. Moreover, FLEX program participation will boost students’ level of English and cultural awareness, so they will be more likely to choose a university and major that puts a lot of value into a foreign language. However, it was found that most of the FLEX alumni treat English language as a basic knowledge, not thinking about it while choosing their university/major. On the other hand, cultural awareness makes a lot of alumni choose a major that is connected with diplomacy or politics. It should also be mentioned that FLEX exchange program doesn’t make a turning point in all of the students. For some of them it did no trigger identity achievement, making it just another fun experience. Keywords: exchange programs, FLEX program, exchange students, life trajectories, turning points

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