E. Toprak, B.K. Özdemir, E. Gümüş

Anadolu University (TURKEY)
Anadolu University, located in the center of Turkey has the vision of becoming a world university with a specific focus on lifelong learning. The university’s internationalization strategy is built upon four pillars: Mobility programs for students and staff, joint degree (dual diploma) programs, international collaborative courses and distance education programs in different geographies from the UK to Azerbaijan. Anadolu University was awarded the Erasmus University Charter in 2004, since then has always been among top Turkish universities as regards the total number of student and staff exchanges. The university is also among the first Turkish universities to apply the ECTS and diploma supplement. Looking at the Turkey-European Union (EU) relations in general, higher education has become a promising model for adopting the EU acquis and well integrating the international norms with the local regulations; in a way stabilizing and institutionalizing cultural integration. Despite the sociocultural differences and the fact that Turkey is not a full member, it is still possible to harmonize educational policies and norms. This is also important for the quality assurance and accreditation of programs in a globally competitive environment.

One of the most successful achievements of the EU has been the Bologna Process in creating a regime, a system of cooperation for higher education. The Erasmus exchange program has been vital for both strengthening collaboration and making its outcomes crystal clear in harmonizing the different practices through common values. Since meeting local needs and the global trends at the same time has been a challenge for all higher education institutions, there is a growing need for international cooperation. Youth on the Move as a package of policy initiatives on education and employment of young people in Europe, aims to improve their education and employability, through EU grants to study or train in another country. As part of the Europe 2020 Strategy it is one of the priorities for a smart growth of the Union. Keeping this continuing emphasis on cross-cultural collaboration in mind; it is worth remembering that the spirit of the exchange program has always been cross-cultural dialogue for eliminating prejudices and building bridges. Seeing that there are Erasmus students who believe there are minor cultural differences that can also be experienced in their own countries, increases the expectations from both physical and virtual mobility. This study aims to present the results of a qualitative research about European identity based on the interviews made with the visiting Erasmus students at Anadolu University. The interviews were about their experiences in Eskisehir and perceptions about European identity, whether studying in Eskisehir changed their ideas about Turkey’s integration with Europe or not. The knowledge based network society today, paves the way for growing understanding on our differences and urge us to collaborate to manage cultural and linguistic diversity. It is important to hear the suggestions by all stakeholders in this collaboration, among whom our students are number one.