Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Transnational Social Capital in Migration: The example of Educational Migration between Bulgaria and Germany

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Abstract:  Focusing on student migration from Bulgaria to Germany, this article examines what types of social capital are accumulated, transformed and implemented through migration, who profits from the investment, and how. The empirical work consists of 60 narrative biographical interviews with migrants and returnees to Bulgaria. The research reveals that the accumulation and investment of social capital takes place throughout the migratory trajectory—starting well before leaving—and is embedded in a transnational social space. Transnational networks exist as family, peer and professional networks, and all of them have a specific meaning for the migrants. Family networks are naturally present; they provide bonding social capital and thus have a stabilizing function for the individual’s identity. Professional networks have a strongly bridging function, helping the young migrants to manage status transitions. After return the transnational social capital acquired during the migratory stay helps returnees to re-integrate and find their way into the Bulgarian labour market. It also encourages them to pursue activities which are meaningful for civil society development, or for innovative (social) entrepreneurship. Thus, transnational social capital helps migrants to align their biographical development to the future, considering the post-transformative environment of Bulgaria, thereby helping to manage transformative changes and supporting societal modernization processes.

Keywords:  Bulgaria; Germany; social capital; student migration; return migration; transnational approach



© Birgit Glorius. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.