Alyona Ovchinnikova and Christof Van Mol: Language proximity and student mobility

Language Proximity and Student Mobility Podcast

The factors influencing international students’ choice of their destination country are various and complex. Affordability, quality of education, future opportunities, and quality of life go hand in hand with personal preferences such as interest in a specific culture, or existing personal ties.

So, what role does language play in the many pieces of this mosaic? This was the question guiding the research conducted by our guests in the latest episode of the EAIE Podcast.

Working from the premise that languages are more or less similar to each other, could “language proximity” influence student choices around international mobility experiences? And, if so, how influential is this consideration compared to other factors?

Join us as the EAIE Podcast explores the ins and outs of language proximity and student mobility with researchers Alyona Ovchinnikova and Christoph Van Mol.

About Alyona Ovchinnikova

Alyona Ovchinnikova is a PhD student at the Center for Higher Education Internationalisation (CHEI) at the Catholic University in Milan. Her doctoral research, under the supervision of Elspeth Jones and Christof Van Mol, seeks to understand the role of languages in the decision-making process and destination choices of international students. Alyona has been serving as Director of the International Affairs Office at the New Economic School (NES) in Moscow since 2015. She is also a member of the NES Department of Foreign Languages and Humanities and an international project coordinator at the Center for the Study of Diversity and Social Interactions.

About Christoph Van Mol

Christof van Mol is Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology at Tilburg University, the Netherlands and leads the ENIS network (, funded by the COST Association), which brings together scholars and practitioners working on international student mobility. He extensively published on different aspects of international student mobility in leading journals in different disciplines, such as Geoforum, Higher Education, the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, the Journal of Studies in International Education, Population, Space and Place and Studies in Higher Education. His work received several academic awards, including the 2016 Best Book Prize in Sociology of Migration of the International Sociological Association, the 2020 ASHE CIHE Award for Significant Research on International Higher Education, and the 2021 SIG International Students Best Article Award of the Comparative and International Education Society.

Additional resources

For further insights into the topics touched on in this episode, the following resources may be of interest:

→ The role of language proximity in shaping international student mobility flows

→ Bessie Dendrinos: Multilingualism matters

→ Balancing local mother tongues with international languages

Listen to the EAIE podcast

The EAIE podcast brings you voices, perspectives, ideas and insights into the world of international education. Host Laura Rumbley chats with special guests about the issues that matter most for your day-to-day work internationalising higher education.