The Greek crisis through expat eyes

Yiorgos GR /

Greece has become a focal point in global news over the last months; a debt crisis has brought a nation to its knees while in external disrepute with the EU elite. The initial bailout proposal was rejected resoundingly by a 61% majority, a keen show of solidarity and a bookmaker’s upset, only for the second to be accepted all to suddenly.

Had fear and panic set in for Tsipras and his Syriza party? Or did pragmatism override ideological concerns? Perhaps the resigning of finance minister Yannis Varoufakis was to foreshadow such inevitability – that the far-left Greek government was to eventually submit to the will of the Merkel circle.

The shock and hope of the ‘no vote’ was committed to vlog by Channel 4’s Paul Mason ( whose youtube soliloquy was the best performance on a rooftop since The Beatles brought Oxford Circus to a standstill. It seemed that Greece was to ask more of the EU, to push the boundaries of membership.

The Expat Experience

Beyond journalism, looking at the expat reaction we can gain a key insight in what the Greek bailout crisis feels like.

Greek expats (both Greek nationals living abroad and foreign-born natives of Greece) are positioned to have some of the most sensitive and nuanced reactions to the decline of Greece. These are not analysts relating to facts and figures but people working in relation to real people seeing internal conflicts intensified by the hasty stereotypes of the mass media.

The Gulf News reported of the pride of the Greek diaspora in regards to the initial no vote, expats stirred by the esprit de corps, the dogged David performance whilst the EU turned in a stern Goliath – pushing the Greeks for all their worth. The referendum seemed to represent such a pivotal moment for the future of Greece that many were Greek nationals returned to vote, both yes and no.

One of Ancient Greece’s most enduring inventions is democracy and the showing in the referendum was an update on that. An anecdote (another word of Greek origin) was provided by Karl Mathiesen in The Guardian reporting of pioneering young Greeks were crowdsourcing their fare tickets to return to vote – possibly the most democratic process to perform the essential democratic act of voting.

However, the majority of the one million greeks living abroad were unable to vote and this has been met with dismay by some expats, epitomised by this excerpt,

It’s not a question of being a taxpayer or a Greek national; what if you are are a taxpayer but don’t actually reside in Greece? Diaspora should be given that right and decide whether to exercise it or not.

This is a tad idealistic in lieu of the circumstances that calls for rationality. I’d like to know who would pick up the administrative cost of the expat vote at this current strenuous time, I don’t think it would be fair to take €5 off the €60 daily limit imposed on Greek cash machines to cover postal fees.

The motive for returning to vote was an interesting mix of familial loyalties and political persuasions. The Guardian report of returnees looking to sustain trade flows with Europe as the Grexit would affect flows of all sorts of essential goods from foods to medications. Others seeing no drama in a return to the drachma, only the romantic freedom of being free of EU shackles.

I think we can assert affirmably that most voters who returned were well-off, either having interests in Europe to protect or the freedom to prioritise the cost of a last-minute flight for political reasons.

There were around one million greek expat votes that could have been cast and one wonders what impact it could have had? Logically, the votes would not have changed the outcome, but could another million campaigners and activists have swayed vast swathes? Who knows…

The most novel and paradoxical expat experience is had by Greeks based in Germany and by Germans in Greece, a situation explored in the WSJ for the 45,000 Germans in Greece and 330,000 Greeks in Germany,

The relationship between Athens and Berlin, both in politics and the media, has hit new lows in recent months.

The truth is that the crisis has created a sense of fear and anxiety in the expat community who feel helpless and not fully aware of the situation in Greece. There is a measurable impotence that pervades in the available online content, a discernible worry found in Martina Stevis’ article:

When you’re living abroad and your country’s in the news to this extent, two things happen: one, it becomes a constant item of conversation; and two, you become a de facto ambassador, a defender, an expert, an apologist.

I can also add, from reading that quotation, that it doesn’t prohibit your ability to employ grammatical parentheses.

I feel there is a worry about authenticity also, of feeling the pain of those in Greece, bearing the brunt of the crisis. I term this Apocalypse Now syndrome, because ‘you-wasn’t-there-man!’ A lot of expats are fearing the unknown because they can’t experience the crisis for themselves, which is as much a source of relief as it is grief.

Now Tsipras has accepted a bailout deal and Greece looks on disillusionment hopefully can dissipate, salved by EU support and the hope that the Greek economy can turn around sooner rather than any later.

The Politics of Studying Abroad

The last article in this series was dedicated to the student experience when experienced abroad. Their time is shown to be as enlightening as it is daunting, it ain’t easy.

Tina Quick, a specialist in third culture therapy has been quoted saying: ‘the same sad, familiar story over and over again: I don’t fit in here, I don’t belong, I can’t connect with anyone.’

I don’t think our findings exactly matched that of Quick’s, anecdotes have shown students are as likely to immerse and get involved as they are to disconnect. Maybe these aren’t mutually exclusive events – you can be an outsider in the thick of it, both engaged and confused simultaneously.

Without diving too deep into these psychological waters I wanted to move on through this article and look at the politics of studying abroad, politics that have become significant – an ICEF Monitor piece recorded that ‘the movement of students between countries is now a mass movement.’

The experience of international students is fascinating in their own words describing emotional and cultural engagement but what governments’ make of them is telling from a political and economic perspective. Governments worldwide have assumed different positions and policies regarding the flow of international students from America’s laissez-faire, if-you’ve-got-the-money haul to Britain’s austerity, paranoid of growing immigrant populations. Social and economic utilisation of international students varies in the East and West and also amongst western society, China is a mass exporter whilst America and Canada usher in each Autumn.


Universities Affairs estimated that 240,000 international students were based in Canada in 2011 and, in recent times, some nations have acknowledged the benefit of an accepting policy, ‘international students have become an increasingly integral part of Canada’s immigration policy’. Perhaps a rather Machiavellian tactic, Canada see international students as a ‘try before you buy’ immigration scenario and Dr. Bauder (Ryerson University Centre for Immigration and Settlement) concurs, ‘they [foreign students] are ready to cater the labour market and start paying taxes.’ It does make sense, universities can provide a launchpad for social assimilation and cultural interaction, international students can learn a new world before working in it and paying for it.

As Canadians welcome in, Turkey encourages externalisation of study, The Daily Sabah reporting an €800m fund pledge to Erasmus programme and a push for 500,000 more Turkish students studying abroad in the next five years.

The Daily Beacon speaks of emigrated Chinese students. The student newspaper of the University of Tennessee reports that these students are consciously aware of the western business nouse they can take home. Nations that promote the emigration of students subscribe to the idea a western education is a better one, the reputation of Harvard has shaped the education of the Chinese middle class and it can be assumed Turkey’s commitment to Erasmus+ is an overt commitment to Europe too.


The UK, however, has taken a reproachable stance towards the growth of international students. Theresa May, the longest-serving Home Secretary in fifty years, and one more known for cracking down (as opposed to Roy Jenkins’ opening up) has warned of an impending tightening measures surrounding international students.

There are 450,000 students in the UK and May would not advocate a prolonging of their stay, counter to Canada who seems to have adroitly found use for them. May isn’t thought to be publically supported. The Independent reports of a Universities UK survey that 75% of the British public believe that international students should be allowed to stay beyond graduation.  Seems logical to plug the talent drain the UK could become, if you ask me.

A solution purported by International Students representative Jose Joaquin Diaz De Aguilar Puiggari, let’s call him ‘Joe’, is to exclude students from migration figures, excluding them from immigration discourse and assimilating them further with the student too.

In spite of this, The Guardian reports that international students are choosing London, between 2011 and 2012 103,000 international students took residence in London, accounting for 26% of London’s student population. Will May continue to persecute in light of this?

China’s love affair with the Ivy League

From 2012 to 2013, 800,000 Chinese students went abroad – a record number.

The pressure to gain a quality, international standard education in China has compounded an infrastructure that has children training for university from primary school age. The lengths students go to secure an Ivy League degree is staggering, in 2014 the university preparation industry was valued at $550m and books, such as Harvard Girl, offering a guide for prospective students and parents have become bestsellers.

Open Door in 2014 reported of 274,000 Chinese students in the UK and Chinese overseas accounted for 31% international students in the USA. Australia are also cashing in on the Chinese coffer, eight in ten international students being Chinese. Chinese families and students plan from the beginning of high school with pupils taking four hours every other day and a whole Saturday to gain the perceived edge on other students worldwide. Western Education is adjudged to be more appealing – insights into western way of living and the utility of insights into western business models and working customs.

This means that China provides the most foreign students to the Western world. The well documented rise of the Chinese middle class have outgrown the Chinese education system and are willing to pay $30,000 per year for university in America. The Hurun Report’s findings state that four out of five of China’s wealthiest want to send their children abroad to study.

Studying abroad is not just a way of gaining a premium education – also, a way for Chinese and American students to understand globalised business, international practices and development. Due to this international study can be a boon for the individual’s job prospects.

Whilst Americans may be questioning the value of a degree, more and more Chinese students and families are putting an ever-increasing faith in the credentials of a US-stamp of higher education approval. This may be because they have an active economy to apply it to, China, to my knowledge, isn’t struck with the same liberal postmodern malaise that haunts arts and humanities faculties throughout the US and UK. Chinese students have a means for direct application of degrees in growing industries.

This influx doesn’t go unfelt – external students are creating internal competition for places. When students prepare this much it must raise the standard elsewhere and, perhaps a more cynical view of mine, students willing to pay greater fees will always be held in higher esteem by higher education institutions.

The politics of studying abroad

The experiences of studying abroad are just as varied as the policies that encourage or discourage it. Each nation, or rather government, using policy to to fit its own desires – Canada looking to gain high-skilled immigrants while the UK looks to curb immigration, counting international students as part of that figure.
Interesting to infer is the political motives for encouraging youthful populations to venture out and study abroad – to gain a working understanding of western business models or to develop international relations, as in the case of Turkey integrating with the rest of Europe. Providing higher education and the students capable of it is a marker of developed society, perhaps it is this that encourages the movement of students east to west.

William Purbrick

Expatria Monthly: 16 May – 14 June 2015

Luke 15:21-24 – The Parable of the Lost Son

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.

For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

I know I haven’t been around for a while but I assure you on my prodigal travels I have squandered great wealth in exchange for a great wealth of expatriate knowledge.

I am now returned, like the prodigal son, here to dispense it in digestable monthly chunks.

Downsizing of Jet Airways cost more expat pilots work

The Hindu and the Times of India report of Jet Airways ‘cost-cuttng measures’ that has led to the premature contract termination of 50 expat pilots.

The trend for rationalisation proves global as even high-growth India feels the need to severe ties with high earning expat professionals.

Jet are reportedly looking to move away from costly long haul flights to the budget and redeye flights that have sustained European and American airlines.

The Hindu:

The Times of India:

Greenback Expat Tax Services decrees ‘new survey finds US expat voting, could impact 2016 Presidential Election’

New findings state that almost two-thirds of American expats vote in presidential elections stirred to action as the majority believe they are not well-represented in U.S. government.

Of the 7.6m Americans abroad FATCA and tax concerns provide the chorus to the expat rallying cry. Many feel that apathetic towards native politics, neutralised by their foreign setting, sometimes deliberately, sometimes not.

This is often an ‘all-smoke-and-no-fire’ situation. UK expats barely vote although commentators tried predicting them being the inertia for the election’s swing – it didn’t. However, US expats have to pay homeward bound tax and I imagine this fills a great deal of ballot papers.

Local vs. International schools in China

The ever-informed writers and bloggers of the Wall Street Journal’s Expat corner have illuminated the state of education for expats in Shanghai.

Rashmi Dalai talks of the now permeable barriers between Eastern and Western students in local and international schools.

Dalai makes conversation with Brian Horvath, of the Hongqiao International School, who sings the positivity of this new trend, the blurring of eastern and western education philosophies:

‘The Chinese governement is allowing the expats to help build and nurture the education system.’

‘Speaking in generalities, what you’re seeing is in places like art, Asian kids tend to focus on the technical skills while Western kids tend to focus on self-expression. Now they’re working together…Everybody is learning from each other.’

WSJ Expat:

Australian Tech industry no longer on walkabout

Australian Press have highlighted that the Tech platform of Australia and its global interconnectivity means less Australians are needing to expatriate to prosper in the American start-up market.

Brett Adam of Zendesk was spoke of the growing competivity of the Australian market which was once likened to ‘tumbleweeds blowing through an empty ghost town.’

And now the Australian Financial Review is suggesting that the offer of Premium Visas, that have already lured Chinese expats, will entice high-earning Americans to the lifestyle superpower’s shores.


The Age:

Expatria News: UK Election fallout 8-15 May


 new government and a new set of conditions for UK expats

An end to the fifteen year rule, perhaps?

In the UK, the fifteen year rule stipulates that expats who have lived outside of the UK for fifteen or more years lose their right to vote in the general election.

Tory rule may put an end to this, according to their manifesto:

‘“We will complete the electoral register, by working to include more of the five million Britons who live abroad. We will introduce votes for life, scrapping the rule that bars British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting.”’

Liberal Democrats also aimed at its removal. Clive Goodall, chairman of the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrat, was quoted in condemnation:

“The current 15-year rule for overseas voters is an anachronism – citizens abroad can stay in touch and engage in British politics today as easily as those at home. We should bring our system in line with the rest of Europe, where 24 out of 28 countries allow their citizens abroad to keep their vote.”

Still, good news for expats.

However, a more efficient system and more encouragement to get them voting would be a better start – only 113,742 expats registered to vote out of an eligible five million and even so electoral ballot papers still failed to find far-flung brits in the run up to the election, as reported in The Telegraph.

Such a fact shames a two year-old ‘exclusive’ of the Independent that claimed millions would be wooed to vote on May 7.

Disenfranchised, disenchanted or disinterested, one thing is now clear – this prophecy did not come true.

This Tory government will decide a lot for the future of Europe-based expats too; a potential referendum would alter the living circumstances for the continentally-couched. Some of the potential outcomes are exhausted in the blogspot link below.


For more information and worthy campaigning on this topic check out Votes for Expat Brits blog (

Expatria News: Understanding Culture Shock 1-7 May

Culture shock, Reverse Culture Shock and just plain ol’ shock…

Expatriate media is, by-and-large, a friendly and helpful place – guides and tips proliferate.

One ever-present topic is that of ‘culture shock’ – the challenges of assimilation, living between societies or on the edge of societies.

Joseph Shaules in The Telegraph, is the latest to offer his hand in support and his dissection of ‘culture surprise, culture stress and culture shock’ makes the issue far easier to comprehend.

The Telegraph –

Reverse Culture Shock

In the Wall Street Journal, Debra Bruno highlights that repatriation can be more of an issue than expatriation. The support that the likes of Shaules provides can be lacking for expats returning to their ‘native’ culture that now feels foreign and distant.

Tina Quick identifies ‘the same sad, familiar story over and over again ‘I don’t fit in here, I don’t belong, I can’t connect with anyone.’

Amongst expat writers, ‘belonging everywhere and nowhere’ is a bittersweet malaise that informs their writing. Bruno reminds of Naomi Hattaway’s article ‘I am a Triangle’, a piece that highlights the tribulations of existing in a third culture, one not quite the first or the second.

Debra Bruno in WSJ –

Naomi Hattaway –

Expatria News: 23-30 April

Photographer captures the British immigrant

Rosie Milne of The Telegraph talked to photographer Charlie Clift.

His series entitled ‘Brits Abroad’ shows the human side of international movement – ‘forget the statistics on immigration, and remember that each immigrant, or expat, is unique.’ On his photography tour of Spain, Clift commented on ‘how important retaining national identity was for the majority of expats.’

Clift’s work will be coming to London’s Twelve Star Gallery in Europe House soon.

Charlie Clift –

Telegraph –

A different lens captures a different side of immigration

Juan Medina captures the horrors of the Mediterranean as immigrants embark on the most dangerous of crossings in an attempt to reach the European continent.

Images are disturbing, however, they tell a necessary truth as Europe is plunged into crisis regarding the matter.


Singapore-based expats go native with education

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, more expat students are enrolling in local schools rather than the traditional international school system.

‘Avoiding the expat ‘bubble’’ is a key motive for families looking for their children to embrace local culture. Beyond this cost plays a massive factor with international schools costing far more than the state provided.

Wall Street Journal –

International Students in their own words

This wouldn’t be online content if it did not start with reference to a ‘Top Ten’ list.
The New School Free Press constructed ten steps to studying abroad – all valid tips based on one a shred of common sense, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail.’
A simple rule but necessarily reinforced. Isolation is common among international students, brought about by a lack of communication or even the means to communicate, preventing international students from feeling at ‘home’ abroad.
But therein lies the catch. you aren’t at home. You’ve entered abstraction, purposefully, estranging yourself, by choice, or perhaps not your choice.


Is studying abroad an experience, a means in itself, or for the purpose of future employment, a means to an end?

West and East answers can vary. Chinese and Indian students commonly use international study as a way to receive a premium education as well as versing themselves in globalised culture. Whereas, we associate European and American students with the ‘gap year’ phenomenon; ‘voluntourists’ looking for cultural diversification and enrichment.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, so I’ve heard, I mean I’ve never tried or even youtubed it but my point is international students like all expatriates embark on their own journey. So, I thought instead of compiling a generic and didactic ten-stepper, I’d ask three international students from the UK to explain themselves!


James Fernandez in Japan. Manchester University undergraduate James talks of the great opportunities studying abroad can offer – learning a new language and embracing a new culture.
‘For one year, I was studying at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, which is a language university just west of Tokyo. I liked that my university was Foreign Studies focused, which meant that the Japanese students there were all studying a foreign language so they were always interested in meeting new foreigners like myself.

If I’m to be honest, before I left for Japan, my Japanese language skills were still not that great, probably only enough for daily conversation. But whilst I was actually living in Japan, I was in such a stimulating and rewarding environment to learn and speak the language that my language skills improved a lot. I was so motivated studying Japanese in Japan as opposed to a classroom in Manchester as the more I could speak the language, the more enjoyable it was to meet people and get around the city. Not only did I work hard in improving my Japanese, but I also took advantage of every opportunity that I could. Aside from studying, I was also able to work in a small cafe by Shibuya Crossing. For those of you who have not been to Japan, Shibuya Crossing is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. It is an amazing sight, seeing thousands of people swarming across the road with the neon lights and screens towering over. At this cafe, I worked as a waiter and spoke only Japanese. Because none of the staff or customers spoke any english, at first when I started it was really difficult to make myself understood. Having not worked in a restaurant or the catering industry before, everything was new to me. I had to learn all basic catering skills; taking orders, carrying plates, how to make cocktails, coffees and desserts…but, all in Japanese.

Now, if you’re familiar with the Japanese language, I also had to accustom myself to a more formal and new way of speaking which is only used towards people you respect, such as customers. Once I got to grips with this, my language started improving and the job was so fun. Because I was a foreigner working there, a lot of customers and even my colleagues were really interested in England and would often take me out drinking, which usually ended up being 6-hour, all-you-can-drink, karaoke sessions.’


Tabitha Taylor in Budapest. Tab studies at the Central European University and I asked her, ‘What is it like being an international student?’
In short, it’s weird. That’s a word I use for pretty much everything though, a thing I noticed when I began to be surrounded by non-native English speakers and Americans. They make fun of my accent ‘cos I sound like I’m “in a movie” or something. But I quite like it since they all tell me I have beautiful English and they wished their accent was like mine. Except the Americans who never cease to be amazed at my pronunciation of words like ‘body’, ‘beer’ and ‘philosophy’ (think about it). That last one happens to be one I say quite often given that that’s what I study. ‘Why did you come to Budapest to study philosophy?’ they ask me. Well, why not? It’s an adventure! Philosophy isn’t really in the world, at least not the sort I do, so it doesn’t matter where you study it really. Plus, what better way is there to live in a foreign place? You immediately slot in, you feel you have a purpose and university makes it very easy to live.

But then, I don’t really live in Budapest do I? I live at the university, in the university bubble, speaking English to everyone and telling people I really live in London at my parents’ house. One has to make an effort to penetrate the local scene, especially in a place like Budapest, which is filled with international students, tourists and worst of all stag dos and hen parties (don’t want to get lumped in with them). And when you don’t speak the language it’s particularly tricky. But you find your feet and you learn how to act like a local and say the right things to people in shops and bars and look sufficiently grumpy and like you’ve seen it all before. And then that magical moment comes when a tourist asks you for directions! Not only have they asked you, but you know exactly where to tell them and you recommend ‘the bakery on the way where you must try the pogácsa, it’s the best in Budapest’. And for a little while you feel at home…

Until the bar staff take one look at you and ask, “what can I get you?”


Amy Lees lived in Italy during her time completing a Modern Languages degree at the University of Bristol:
Of course I discovered all of the stereotypes are true. Yes, the bureaucracy in Italy is horrendously frustrating and no, there is absolutely no queuing etiquette whatsoever. Zebra crossings may as well not exist and there is no chance of getting to a shop on a Sunday. 80% of conversation revolves around food and the other 20% football. At the school I taught in, the teachers would smoke in the stairwells despite new laws forbidding it… because the kids were doing it so why shouldn’t they? Flawless logic. I also got to see the darker side to Italy; the consequences of an aging population, tension between natives and immigrants, a lack of jobs and an unstable economy. During weak moments I wished I could just pop into the pub for a consolatory pint, or at least get my hands on some Yorkshire Tea teabags. Not very Italian, though. Living as a local was crucial for me, and it fed my fascination for my town’s little quirks, its dialect, its traditions and its history.

But Italy is not a place you get used to quickly. Every cappuccino I drank was as astoundingly sublime as the first and the weight of Italy’s history was tangible, no matter how many times I’d wandered through the same streets and the fresh, green countryside and imposing architecture still mind-blowingly beautiful and, beyond this, the people who surprised me constantly with their endless supply of warmth, enthusiasm and affection.

Experiences felt abroad are diverse, so is the politics and policy that comes with it. Our next article will look at the contrasting perspectives nations take on sending out and welcoming in international students, from British austerity to Canadian pragmatism.
The Expat Survey wishes to invite international students to contribute to our research programme, whether you are conscious of it, you are expats or immigrants too and your insights prove invaluable.

William Purbrick

Sources: New School Free Press, The Guardian.

Expatria News: 15-22 April 2015

A General Election looms but will the expat vote?

7 May and Britons will pour into the polling stations, from Land’s End to Shetland and the Orkneys…from Benidorm to Melbourne…

But will expats be queueing up in their droves? The BBC estimates of the 5m Brits abroad only 16,000 are registered – around 3%.

Parties now circle such voting potential like vultures and The Telegraph has picked out what parties have to offer the Brit abroad. We will be investigating in our own article shortly.


The Telegraph –

‘7 in 10 inquiries about mortgages in UK from British expats’ reports Telegraph

The Telegraph have attributed this surge to a strong dollar that is playing in favour of the Briton overseas.

While the capital’s housing crises prolongs it would seem expats are looking for investment or resettlement; the lucrative British buy-to-let market appetising to internationally based Brits.

The Telegraph –

An international University in the Gulf?

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, would be the site for the privately backed university. Studies have highlighted that Saudi Arabia is acting as an expat brain drain, Arab News reporting that ‘at least 300,000 expat children leave the Kingdom every year for higher education.’

A step forward? Whose to say at this point, what is clear is that the Middle East’s pledge to encourage Western participation and investment remains.

Arab News –

Expatria News 7-14 March

70 year-old British expat found dead in France

Mystery surrounds the death of 70 year old expat Donald King in France. His body was found in a well in Normandy by French police and a suspect remains in custody.

King’s death raises a sad and unique matter for expats killed abroad. Such deaths prove to be more complicated cases, in their cross-border and -culture nature.

In King’s case, Interpol initially dismissed a missing person’s enquiry as they believed the expat to be travelling to visit his daughter in Australia. King’s case is an example of how ‘falling-off-the-grid’ and living the transient life abroad can obscure truth and make justice difficult to attain.

Israel through an expat’s lens

Expats frequently present places in new ways, observing difference in a way no native can. In Tel Aviv, The Financial Times found Celia Gould, wife to the UK ambassador to Israel.

Celia made a friend a lot of expats do on arrival in her new home, her camera. ‘I started to discover Israel through photography’ said Gould, who know runs a start-up, selling bespoke silk scarfs in Israel.

The Great Crate Escape

A homesick brit in Australia, attempted to return home by mailing himself back to the UK – in a wooden crate. In 1965, welsh-born Brian Robson survived a 12,900 kilometres misguided trip to Los Angeles in a bid to get back home. The fledging expat spent 92 hours nailed in the wooden box before he was discovered.

Expatria Three: International Students

Let’s catch up shall we?


So we’ve got a quarter billion living abroad and it’s comprised of the most diverse population imaginable. Most recently we’ve sussed that, on the whole, ‘the kid’s are alright’, but we could do with raising awareness about unaccompanied young immigrants, as shown in the border-crises that couples North and Central America, which led President Obama to emergency action in November of last year.


Where to next? Well, this Expatria series now looks to international students, the composition of a growing population in size and significance, showing that cross-cultural exchange is taking place at younger and younger ages and, interestingly, extracted from family ties – living as individuals.


Fledgling student expatriates, transient and intrepid but potential keyholders of the near future’s gates? (Probably, more likely a swipe-card for the future’s glass panelled revolving door, but let’s not digress on anachronistic metaphors, we’ll be here all day, or last year, or…) Understanding, international study will have us sprawl over four articles, in which I will play statistician, witness and judge.


So, I suppose the first step is ascertaining the makeup of this population, as John Lewis Gaddis said,

‘Finding one’s way through unfamiliar terrain generally requires a map of sort. Cartography, like cognition itself, is a necessary simplification that allows us to see where we are and where we may be going.’

The global mapping of international students is a complex web of in-and-out, east-to-west, west-east and west-west migration. Foreign students have proven the most allusive catch so far, however, thanks to the statisticians of UNESCO and University World News and this infographic from Movehub, I think I’ve just about dragged them home from their global barcrawl.

Courtesy of Movehub
Courtesy of Movehub

There are around five million international students, growing by 10% each year since 2000. Students have been surging out of China and India and importing into the halls and libraries of American and British universities; the U.S. have reported a seventy per cent increase in foreign students in the last fifteen years. This has made the U.S. the most common dorm for the international and academic wanderer with 886,052 studying abroad in the U.S. in 2013-14.


University World News reported that between 2013-2014 there was an 8% growth in international students, and that 73% of that growth can be accounted for by China and Saudi Arabia. In 2011, Chinese foreign students accounted for eight out of ten international students in Australia and worldwide represented one-sixth of all outbound students.


Further interactive statistical information can be found through the UNESCO site:


Students internationalised younger than ever before.

Globally-based students are not only prominent in tertiary education, PIE News reported in 2014 that there are 7,200 International Schools and 3.7m students studying in English. Estimates reckon that in ten years there will be 11,000 international schools and near double the amount of students studying in English.


Nicholas Brummitt, Chairman of the ISC (Independent Schools Council), ‘today there is a massive demand for English-speaking education all over the world.’ This ‘massive demand’ is supplied by the burgeoning middle class of Jim O’Neill’s BRIC behemoths, India and China, and the dynamic between east-west movement will be discussed further in the third section of this segment – a case study of studying in America.


‘Oh East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet.’ – Rudyard Kipling

The conflation of debates regarding international students and immigration, the current hot-coal topic of the west, has entered political discourse in America:

‘International education is crucial to building relationships between people and communities in the United States and around the world’ said Evan M. Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State and she elaborated on her global vision, ‘it is through these relationships that together we can solve global challengers like climate change, the spread of pandemic, disease, and combating violent extremism.’

An optimistic vision of some plausibility. Growing numbers of students are on charitably-caused gap years and becoming globally-based whistleblowers for necessary human and natural causes. However, media cynicism has portrayed this altruism as thinly-veiled, and perhaps unbeknownst, narcissism. ‘Voluntourism’ has become big business and, in spite of best intentions, better for a facebook picture than a community’s development.

It is interesting how, Ryan can see international students as future global peacemakers to an older generation’s problems. To take a lesson from history – key figures of the Indian Independence movement, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose, were educated at Oxbridge and both are claimed to have been ‘radicalised’ by this exposure to western education. These men overcame a global challenge, were followed by a nation, but it cannot be said that it did not involve some ‘violent extremism’ – Bose famously allying himself with Nazi Germany.

This is in no way an attempt to condemn studying abroad. It is a bizarre yet wonderful paradox that ‘Oxasians’ were radicalised in the nation that repressed them. It is, however, a critique of Ryan’s gleeful vision of a world brought together by international tertiary study.  How will new global conflicts, such as the rise of ISIL, affect Ryan’s ever-so-American wishful sentiment? Recent news stories have documented Western students fleeing to the East to join an extremist cause, a fact that doesn’t exactly prove the movement of students is settling any age-old quarrels.

However, my cynicism can’t hide the true triumphs of individuals such as Nigerian seventeen year old Harold Ekeh, a student accepted to all eight Ivy League Colleges. An astonishing achievement for an exceptional talent. International students live idiosyncratic lives as expats, they choose to carve their own path and work hard for it, Ekeh is an example of this, and the next element of this series will explore the stories of three international students in their own words.

Sources: This Is Africa, The Guardian, News Republic, The PIE News, CNBC, Time, Wikipedia, India Today, BBC, University World News, UNESCO.

Intrepid explorer and expat! Some global news of note for you! 30 March – 6 April 2015

Cameron Veitch records his expatriated life in the Pacific Islands.

Documentary maker makes a visit to the Costa del Sol

Britain’s most famed, or at least most caricatured expat, the englishman in Spain who hollers ‘hola!’, counts ‘dos cervezas’ as a GCSE and points instead of speaking is explored in Matt Rudge’s film. Rudge questions whether the love-affair with the Costa del Sol is curtailing, there’s an odd part of me that’d miss the sunburnt and sunstroked Brits of Spain.

‘The rise of the expat-preneur’

As an employee of a former one, I wouldn’t be doing justice to the survey without sharing this piece in the Wall Street Journal. Kaitlin Solimine observes the ease at which expats adopt the role of entrepreneur in their adoptive state.

Globalisation is made startlingly apparent in a 2011 survey:

‘For decades, expats have been sent abroad by multinationals—a 2011 survey by Brookfield Global Relocation Services found that 58% of company revenues were generated outside the country of a company’s headquarters.

I can’t say I’m surprised at Solimine’s observations, I feel expats are fast to see the market opportunities in a ‘new’ nation that acts as a fresh slate. Expat centres such as Singapore and Hong Kong appear buttressed by the ‘expat-preneur’.

The search for the ‘real’ Dubai

In a well-written tale of an Emirati camel race, an expat finally finds hermself out of place (if that makes sense) amongst the throngs of locals.

The article put me out to ponder, wondering if this was in some way the ‘real’ Dubai as I’d argue the real Dubai, however synthetic it seems, is found in the present – its towering blocks of metal and glass. Annabel Kantaria sure found a piece of cultural tradition but I think you’d be going in circles (much like the camels) finding reality in Dubai.

News and Noteworthy in Expatria: 16-22 March 2015

St. Patrick’s Day celebrated worldwide

17 March 2015 marked the commemoration of St. Patrick’s day and if you wanted a barometer for the extent of our global interconnectedness then its worth looking into. Paddy’s day seems more a global event than a national one, a holiday hallmarked by the diaspora with their hodgepodge of nationalistic saccharine sentimentality; Guinness sunk down with cries of ‘Slainte!’

Celebrations across North America have become historical tradition, however the festival of St. Patrick now extends as far as Shanghai and Korea.

Expat tax reform enters political debate in America?

The United States of America Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) has been a hotly debated topic since its inception. The Act, which requires extra-nationals to pay tax in their native U.S.A, has led to record numbers of Americans renouncing their citizenship. Its reported that the Senate now look to act to revise the legislation.

Facebook to lend a hand to expatriate-focussed businesses

Facebook has recently announced the introduction of a tool that will make targeting online expats much easier and, hopefully, more effective. Estimates reckon there’s a 92 million strong expat facebook field to be found by relevant businesses. This statement was provided by Facebook:

‘Expats aren’t just using Facebook to keep in touch with people. Brands, organizations, celebrities and news outlets also offer a vital connection to home.’