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.

Expatria’s Children (part two): Difficulties & Crises in Child Migration

The boundless new opportunities awaiting an expatriate family is well advertised, the psychological problems and social issues experienced by migrating children is perhaps less known. The initial part of this investigation was spent exhausting the potential of Expatria’s children, of Third Culture Kids – those best versed in the interconnectedness of current times. This concluding article will examine the difficulties facing the children of Expatria, how crossing cultures can cause difficulties for individual and state. TCKs are often rarefied and sensitive individuals and whilst it has been noted that TCKs can provide a unique service in the contemporary age, this is not achieved without any issues.

‘Forgotten Children’ of the Commonwealth

Britain has a sustained and conscious history of child migration, part of a warped philanthropic strategy under the rationale or guise of empire’s ‘civilising mission’. The Child Migrant Trust is a charity set up for the purposes of reconnecting families fractured by the actions of British charities that sought a solution for underprivileged children, scattering them to the furthest corners of the commonwealth. According to a recent history of ‘Empire’s Children’, a £10 outlay by Barnardo’s to expatriate children saved the ‘charitable’ organisation a £16 a year expense. Remarkably, this practice continued after World War Two, British organisations still sent 3,300 children to Canada, New Zealand, Zimbabwe or Australia. From 1920 to 1970, The Guardian revealed that 150,000 far-flung children were despatched to institutions and foster homes across the commonwealth.

Experiences that ensued were marked by neglect and abuse, ‘forgotten children’ that two former Prime Ministers, Britain’s Gordon Brown and Australia’s Kevin Rudd, have publicly atoned for. Children found no home ‘in large, impersonal institutions or farm schools which accommodated up to three hundred and fifty children.’ False philanthropy put the needs of children secondary. In the land of milk and honey, the milk proved sour and the honey not so sweet, an aftertaste that the Child Migrant Trust has tried to placate.

‘The issue is that transition always involves loss, no matter how good the next phase will be. Loss always engenders grief…’ (Ruth van Reken)

The uprooting of youth can be a traumatic time for both children of privilege and those who lack the financial and familial support to ensure safe passage and transition between nations. The emergence of ECS (Expat Child Syndrome) has validated the existence of the emotional turmoil undergone by Expatria’s youngest members. Kate Berger, a child psychologist, appeared in The Telegraph acknowledging the significant and unique adjustment process children face in adapting to new environs. ECS and the challenges facing privileged expatriates is emotive, however, the trials endured by expatriates moving from and amongst developing countries is harrowing. In America, 2014 has been marked as a crisis in regards to child immigration and the UK has also struggled to provide for the unaccompanied and displaced youth of Expatria.

The inability to govern the Mexico-United States border, in regards to humanitarian and economic concerns, led the International Business Times to declare 2014 the ‘Year of the Child Immigrant Crisis’. Record numbers of unaccompanied children from Central America found their way to the makeshift detention centres of the southern states of the U.S. The New York Times reported that 68,000 children were detained from October 2013 to October 2014 leaving President Obama to proclaim a ‘humanitarian crisis’, an emergency fund of near $4bn to rectify it. Unaccompanied children of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, nations currently riven with gun- and drug-related crime are the primary contributors to the swell in child migration. The U.S. is not the only nation struggling to accommodate for the arrival of unaccompanied children. In Britain, legislation remains which enables border forces to detain children indefinitely, an abhorrent practice that one commentator has referred to as the ‘black hole at the heart of British Justice.’


It is at the fault lines of cultures and societies that one can gather an understanding of global migration. In the examination of the quality of the stitching between nations, made of separate religious and cultural fabrics let alone geopolitical colours, that the welfare of the haves and the have-nots can be ascertained. The events that centred on the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, U.S.A, the illegal passage between Central and Northern America, goes to show that both the developed and developing worlds are failing to guarantee the welfare of immigrant children. Even amongst developed nations, the phenomenon of ECS shows there is a need for resources to improve for children of movement. However, as the first part of this article suggested, Third Culture Kids are globally-equipped children tailored to the diversity of today’s business.

Awareness, education and co-operation are central to improving conditions for the global migration of children. As highlighted in the first instalment of this series, information gathering, in regards to those who live outside their country of origin, whether expat or immigrant, is not prevalent. Not only does the Expat Survey position itself to collate information that textures the understanding of people of global movement but also, through our Helpdesk, aims to provide a bridge between expat and the relevant resources that can assist.

Sources: BBC, The Expat Survey, The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Independent, International Business Times, Japan Times, New York Times, The Telegraph, Vice News. Credit to William Purbrick, Digital and Research Assistant at The Expat Survey.