Negotiated transnationality : memberships, mobilities and the student-turned-migrant experience

Robertson, S 2008, Negotiated transnationality : memberships, mobilities and the student-turned-migrant experience, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Negotiated transnationality : memberships, mobilities and the student-turned-migrant experience
Author(s) Robertson, S
Year 2008
Abstract This thesis is an exploratory study of the lives and experiences of international students who apply for and gain permanent residency (PR) after completing tertiary study in Australia.

The thesis uses sociological theories and methods to focus on the ways that students-turned-migrants maintain transnational connections, and negotiate their memberships and sense of belonging across Australia and other countries. This research is important because there is negligible extant literature that connects the international study experience and the skilled migration experience as two steps in the same process. Furthermore, research that does address this phenomenon tends to look at students-turned-migrants as a 'policy problem', usually focusing on their labour market integration. In contrast, this thesis foregrounds this distinctive group of contemporary migrants' subjective experience of the migration process and their ongoing transnational connections.

The research used cultural probes (packages of mixed media materials such as diaries, maps and disposable cameras, which participants used to document aspects of their lives) and in-depth interviews to provide a rich understanding of the multiplicity and breadth of participants' individual experiences, with various reflective representations of the individuals' narratives at the core of the study.

The analysis covers two aspects of the student-turned-migrant experience: the acquisition of memberships, such as PR and citizenship, and the maintenance of mobilities, including virtual mobility through media and communications technology, and corporeal mobility through forms of travel such as return visits. The analysis reveals that students-turned-migrants undergo a distinct migration experience, characterised by three sequential gates of membership: their entrance as transient students, their acquisition of residency and their decisions about citizenship. Transnational consciousness diffuses their decision-making at each stage of this process, as they negotiate the memberships available to them as a means to balance their desires and obligations across home and host countries. The analysis reveals that student-turned-migrant choices and experiences are often affected by macro-political forces. Choices about citizenship are heavily influenced by global regimes of mobility and the media, and their acqu isition of residency is negotiated through the institutions and regulations of the immigration regime. The analysis also reveals that students-turned-migrants engage with a diverse range of transnational practices, many of which are closely grounded in the use of technology to maintain transnational connections.

The findings reframe students-turned-migrants as more than just a policy problem, but rather as a unique group of contemporary migrants, with several key features that set them apart from previous waves of Australian migrants. While they are less integrated into established local ethnic communities, they maintain very strong connections overseas. They maintain regular contact through virtual mobilities and display a high propensity for return travel. They value mobility highly and display an acute awareness of both the advantages and challenges of sustaining mobile lives. The study of their experiences not only reveals a great deal about the nature of transnationality and mobility in an increasingly globalised world, but also suggests that if this type of migration continues in the future, it may have implications for Australia's patterns of cultural diversity and international integration.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Immigrants Victoria Melbourne
Students, Foreign Victoria Melbourne
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