International Students, Identity Crisis and Social Diaspora

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In the modern day and time where the world has shrunk in distance and everyone is connected in the social space, it is common for students from one country to go to another country for the purpose of studying.  Two decades ago, it might have been unusual to do so and it was relatively harder for children especially from the country I come from to  convince parents and/or relatives to send them to a faraway land to seek education assuming  financial resources and the academic requirements weren’t the constraint factors. In the world we live in, people are more aware of the culture and traditions, thanks to the social media and the number of international students have increased tremendously. There is a great emphasis on the exchange programs, teaching and learning of new cultures, culminating the stereotypes and enhancing the exposure of the ‘now’ students. This is a good thing right? Absolutely, it is a great way to become a more tolerant and knowledgeable version of yourself and there was no better time to become globally aware than now.

However, international students are migrants even if temporary and just like other migrants, they too at time face identity crisis. In my opinion, having talked to many of my colleagues, students face greater problems, mental and psychological (compared to the migrated families) which they themselves are oblivious about. Many have great experience living on their own, making friends but also experience loneliness, homesickness, emotional breakdown sudden increase in responsibilities, language/accent barrier, difficulty in finding like-minded people and other issues settling in at some point in their stay. Transition phase might be short or long depending on their personalities but there are common problems every international student could relate to. Talking from my experience so far, I often question my identity as a Pakistani student living in Canada who is not so desi like the students I meet here from Pakistan as I have spent my teenage in Middle East (UAE and Saudi Arabia) but also not so angrez as the Canadian born students with a Pakistani heritage.  These migrations from country to country does lead to confusion, and again the two sides of migrating to developed nations for a better future can be debated for hours. I have seen the elderly missing their heritage and home countries but moved for security and better environment for children.  But there are those who are contented with their move and have no regrets. However, one thing I observed is that migration and re-settlement are difficult and the locals should appreciate and play their role in making the new comers feel at home. For students who are working hard not just academically but finding their path towards permanent residency, trying to find jobs and settle down should be helped by others especially those who were once migrants themselves and have been through the whole phase of identity/social crisis and dealt with it. When I first came here, I tried meeting people from Pakistani society and understand the system, get support but it seems people are busy in their own work and have little time for the new comers. Communities should be welcoming and open for the students belonging from their nation who came on their own and help them connect to the right people, mentors , career counsellor and help keep the culture alive at the same time because one thing impacted the most due to globalization is  amalgamation and blurred uniqueness of different cultures.

 

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2 responses »

  1. Hey Mehak! I agree with you. Universities must have a cell working in close collaboration with migration experts in helping students and yes, traveling or living abroad makes one truly global with the independence which is so important. I see you have a huge exposure since you lived in various countries.

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