Projected to reach one million people next year, international students in the United States are undergoing a transformative educational migration. Moving away from the existing study abroad paradigm is the first step to more accurately understand the lived experience of an educational migrant. Discovering the perceptions of what value an American education holds and accomplishes for students back home is central to revealing the major conditions and influences both propelling educational migration, the experience, and the course, features, and impacts of reentry migration. What prompts students to engage in this risky transformative activity? How can U.S. academic institutions better adapt to the international student experience by adapting a lens of migration? What is the role of cultural capital acquired while abroad in the process of reentry migration? Is the reentry process facilitated by the educational objectives obtained in the U.S?
This study examines the lived experience of South Korea and Saudi Arabians as a window into the lives of international students as educational migrants. Acquiring cultural capital - the personal resources and assets an individual uses to negotiate their social environment - abroad is perceived as a way to better navigate the conditions of economic precarity. However, what unfolds is a significant transformative experience in the interstices of liminal spaces abroad that often results into a liminal condition upon reentry migration. The role of cultural capital acquired from the educational migration process has a stronger influence than the actual educational achievements obtained.
This research seeks to work towards an anthropology of higher education, bringing the topic of student mobility into an anthropological frame in order to expand scholarship and inform educational curriculum and policy affecting the international student experience.