Grounded Identities, Transient Lives: The Emergence of Student Voices in an Era of Globalization
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This study offers a rare glimpse into the histories, images, and meanings that inform the experiences of six international degree-seeking undergraduate students at the University of Maryland College Park in the spring of 2007. Specifically, the design and content of this study centers around the recovery of student voices as a way to understand the limitations and possibilities of international education policies and practices. The experiences of these six students in many ways challenge the understanding and categorization of a traditional international student. Focusing almost exclusively on nationality as an organizing agent and bereft of significant and robust concepts that bring into view the content of international student sense-making, international education discourses neglect to explore the complexity and range of meanings students ascribe to educational sojourns, thereby resulting in a series of undocumented generalizations made about students. This study reveals that these twenty-first century students are experienced border crossers with very complex identities. These students engage in diverse constructions of meaning as they negotiate the boundaries of geography and mind that are inherent aspects of crossing borders. The perspectives of these contemporary students suggest the need for a foundational rethinking of the assumptions that ground the international education literature and a reconceptualization of the entire apparatus of thinking about educational sojourns. Through an analysis of how student participation in transnational spaces influenced pathways to the university, how students negotiated identities as international students, and how students envisioned futures, it becomes evident that a new kind of international student is emerging.