Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

From India to Canada: An Autoethnographic Account of an International Student's Decision to Settle as a Self-Initiated Expatriate

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

From India to Canada: An Autoethnographic Account of an International Student's Decision to Settle as a Self-Initiated Expatriate

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

One of the key challenges facing advanced economies, such as Canada, is an aging workforce and an impending shortage of skilled workers (Burke and Ng 2006). As such, the Canadian government has implemented an aggressive immigration policy aimed at attracting skilled migrants (Ng and Metz 2015). Between 1989 and 2013, Canada accepted 3,210,826 immigrants or permanent residents in its economic class category (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2014a). "Economic immigrants" are individuals who are selected based on their potential to contribute to Canada's economy, such as skilled workers and business immigrants (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2014b). However, recent research suggests that economic immigrants experience poor economic integration despite possessing high levels of skills and education (Haq and Ng 2010; Reitz, Curtis and Elrick 2014). Specifically, economic immigrants encounter skills discounting (i.e., a devaluation of foreign experience and credentials) and misinformation, and they are said to have unrealistic expectations pertaining to the labour market in the host country (HC) (Somerville and Walsworth 2010, 2015).

One alternative to reducing the poor economic integration of skilled immigrants might be to focus on the retention and integration of international students who come to study in Canada. This suggestion is well worth exploring given that international students earned their degrees in Canada which, in turn, reduces the likelihood of credential discounting. International students also possess more accurate information and realistic expectations of the local labour market given their period of studies (3-4 years) in Canada. We also learn from immigrant experiences that they are less likely to repatriate back to their countries of origin when they have more positive adjustment and economic integration (Sussman 2010; Tharenou and Caulfield 2010). Since international students arrive in Canada between the ages of 18-22, compared to immigrants in general who arrive at a median age of 47.4 years (Statistics Canada 2011), they adjust more easily than older immigrants (Cheung, Chudek, and Heine 2010). This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of repatriation to their home countries.

However, international students often feel rejected by mainstream members at their host institution and country because of cultural differences and language barriers (Andrade 2006; Arias-Valenzuela, Amiot, and Ryder 2016; Chow 2006; Sawir, Marginson, Deumert, Nyland, and Ramia 2008). As a result, they are more likely to perceive discrimination and experience exclusion, and have much in common with other disadvantaged or minority groups such as immigrants (Govaris, Kaldi, and Papadopoulos 2013; Poyrazli and Lopez 2007; Schmitt, Spears, and Branscombe 2003). This may discourage international students from staying following the completion of their studies abroad.

The purpose of the present paper is to deepen our understanding of the decision processes international students undertake when considering whether or not to stay in the HC upon completion of their studies. At the moment, we do not know enough about why individuals decide to transition from international student to "permanent resident" status (Kim, Bankart, and Isdell 2011). This knowledge is important because it can help governments, educational institutions, and organizations set the right policies and practices to encourage international students to stay and participate in the HC labour market (Arthur and Nunes 2014), which is important given the current skills gaps in Canada (Ramos and Yoshida 2015). While research is beginning to emerge on why international students stay in the HC after graduation (e.g., Baruch, Budhwar, and Khatri 2007; Bratsberg 1995; Dreher and Poutvaara 2011; Kim et al. 2011), this has been patchy at best, and has predominantly been informed by a quantitative approach, limiting our understanding of the decision processes students make to remain in the HC. …

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