This is our third episode on the ongoing movements of people around the world. You can listen to the previous ones, the first about climate migrants and the second on remittances, on any podcast app.
If you’re like me you were surprised to learn about the international students trapped in Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February. In fact, the country had more than 75,000 students from abroad in 2020 according to the Ukraine government.
That figure highlights how student movement globally has changed in recent decades, with many scholars, particularly from the global South, bypassing traditional destinations like the US and UK for lesser known and cheaper centres. But one consistent trend is growth: in 2000 the number of international students globally was estimated at 2 million and by 2019 it had tripled to 6 million.
Our guest today, Rajika Bhandari, understands intimately the movements of international students. She was one herself in the 1990s, travelling from India to the US, where she eventually settled and began a career examining how students travel to learn in foreign countries.
Author of the recently published book America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility, Rajika tells me how certain aspects of the international student experience have remained the same, including financial challenges and adaptation issues. Meanwhile other issues have emerged, like the global rise in nationalism and the growth in academic refugees — young people who flee crises in countries like Ukraine and Afghanistan but are not treated like ‘official’ students in their receiving countries.
Rajika also puts a unique spin on a decades-old topic — explaining how the ‘brain drain’ that steals the young minds that represent the potential of poorer countries is morphing into ‘brain circulation.’ This post-modern movement can have multiple destinations, including students’ home countries, but those nations must be aware and engaged in attracting talent to come home.
Rajika Bhandari’s website. Check out the collection of articles on various aspects of international students.
Rajika Bhandari’s book — American Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility
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