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" If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together " : Technologically-mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students

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As migrant students cope with the relocation challenges, communication with left-behind family and friends can enhance their well-being, while interactions with co-nationals and local students can facilitate their acculturation to the host country. This article studies Indonesian and Vietnamese university students in Singapore to understand the role that technologically-mediated communication plays in facilitating migrant students' adaptation and acculturation. Through a media-deprivation exercise, it finds that communication with left-behind family and friend offers support but can monopolise the students' free time and impede their interaction with locals. Social media communication also exacerbates the development of cultural silos that comprise only co-nationals. On the positive side, migrant students used the online realm as an acculturative space to better understand the host country's attitudes towards foreigners, thereby better equipping them for interactions with locals. Migrant students must strike a balance between exploiting mediated communication links to their home identities and exploring host cultures.
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This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
“If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together”:
Technologically-mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
Sun Sun Lim
National University of Singapore, Singapore
Becky Pham
National University of Singapore, Singapore
Abstract
As migrant students cope with the relocation challenges, communication with left-
behind family and friends can enhance their well-being, while interactions with co-nationals
and local students can facilitate their acculturation to the host country. This article studies
Indonesian and Vietnamese university students in Singapore to understand the role that
technologically-mediated communication plays in facilitating migrant students’ adaptation
and acculturation. Through a media-deprivation exercise, it finds that communication with
left-behind family and friend offers support but can monopolise the students’ free time and
impede their interaction with locals. Social media communication also exacerbates the
development of cultural silos that comprise only co-nationals. On the positive side, migrant
students used the online realm as an acculturative space to better understand the host
country’s attitudes towards foreigners, thereby better equipping them for interactions with
locals. Migrant students must strike a balance between exploiting mediated communication
links to their home identities and exploring host cultures.
Key words
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
students, migrants, acculturation, intercultural communicative competence, discrimination,
technologically mediated communication, media deprivation
Corresponding author: Sun Sun Lim, Department of Communications and New Media, 11
Computing Drive, Blk AS6, #03-41, Singapore 117416. Email: sunlim@nus.edu.sg
Authors’ biographies
Sun Sun Lim is Associate Professor at the Department of Communications and New Media,
National University of Singapore. She has written extensively on the social implications of
technology domestication by young people and families, charting the ethnographies of their
internet and mobile phone use. Her latest books include Mobile Communication and the
Family: Asian Experiences in Technology Domestication (Springer, 2016) and Asian
Perspectives on Digital Culture: Emerging Phenomena, Enduring Concepts (Routledge, 2016).
Becky Pham is an MA candidate at the Department of Communications and New Media,
National University of Singapore. Her research interests include media and migration, media
and young people, media representations and out-of-home television.
Introduction
Constituting a growing proportion of the international migrant population, migrant
students typically venture abroad to upgrade their educational status and improve their
employment prospects. Given these objectives, they strive to quickly adapt to their new
environment, seek strong academic qualifications and employment opportunities, often
with a view towards permanent emigration (Lee, 2007). But rising xenophobia in many
countries is making the climate inhospitable for migrant students (Fox, 2014; Marginson,
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
2014; Zamora-Kapoor, Kovincic and Causey, 2013). The challenges of adapting to a
potentially hostile environment and living independently for the first time compound the
alienation that can beset migrant students. Communication with family and friends who can
help them through this process of adaptation, in both home and host countries, is therefore
crucial for enhancing migrant students’ sense of well-being. Given their youth and high
educational achievement compared to low-waged migrant workers for example, migrant
students tend to actively use a range of information and communication technologies (ICTs)
in their communication. This study focuses on migrant students in Singapore to understand
how technologically-mediated communication facilitates migrant students’ acculturation to
their host countries.
Studentsacculturation processes
Considering the typical age at which migrant students venture overseas, they are
likely to be in the throes of identity experimentation and formation, and relocating to an
unfamiliar environment may be alienating. Furthermore, with hefty family investments
poured into their overseas stints, migrant students bear the burden of parental expectations
and feel pressured to make the most of this hard-earned opportunity (Li, Findlay, Jowett
and Skeldon, 1996; Mazzarol and Soutar, 2002). Nevertheless, many migrant students are
motivated to overcome their sense of alienation because they wish to settle in the host
country after graduation (Eder, Smith and Pitts, 2010; Mazzarol and Soutar, 2002). Indeed,
countries that offer clear pathways for international students to stay on after graduation
such as Australia, Canada and Malaysia have seen their international student enrolment
increase substantially (Baas, 2014).
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
With permanent relocation in mind, migrant students are more motivated to
acculturate to the host country. Acculturation is a multi-faceted process of cultural and
psychological changes that involve various forms of mutual accommodation, leading to
some longer-term psychological and sociocultural adaptations between both groups(Berry,
2005: p. 699). It involves inter-cultural contact between immigrants and locals, learning one
another’s language, and familiarising oneself with one another’s culture. However, such
exchanges may result in misunderstandings and conflicts that lead to ‘acculturative stress’
(Berry, 2005: p. 700). Berry, Kim, Minde and Mok (1987) identified four acculturation
strategiesintegration: conforming to home and host cultures; assimilation: imbibing the
host culture but eschewing the home culture; separation: retaining the home culture but
not absorbing the host culture; and marginalization: rejecting home and host cultures.
Integration was found to have the greatest positive impact on migrants’ psychological well-
being because they can behave in accordance with the norms of home and host countries,
and reconcile any dissonances (Kim, 2007).
Even though universities worldwide pursue cultural diversity through building an
international student body, such intercultural interactions are not necessarily well-
supported institutionally and migrant students often bear the brunt of exclusion and
discrimination in their host countries. They may encounter verbal confrontations, direct
mistreatment (Lee and Rice, 2007) or violent attacks and negative media representations
(Baas, 2014). Such hostilities often stem from perceptions that migrant students threaten
the interests of locals by competing for jobs, housing and other social benefits (Li et al,
1996). Lack of fluency in the local language also impedes effective integration, resulting in
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
gaps in communication effectivenessand a deficit of intercultural communicative
competence(Lewthwaite, 1996: p. 182). Indeed, students from cultural or linguistic
minorities are often negatively stereotyped as outsiders who are uninterested or unable to
engage with the dominant majority, thereby encountering discriminatory treatment from
students and even professors (Lee and Rice, 2007), and experiencing greater acculturative
stress (Yeh and Inose, 2003), depression and low self-esteem (Smith and Khawaja, 2011).
However, other studies show that that over time, international students eventually adapt to
the host culture by developing the ‘intercultural competence’ to reconcile worldviews and
practices that conflict with their own (Pritchard and Skinner, 2002). Other studies also posit
that international students themselves contribute consciously or unwittingly to their own
exclusion by fraternising mainly with co-nationals (Brown, 2009), thereby creating 'cultural
silos' where study and work alliances closely parallel the students’ nationalities (Maundeni,
2001). Previous studies found that international students’ first connections in the host
country tend to be with co-nationals/co-culturals due to shared nationalities or cultural
backgrounds (Al Sharideh and Goe, 1998; Sherry, Thomas and Chui, 2010). But compared to
students who fraternise more with co-nationals, interacting with locals contributes to
greater satisfaction and contentment for international students (Hendrickson, Rosen and
Aune, 2011), and increase resilience and prevent depression/stress (Cheung and Yue, 2013).
Mediated communication in migration
Young people with ready access to ICTs keep up with news, maintain contact with
loved ones and interact with peers over, with, and through media. Particularly during
adolescence and early adulthood, their emotional centre shifts away from the family
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
towards their peers (Arnett, 2010). They use media-enabled social interaction to shape their
personal identities, as well as to simultaneously build and imbibe their peer culture’s
distinctive traits, norms, practices, codes and shared identities (Lim, 2013). Migrant students
are no exception, although for them, the critical difference is that being away from home
and loved ones may draw them emotionally closer to left-behind family and friends.
Communicating with left-behind family and friends through phone calls, instant
messaging, social media updates and emails gives migrant students a sense of belonging and
emotional anchoring (Cemalcilar, Falbo and Stapleton, 2005; Kim, Yun and Yoon, 2009; Lin,
Peng, Kim, Kim and LaRose, 2012; Sandel, 2014). Continual online consumption of home
countries’ news and entertainment media (Cemalcilar et al., 2005; Kim et al., 2009; Sandel,
2014), supplemented with media content from the host country, enable these students to
create a transcultural, hybridised online space where they can learn about the world from
multiple angles (Kim et al., 2009).
Besides the preceding insights from intercultural communication research, critical
approaches to migration and media have also studied the media use of other migrant
populations. Notably, Ong (2009) described how Filipino migrants in Britain negotiate their
dual loyalties to the two nations through karaoke singing of Filipino songs with co-nationals
to engage in ‘banal nationalism’ (p. 160), while consuming British news to connect with local
friends. Yet they felt a sense of exclusion when they perceived discrimination against
migrants in British news coverage. Separately, Ong and Cabanes (2011) found that Filipino
migrant professionals in Britain did not develop greater interest in British politics despite
exposure to local news but felt morally obliged to keep abreast of Philippine political
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
developments given societal expectations that Filipino elites should advance the country’s
development. They thus engaged in mediated long-distance nationalism(p. 220) even as
they stayed on in Britain. Conversely, other studies have observed migrants who prefer to
distance themselves from their homeland but cannot do so because of the persistent digital
connections binding them to their left-behind networks (Madianou and Miller, 2012; McKay,
2012).
Technologically-mediated communication with co-nationals in the host country has
been another research node. Such interactions with co-nationals help them emotionally and
academically during the adaptation process. Specifically, Chinese students in New Zealand
used SNSs such as QQ to keep in touch, discuss assignments and share study tips (Cao and
Zhang, 2012). Similarly, Asian students in Korea found co-national friends in online
communities and subsequently maintained these relationships offline (Kim et al.2009). A
Chinese student organization in the US provided academic and emotional support and
practical information through its website to aid co-national members’ adjustment processes
(Lin, 2006). However, interacting with co-nationals too frequently led international students
to feel that they had not left their home countries at all (Brown, 2009) and other studies
have found that international students do make active efforts to befriend local people.
Students rely significantly less on traditional television or newspapers to adapt locally (Park,
Song and Lee, 2014), mainly use the Internet and social media to learn about online groups
and events and to make more local acquaintances (Cao and Zhang, 2012), or seek local
information (Kim et al., 2009; Li and Chen, 2014). International students who use both home
and host country online social networks experience less acculturative stress and greater
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
psychological well-being, suggesting that host country media use facilitates acculturation
(Park et al., 2014).
Building on the findings from previous literature, this studyis guided by the following
research questions:
RQ1: Which acculturation processes and strategies are salient among migrant
students?
RQ2: How, if at all, are technologically mediated communication channels
incorporated into migrant students’ acculturation processes, and with what
consequences?
RQ3: How did technologically mediated communication influence the students
nurturing of intercultural communicative competence?
Method
Conducted between February and December 2014, this study involved 60
undergraduate migrant studentsi at a large state university in Singapore, 23 from Indonesia
and 37 from Vietnam. Indonesia (8th) and Vietnam (18th) are the two largest international
student sending countries within Southeast Asia (Institute of International Education, 2013).
Participants had to be using ICTs to contact left-behind family and/or friends at least once a
week, and for at least one month prior to the study. We recruited participants via Facebook,
mobile phone and/or email. We used snowballing sampling, beginning with our personal
acquaintances who then referred subsequent waves of participants through social network
and personal contacts. Subject recruitment and data collection commenced only after
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
approval was obtained from the authors’ Institutional Review Board. All participants were
assured of confidentiality through the use of pseudonyms and the disassociation of their
personal details from fieldwork data.
In the first phase of research, findings were gathered using a multi-method approach
comprising media diaries, a media deprivation exercise, and semi-structured interviews with
20 Indonesian and 20 Vietnamese students. Each participant was studied for a period of two
weeks. In the first week, participants took part in a media diary exercise where their
communication with left-behind families and/or friends was monitored through media use
diaries. Specifically, we sought to understand how they used ICTs in mutual contact, and
what roles such ICTs play in their daily lives in Singapore. The diaries took the form of a list
of structured and open-ended questions sent via email to participants at the end of each
day. They were then interviewed face-to-face at the end of Week One. In the Week Two
media deprivation condition, participants had to cease all ICT-enabled communication with
left-behind family and/or friends, and stop accessing news relating to Indonesia or Vietnam
regardless of the provenance of the news source. The participants were instructed that if by
chance, they were to come across any news or discussion relating to their home country,
they had to cease reading the news and/or refrain from joining in the discussion. However,
they were not required to deactivate their social media accounts or phone lines. This media
deprivation exercise sought to understand how migration acculturation would occur in the
absence of technologically-mediated communication. Participants were instructed to advise
their friends and family of their one-week abstinence from ICT-facilitated contact and asked
to write reflection diaries on their feelings and experiences arising from this media
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
deprivation condition. These diaries similarly took the form of structured and open-ended
questions emailed to them at the end of every day. At the close of Week Two, participants
were again interviewed. As our interviewees were all students in Singapore, they were
conversant in English, the principal language of instruction. Indonesian participants were
interviewed in English and because author Pham is a native Vietnamese speaker,
Vietnamese students were given the option of being interviewed in English or Vietnamese.
Most chose Vietnamese although they often used English expressions in their speech. The
interviews lasted from 20 to 60 minutes each. Each participant was given a $100-bookstore
voucher upon completing all components of the two-week study. Author Pham
simultaneously translated and transcribed the interview recordings from Vietnamese to
English and transcribed the interviews with Indonesian students directly into English. In
Singapore, the typical incentive for research interviews of between 60 to 90 minutes
duration is around $20. Since our participants were interviewed twice, had to complete
daily diaries for two weeks, and experience the inconvenience of media deprivation, $100
was considered a reasonable incentive.
In the second phase of research, three focus groups involving three Indonesian and
17 Vietnamese students were carried out so that the researchers could further probe into
how these students managed their networks of co-nationals and local friends, what roles
these interactions played in their acculturation, and how ICT use was involved. While the
first phase delved into the students’ individual connections with left-behind contacts, the
second phase utilised focus group to probe more deeply into peer group norms surrounding
the communication practices of migrant students. Together, both phases were aimed at
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
capturing a fuller picture of the different aspects of migrant students’ social lives.
Transcripts were coded using NVivo to identify dominant themes and issues and fine-tuned
after an initial reading of the transcripts. The meaning condensation approach was used to
analyze the interview transcripts (Kvale, 1996). Large amounts of interview text were
compressed into brief statements representing the meta-themes and sub-themes which
emerged from the coding process. The meta- and sub-themes included: students’
backgrounds and experiences (personal background, family background, financial
background, migration expectations, migration challenges, future aspirations, self-
perceptions, media use); communication with left-behind networks (coordination, support,
obligation, ambivalence, social capital); communication with local networks (local/co-
national, coordination, support, ambivalence, perceived discrimination online/offline,
perceived stereotypes online/offline).
Participant profile
Our participants were aged between 18-24, with their stints in Singapore spanning
six months to eight years. They were studying a range of subjects including engineering,
business, science, economics, and communication. We studied equal numbers of male and
female students. The profile of our participants was fairly homogenous and typical of
Indonesian and Vietnamese migrant students in a large state university in Singapore. All of
them were on Singapore-government funded scholarships, with most of them hailing from
lower middle class families with limited means to send their children abroad for education.
Since the scholarships covered only all or part of their tuition fees, all our participants used
family savings or bank loans (typically Singapore $40,000 - $50,000) to cover their living
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
expenses. One condition of the scholarship was for the students to seek active employment
with a Singapore-based company for three years (Tuition Grant bond) and pay off their
loans at the same time. The students tend to regard this bond as an opportunity to continue
to live and work in Singapore, rather than a burden that they try to discharge expeditiously.
The need to repay loans further strengthened their motivation to remain in Singapore
because salaries were higher than back home. Our participants confirmed that they
intended to settle down abroad rather than return to home after completing their studies
and fulfilling the bond period. Some participants shared that if they returned home too soon
after graduation, their peers would regard them as failures. They explained that if they
could not permanently sink roots in Singapore, they would seek alternative migration
destinations such as the US or Australia rather than return home because they felt that a
degree from a Singapore institution enabled them to be global citizens. Some students also
highlighted that their parents strongly encouraged them to exploit every possible
opportunity to remain overseas, and not to return to their home countries which they
deemed to have poorer prospects.
Findings and discussion
We first present a broad picture of our participants’ communication with left-behind
family and friends and co-nationals, based on their Week One media diaries (Table 1). Our
participants availed of a wide range of communication options (messaging apps, social
media, online chat, video calls, email etc.) to maintain regular contact with left-behind
family and friends, with most contacting their families at least two to three times weekly.
We differentiate between discrete communication, one with a clear beginning and end,
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
such as phone calls, exchanges of messages or online chats; and continuous communication
that is ongoing, such as viewing one another’s social media posts and photographs. 75% of
Indonesian participants and 55% of Vietnamese participants contacted left-behind family at
least four to six times a week. The students appropriated internet-enabled platforms such as
Skype, Facebook and LINE to keep their communication costs low. There was no major
divergence between the communication practices of Indonesian and Vietnamese
participants except for some differences in the platforms they favoured.
Table 1
Communication during Week 1 (non-deprivation week)
Indonesia (n=20)
Vietnam (n=20)
Communication with left-behind family
Online
Blackberry Messenger, email,
Facebook, Facebook
Messenger, LINE, Skype,
WhatsApp
email ,Facebook, Facebook
Messenger, Google Hangout,
Skype, Viber, VoIP, WhatsApp
Phone
Calls via landline or mobile
phone with international calling
card, SMS
Calls via landline or mobile
phone with international calling
card, SMS
Frequency of discrete communication
Daily
25%
15%
4-6 times a week
50%
40%
1-3 times a week
20%
45%
Less than once a week
5%
0%
Discrete communication
(topics)
General daily updates, sharing
photos and stories, checking on
family matters, seeking advice
and support, discussing
Indonesia- and Singapore-
related news
General daily updates, sharing
photos and stories, checking on
family matters, seeking advice
and support, discussing
Vietnam- and Singapore-related
news
Continuous communication
Read Facebook status updates,
viewed photographs on family
members’ Facebook profiles
Read Facebook status updates,
viewed photographs on family
members’ Facebook profiles
Communication with left-behind friends
Online
Blackberry Messenger,
Facebook, Facebook
Messenger, LINE, Skype,
WhatsApp
emails, Facebook, Facebook
Messenger, Google Hangout,
Tumblr, Viber
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
Phone
Via SMS
Via SMS
Frequency of discrete communication
Daily
5%
10%
4-6 times a week
35%
45%
1-3 times a week
15%
25%
Less than once a week
45%
20%
Discrete communication
(topics)
General updates, checking on
other former classmates,
discussing Indonesia- and
Singapore-related news
General updates, checking on
other former classmates,
discussing Vietnam- and
Singapore-related news
Continuous communication
Read Facebook status updates,
viewed Facebook photographs
on friends’ Facebook profiles,
seeking and providing help to
transfer things between
Singapore and Indonesia
Read Facebook status updates,
viewed Facebook photographs
on friends’ Facebook profiles,
seeking and providing help to
transfer things between
Singapore and Vietnam
Communication with co-national friends in Singapore
Online
Facebook, Facebook
Messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp
Facebook, Facebook
Messenger, WhatsApp
Phone
Mobile phone calls, SMS
Mobile phone calls, SMS
Frequency of discrete communication
Daily
100%
100%
Discrete communication
(topics)
General updates, asking one
another to go to classes or have
meals together, asking one
another about academic
matters, joining the university’s
Indonesian community for
gatherings and Indonesian
holiday celebrations, discussing
Indonesia- and Singapore-
related news
General updates, asking one
another to go to classes or have
meals together, asking one
another about academic
matters, joining the university’s
Vietnamese community for
gatherings and Vietnamese
holiday celebrations, discussing
Vietnam- and Singapore-related
news
Continuous communication
Read status updates, viewed
photographs on friends’
Facebook and Twitter profiles
Read status updates, viewed
photographs on friends’
Facebook and Twitter profiles
Their communication with left-behind family members centred around providing general
updates about their daily lives, inquiring about the well-being of family members, seeking
advice, sharing interesting stories and photographs or discussing news about both home
and host countries. Communication with left-behind friends was similar, except for
occasional mutual requests for the personal delivery of items to or from Singapore and their
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
home country. Our respondents derived socio-emotional nourishment and an improved
sense of well-being through such frequent contact with their significant others in the home
country:
VN03 (Female, 23): Being heard by my parents [over the phone] is being cared for.
Well, I don’t have the physical care from my parents. Through their listening to me,
their sharing with me in times of difficulties or the happiness I experience when I live
here [in Singapore], I feel like I still receive their care.
All our participants contacted local co-national friends daily, and indeed multiple times a
day for closer friends. Communication with co-national friends tended to relate to general
updates, coordinating class attendance or meals, and school matters.
Acculturation processes and strategies
With the exception of a few, most of our participants had left Indonesia and Vietnam
for the very first time to live in a foreign country. The vast majority of them were new to
Singapore, with no family or friends in the country, and with only a handful having
previously visited the country as tourists. Most of our respondents were thus relocating to
Singapore without the benefit of a ready social network, or prior knowledge of their
destination. However, this deficit was easily rectified. They went online prior to their arrival
in Singapore to contact co-nationals who were already studying there, usually via Facebook
groups of Indonesian and Vietnamese student societies of the university they were about to
enter, or through online discussion forums targeted at students of different nationalities
who were studying in Singapore. These person-to group connections seamlessly segued into
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
person-to-person connections and via such online contacts, fresh migrant students suddenly
found themselves comfortably cosseted by an instant social network of co-nationals that
could provide information, assistance, and support. The fact that this network readily
mobilised to support these newly-arrived students during their initial difficult phase of
adaptation further cemented the feelings of friendship and goodwill among co-nationals:
VN 35 (Female, 20): ‘There is a Vietnamese community [in the university] and
through that [its online forum and Facebook group], they try to promote their
activities… also a way for the freshmen to get to know the senior students… asking
for information about our own majors… I did get to know senior students studying
the same major as me.
IS05 (Female, 21): …the first month was a bit tough, it’s the transitional period when
I adjust to a new environment and everything so that was really tough but after that I
think it’s quite ok because there were quite a lot of us that came together. So I think
friends really helped a lot…And one of my seniors told me about the advantages and
disadvantages of each [mobile phone service] provider…He told me about the
cheaper way to make international calls, for data.
Indeed, our respondents demonstrated a clear proclivity towards friending people of
shared nationality. Most respondents had significantly more co-national than local friends,
with co-nationals typically comprising the vast majority of our respondents’ close
acquaintances. This trend could be attributed to both logistical and social factors. Unlike
local students who had the option of residing at their family homes, migrant students had
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
no choice but to stay in on-campus student residences or in shared accommodation with
other migrant students. This physical proximity to co-nationals naturally predisposed them
towards regularly fraternising with one another via routine activities such as attending
classes, having meals, exercising, or simply relaxing together. Besides these practical
considerations, cultural affinity, shared values and a stronger sense of mutual
understanding motivated more frequent and intense co-national interaction:
IS06 (Male, 23): ‘The first time I came here [Singapore]…because it’s the first time
I’m staying away from my parents and my family so its like I just can’t relate much to
strangers or someone outside my country, so I feel I can relate more towards the
Indonesians at that time.
IS07 (Male, 23): ‘…these things [hanging out with co-nationals] actually happen
naturally. If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together. Some will
reach out, but the majority will stick to themselves. But the thing is that the reason
for me sticking with Indonesians is the values that we share.
Consequently, unless otherwise compelled, such as when forced to work together with
other students on projects or when there were no other co-nationals in the same class or
dormitory, migrant students tended to socialise primarily with co-nationals.
Mediated communication and acculturation
However, these migrant students’ integration into the host country, even if aided by
mediated communication that facilitated the rapid building of social networks, was impeded
by the emergence of silos that were enabled and fuelled by their social media use. As prior
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
research has shown, foreign students have a propensity to socialise within cultural silos
inhabited only by co-national friends, and not to fraternise outside of that circle (see Al
Sharideh and Goe, 1998; Brown, 2009; Cao and Zhang, 2012; Sherry et al., 2010). Among our
respondents, social media served to intensify co-national bonding by creating a seamless
web of co-national connections within the school environment, all the way from
matriculation to graduation:
IS22 (Male, 20): … they invited me to some [Facebook] group… the student society
for Indonesians… [I accepted the invitation] because it has a lot of Indonesians, I
know these people will be my friends in school… so I just accept.
While there are clear benefits of a supportive network of co-nationals scaffolding migrant
students’ transition, concomitant trends in media use can exacerbate the adverse effects of
these cultural silos. Primarily, we found that in a media-rich environment where people
have multiple platforms by which to communicate, compartmentalisation tends to occur. By
compartmentalisation, we refer to our respondents carving up their lives into multiple
discrete social networks, and deploying different media platforms for communicating with
each network. For example, our respondents tended to use WhatsApp to communicate with
local friends, Facebook or LINE with left-behind friends and Skype with their parents back
home. In particular, compartmentalisation was practised by respondents who were younger
or who had been in Singapore for fewer than six years, but was less salient among
respondents who were older or who had been in Singapore for longer than six years. While
this tendency to compartmentalise is understandable given the communication preferences
of different nationalities and social groups, it contributes to a perceptual bias about the
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
quality of communications with different groups when perceptions of communication
platforms mesh with sentiments towards the opposite party. For example, respondents
would reserve richer and more intimate communication platforms such as LINE (for
Indonesians) and Facebook (for Vietnamese) for their communication with co-national
friends, and as a result, felt a greater sense of closeness to them. Both these apps offered
affective richness because of their provision of colourful and evocative emoji and stickers
that users can appropriate to enliven their messages, injecting them with fun and feeling. In
contrast, communication with locals that took place via mainly text-based WhatsApp was
viewed negatively as instrumental, dry and task-oriented, resulting in our respondents
associating those negative sentiments with their local acquaintances, thus reducing the
possibility of those relationships taking a more positive turn:
VN32 (Female, 19): … at first I did not use WhatsApp at all, but then I had to
download it and use it so that I could keep contact with [local Singaporean friends].
Every time I hear from WhatsApp notifications, I know for sure that there will be
nothing fun…
As Madianou and Miller (2012) argued, in the prevailing polymedia environment, people
select communication media based less on their practical affordances than on their social
and emotional valence and the medium thus becomes constitutive of the relationships
itself(p. 178).
Furthermore, the sheer convenience of communicating with their left-behind family
translated into a high frequency of communication that helped boost the socio-emotional
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
well-being of these migrant students, but translated into a considerable time investment
that displaced other activities. Many participants realised that under the media deprivation
condition, when they could not contact their families back home, they had significantly
more time to interact with people locally, to participate in activities that they would
typically not consider joining, and simply be better able to concentrate on their studies:
IS06 (Male, 23): ‘“Firstly I can focus more in terms of my life here actually, so it’s like
I’m not really disturbed by calls from parents when they are worried or something
because I told them I’m in this experiment. So I can spend time with friends here
and then actually I make new friends as well.
VN07 (Male, 23):I think the most positive experience during the [media deprivation]
week is that the time that I normally use to contact my family was then “empty”, so I
could do something else. For example, I could read more books, I could go out and
socialize more. There is usually an event here [my dormitory] on Friday night but
sometimes I could not attend since I would be talking to my family, but last night I
attended it.’
In other words, the deprivation condition demonstrated that with the absence of social
media that helped to seamlessly connect our participants to family and friends back home
as well as co-nationals, there was greater inclination among our participants to partake of
local activities and interact with the local community. Previous research has found that
migrants are sometimes inclined to dissociate from their home networks because of the
burdens that such connections to people in the home country can impose, but are
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
hampered by the durability of digital connections that keep them firmly entrenched
regardless of their intentions (Madianou and Miller, 2012; McKay, 2012). Among our
participants, even while the deprivation condition showed them that their ties to the home
country were impeding their interactions locally, the sense of comfort that they drew from
the home connections was still of paramount importance and not something they were
prepared to sacrifice regardless of its apparent costs.
Nurturing intercultural communicative competence
Nevertheless, much as the links to home provide them with the moral support for
their overseas stints, migrant students must ultimately negotiate their new environment
independently, get acquainted with its socio-cultural norms and learn to effectively
communicate with the local community. Facility in the language is a definite asset in this
regard but intercultural communicative competence also carries a critical additional
dimension being able to understand and negotiate the spectrum of attitudes that locals
have towards foreigners, ranging from receptivity to resentment to outright discrimination.
By having an awareness of their social image, migrant students can be more finely attuned
to, and well-prepared for situations that are potentially dicey or challenging when
interacting with locals.
All our participants recognised that they need to develop such competencies. They
shared that over time, they did develop a sense of how locals perceived them, and managed
to gain insights into the positive and negative discrimination that characterised how locals
assessed them:
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
VN35 (Female, 20):When I was in secondary school [in Singapore], the teachers
expected that international scholars should be better at Maths and Science than
locals. But other modules like English… they asked if I needed help so I knew they
thought foreigners are not as good at English as locals.
IS21 (Female, 23): Singaporeans always think that the Indonesian Chinese are rich
because of the riots [anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia], that all the Chinese move here
and buy houses and everything.
Such discrimination both undermined and fortified our respondents’ sense of national
identity. As foreigners in Singapore, migrant students see themselves as de facto
ambassadors for their home countries:
VN05 (Male, 21):When I came to Singapore to study, although I could be considered
a person who socializes fairly well with life here, I always tell myself that I am a
foreigner, I have to keep telling myself that whatever I do will influence others’
perceptions. For example, if I do something wrong, they will say, That Vietnamese
guy, they will not say He is not a good guy, they would just generalize that,
Vietnamese are not nice. Then I feel that [since] I have the national pride in myself,
I have to live more responsibly.
Hence, quite apart from encountering personal adjustment problems, some respondents
also experienced ancillary feelings of obligation towards asserting their national identities,
and raising their country’s standing. Projecting a positive image of their country and working
to dispel stereotypes are thus additional loads that migrant students feel they have to bear.
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
Unfavourable stereotypes about migrants are also propagated in online discussion
forums of local newspapers and other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Undoubtedly, the online space was by no means a welcoming or benign environment. Our
respondents had all encountered bigoted and exclusionary views made by locals in the
gamut of online discussion spaces. Aimed directly at people of their nationality or at
foreigners in general, such opinions left our respondents feeling disturbed, indignant, hurt
and angry. However, they also recognised that the online space was not the ideal realm for
countering these corrosive comments because speaking up would merely serve to
exacerbate tensions, draw attention to their alien minority status and further stoke unfair
generalisations:
VN31 (Male, 22): ‘Sometimes when I read those comments [about foreigners stealing
jobs from locals] I also feel very angry because I feel that [if] they [locals] are not
good enough, what are they complaining about? But I don’t speak up because
anything I do, I will be judged by the majority.’
They therefore accepted such online discrimination with grudging resignation, and instead
used these online fora as a (relatively safe) acculturative space where they were exposed to
discriminatory perspectives, and then drew on these adverse experiences to understand the
roots of biased perspectives. In doing so, they could to some extent reconcile such
negativity with their intention to invest in the host country for the long haul. In the company
of locals with whom they had yet to develop a close relationship, it would have been highly
unlikely for them to broach such potentially incendiary and controversial issues. But by
ruminating over online comments that were both for and against foreign communities, they
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
could rationalise for themselves why particular sentiments and attitudes prevail in the host
country. With reference to Singapore’s drive to attract skilled professionals from abroad,
widely known as the foreign talent scheme’ (Yeoh and Lin, 2012), one respondent explained
how she went online to better comprehend why the locals resented it so greatly:
VN22 (Female, 22): I’m puzzled about why … Singapore has so many (sic) hostility
against foreign talent… Then I go online and do a bit of research and try to
understand why most Singaporeans don’t like foreign talent. But right now I think I’m
getting used to it already because after I understand the reasons that make most
Singaporeans think of foreign talent negatively, I became sympathetic to them. If I
were in the same position, I will also feel the same. Some Singaporeans still have that
kind of mind set but it doesn’t matter to me at all, because those [local] friends
whom I’m close with don’t have that kind of mindset … so I get on with my friends.
Previous literature has already demonstrated that migrants can best integrate into their
adopted homes if they possess the linguistic skills for communicating effectively with locals
(see Lewthwaite, 1996). Our respondentsexperiences show that by using the online space
to explore and grasp local sentiment toward foreigners, they could garner perceptual
knowledge that constitutes another crucial component of intercultural communicative
competence. Such knowledge vested them with the context behind local issues that would
inadvertently have an effect on their migrant experience, and equipped them to better deal
with any positive or negative stereotypes that could colour their interactions with locals.
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
Conclusion
Migrant students inhabit a liminal space. When they embark on an overseas
education, they are venturing into unchartered terrain, physically, emotionally, intellectually
and ideologically. While they may yet fully understand who they are and where they come
from, they will have to contend with alternative and possibly conflicting perspectives of
their new abode which may trigger a sense of confusion and disjuncture. They also have to
reconcile the aspirations they have for themselves, with the expectations that others have
of them. They may not feel entirely welcome in their host countries, but may also begin to
develop feelings of estrangement from their home countries. Strong familial and social
networks can serve as a psychological bulwark against these feelings of ambivalence. Our
findings show that technologically-mediated communication plays an indispensable role in
helping migrant students to foster and sustain social ties, providing them with a crucial
lifeline to their left-behind family and friends who offer emotional support and virtual
companionship as they adjust to new and unfamiliar surroundings. In this way,
technologically mediated communication with home countries can have a positive impact
on international students’ adaptation to their host countries, while also offering channels
for greater identification with their home cultures (Cemalcilar et al., 2005). Social media
connections forged with co-nationals in the host country are another critical source of
assistance, comfort and assurance. However, while the initial settling in period may be well
buffeted by these significant others, migrant students’ long-term acculturation and
integration with the host country necessarily involve their interactions with the local
community, as well as exposure to local cultures, attitudes and norms. In this regard,
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
migrant students must be conscious of the tendency to cocoon themselves in cultural silos
(see Al Sharideh and Goe, 1998; Brown, 2009; Cao and Zhang, 2012; Lin, 2006; Sherry et al.,
2010) and virtual walled communities (Ling, 2004) that comprise only co-nationals, thereby
limiting their experience of the host country. Our study found that even when migrant
students did interact with locals, their tendency to compartmentalise their communication
with different social groups reduced the potential for their relationship with locals to
mature to a higher level of closeness and intimacy. Furthermore, their communication with
their left behind family was frequent and time-consuming, to the point that it tended to
monopolise the students’ free time, thereby reducing the likelihood of them interacting
with locals and participating in local community events. On the positive side, migrant
students used the online realm as an acculturative space to better understand the host
country, and prevailing attitudes towards foreigners such as themselves, thereby better
equipping them for interactions with locals. In sum, migrant students need to strike a
strategic balance between exploiting mediated communication links to their home
identities, while affording room for personal growth and self-discovery as they explore their
host cultures. An over-immersion in either environment may impede successful
acculturation.
Our study has sought to integrate and build upon insights from two areas critical
studies of mediated transnational communication, and intercultural communication. In so
doing, it has extended the former to consider the perspectives of migrant students, as
extant literature has focused primarily on low-waged migrant labourers and professionals
(see Lim, Pham and Cheong, 2016). It has also broadened research on intercultural
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
communication processes by sharpening the focus on mediated communication as tools for
migrants’ acculturation given their growing importance in our mediatized landscape. To the
best of our knowledge, our media deprivation approach has not been undertaken in
previous research. Although it may come across as having an artificial, experimental quality,
it was also the only way for us to simulate as far as practically possible the situation where
migration acculturation takes place in the absence of technologically-mediated
communication. Despite the method’s limitations, including the relative brevity of the
period being investigated as well as the reliance on self-reporting, we feel that it can still
make a methodological contribution to the field. Another study limitation is the small
number of Indonesian focus group participants. Although we tried our best to recruit a
larger number of students, it was not logistically possible to set up a mutually convenient
time for most of them. Be that as it may, we found little divergence between the views of
the Indonesian and Vietnamese focus group participants.
The study’s findings have practical implications. Considering the ubiquity of mobile
and Internet communications, the issue of migrant students using technologically-mediated
communication strategically and judiciously may well be overlooked by university
orientation programmes. A systematic review of such programmes should be undertaken to
ascertain whether these young people are fully advised of how their technologically-
mediated communications can affect their overall well-being. Further research is needed to
better understand the unique circumstances of migrant students so that their orientation
and mentorship programmes can be enhanced, and their acculturation efforts be robustly
supported. Left-behind family and friends should also be advised to moderate their
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
interactions with their children so that it does adversely affect their ability to acquaint
themselves with the host country.
i Given their motivations for studying in Singapore, we feel that it is more accurate to refer to our participants
as migrant students rather than student migrants (see for example Robertson, 2013) because for all of our
participants, the combined period of time they will spend in Singapore as both student and migrant
professional will be at least six years. Consequently, their mind set is more akin to that of a migrant who
recognises the need to learn to adapt to the host country for the long haul, and less like that of a student who
intends to return to his/her country of origin upon graduation. The term ‘migrant student’ is thus more
reflective of this migrant mind set.
This is the pre-print version of
Sun Sun Lim and Becky Pham, ‘If you are a foreigner in a foreign country, you stick together’:
Technologically mediated communication and acculturation of migrant students
New Media & Society 1461444816655612, first published on June 30, 2016
doi:10.1177/1461444816655612
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Sociology Compass 7(4): 303-314
... Por su parte, nuevas redes y vínculos favorecen el bienestar emocional, actuando como soportes ante dificultades (Ceoc-UTalca, 2009;Gu et al., 2010;Meuleman et al., 2015;Tosi, 2009), promoviendo el éxito en el proceso de ajuste (Stebleton et al., 2014). El contacto con otros migrantes ofrece espacios de contención y pertenencia, atenuando la complejidad del proceso (Gamallo & Nuñez, 2013;Lim & Pham, 2016;Ma, 2014;Tachine et al., 2017), favoreciendo, además, el desarrollo de sentido de pertenencia con su campus. ...
... La experiencia de transición universitaria de estudiantes migrantes internos chilenos que permanecen en la ES dialoga con la evidencia de otros contextos (v.g. Gamallo & Nuñez, 2013;Lim & Pham, 2016;Ma, 2014;Meuleman et al., 2015). Esta vivencia les demanda lidiar con la pérdida de relaciones cotidianas (Gómez, 2019;Muñoz & Marín, 2018;Torcomian, 2016), establecer nuevos lazos (Costa et al., 2019), reestructurar las dinámicas familiares y abordar mandatos relacionados a su proyecto migratorio (Torcomian, 2016). ...
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Quienes migran para cursar sus estudios superiores, enfrentan condiciones potencialmente influyentes en su ajuste a la universidad. Resulta necesario conocer qué barreras específicas enfrentan los estudiantes migrantes internos, para así diseñar políticas y estrategias institucionales de soporte. Este documento brinda evidencias para la comprensión del proceso de transición a la vida universitaria de estudiantes migrantes internos en Chile mediante un proceso de intervalidación de dos estudios de carácter exploratorio, orientados a conocer desde la perspectiva de los propios migrantes tanto sus vivencias de desplazamiento como de transición a la universidad. Desde los testimonios, se identifican experiencias compartidas entre los estudiantes migrantes internos, destacando la triple ruptura experimentada (cambio de ciudad, de lugar de estudios y de residencia). Culminando este proceso, los estudiantes reportaron percibir mayor independencia, autorregulación y autoconocimiento. Junto con discutir estos elementos, este documento ofrece orientaciones de política universitaria basadas en los hallazgos identificados, así como también aspectos a explorar para la comprensión de estos procesos en indagaciones futuras.
... An increased attention to using SNSs has been particularly well documented in previous literature on international students' experiences. The expanding body of research has confirmed that using SNSs is beneficial with regard to international students' acculturation [22][23][24][25][26][27] and psychological well-being [3,28,29] in settling into new cultural and academic settings. For example, Lim and Pham's study [23], which focuses on Indonesian and Vietnamese international students studying in Singapore, shows that there is a positive association between reducing acculturative stress and using SNSs. ...
... The expanding body of research has confirmed that using SNSs is beneficial with regard to international students' acculturation [22][23][24][25][26][27] and psychological well-being [3,28,29] in settling into new cultural and academic settings. For example, Lim and Pham's study [23], which focuses on Indonesian and Vietnamese international students studying in Singapore, shows that there is a positive association between reducing acculturative stress and using SNSs. Similarly, Park and Noh [24] look into the integration of using a mobile message application among international students participating in their academic programs in Korea. ...
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YouTube has the potential to significantly impact Korean millennials’ daily lives. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether the value of YouTube can be explained by Korean students’ learning needs and practice. This qualitative study attempts to add a new dimension to possible ways of using YouTube for educational purposes. Focusing on narratives of first-year Korean international students studying in the U.S., this study examines the ways in which using YouTube contributes to students’ linguistic and cultural diversity. Findings reveal that YouTube helps expand students’ perspectives on cross-cultural understanding. The educational use of YouTube also leads students to academic pursuits and engagement during studying abroad by developing content knowledge and skills in English. It further enables students to enhance their knowledge of English as a global language by taking ownership. Ultimately, YouTube plays an indispensable role in supporting Korean international students’ academic and social progress in the transitional phase from their home to host countries. From these findings, and in response to the post-COVID era, the implications for the new normal in education using social networking sites, YouTube in particular, are discussed for effective multilingual and multicultural education in South Korea.
... Firstly, mobile phones play important and diverse roles in the lives of migrants, both in the Global North and South (Bacishoga et al., 2016;DA Silva Braga, 2016;Frouws et al., 2016;Lim and Pham, 2016;Alencar et al., 2019;Mancini et al., 2019;Mattelart, 2019;Alencar, 2020;Godin and Donà , 2020;Greene, 2020), including in South Africa (Marchetti-Mercer and Swartz, 2020). WhatsApp is a prevalent and affordable platform in South and Southern Africa (Shambare, 2014;Pindayi, 2017;Dahir, 2018). ...
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Globally, the use of mobile phones for improving access to healthcare and conducting health research has gained traction in recent years as rates of ownership increase, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Mobile instant messaging applications, including WhatsApp Messenger, provide new and affordable opportunities for health research across time and place, potentially addressing the challenges of maintaining contact and participation involved in research with migrant and mobile populations, for example. However, little is known about the opportunities and challenges associated with the use of WhatsApp as a tool for health research. To inform our study, we conducted a scoping review of published health research that uses WhatsApp as a data collection tool. A key reason for focusing on WhatsApp is the ability to retain contact with participants when they cross international borders. Five key public health databases were searched for articles containing the words 'WhatsApp' and 'health research' in their titles and abstracts. We identified 69 articles, 16 of which met our inclusion criteria for review. We extracted data pertaining to the characteristics of the research. Across the 16 studies-11 of which were based in LMICs-WhatsApp was primarily used in one of two ways. In the eight quantitative studies identified, seven used WhatsApp to send hyperlinks to online surveys. With one exception, the eight studies that employed a qualitative (n = 6) or mixed-method (n = 2) design analysed the WhatsApp content generated through a WhatsApp-based programmatic intervention. We found a lack of attention paid to research ethics across the studies, which is concerning given the controversies WhatsApp has faced with regard to data protection in relation to end-to-end encryption. We provide recommendations to address these issues for researchers considering using WhatsApp as a data collection tool over time and place.
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Utilizing an autoethnographic stance and method, this article is based on my experiences as a Malaysian postgraduate student in the United Kingdom. I draw upon my memories of dealing with Islamophobia and xenophobia while living there, as a Muslim and Asian woman. Anti-Asian sentiment and xenophobia can be experienced in many forms, ranging from feelings of discomfort to verbal insults and direct confrontation. As a visible Muslim and Asian woman, I reflect upon my own experience as a victim of verbal abuse on different occasions. This article offers an intersectional perspective taking into account interconnected and overlapping factors, such as gender, ethnicity and religion, to examine the multi-layered issues and challenges as an international student. I highlight the challenges in expressing and negotiating my intersectional identities while living temporarily abroad. Therefore, this article is very important to raise awareness about Islamophobia as well as inadvertent or deliberate xenophobia towards Asian communities.
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This paper investigates characters' quest for integration into the British society as presented in V.S Naipaul's The Mimic Men and Caryl Phillips's Cambridge. It equally seeks to examine the new identities which the West Indians and some Africans develop in the course of this integration. The hurdles of integration were one of the major problems that immigrants faced on their arrivals in major cities in the Western World, especially Britain. Most migrants overcame this barrier by abandoning their cultural identities in favour of the host's identity. The researchers approach the texts under study with qualitative method as well as the Post-Colonial theory to illustrate that immigrant' quests for integration expose them to new cultures. This study tentatively concludes that the quest for integration is the genesis of multicultural identities and cultural transformation in the Western World.
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As a result of the rapid evolution of computer culture, social media and networking websites now provide the primary socialisation platforms for individuals across the world. With characteristics such as transcending time, space, and even cultures, these platforms impact individuals through increased interactions. Although past research shows how social media impacts on individuals’ cultural affiliations and identity construction processes, research neglects to understand the role and impact of the characteristics of social media and networking environments as individuals engage in these virtual spaces. This paper uses Instagram as a case study, to demonstrate the liminal nature of social media spaces and looks at how this virtual space and its characteristics evoke a sense of reflexivity with regards to identity construction amongst young British Sikhs in the U.K. We highlight how the empowering characteristics of this virtual space impact their identity and just how the communities that are formed by individuals through Instagram, act as a further acculturative agent, as they attempt to deal with the tensions that they experience as a result of being both British and Sikh. Findings implicate how brands can engage with and support the individuals going through this reflective identity re/construction process.
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The Asian Migrant’s Body: Emotion, Gender and Sexuality brings together papers that investigate the way Asian migrants experience, think about, perceive and utilize their bodies as part of the journeys they have embarked on. In exploring how bodies are physically and symbolically marked by migration experiences, this edited volume seeks to move beyond the immediate effects of hard labour and (potentially) exploitative or abusive situations. It shows that migrants are not only on the receiving end where it concerns their bodies, nor are their bodies only utilized for their work as migrants: they also seek control over their bodies and to make them part of strategies to express themselves. The collective papers in The Asian Migrant’s Body argue that the body itself is a primary site for understanding how migrants reflect on and experience their migration trajectories.
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Social media usage has been recognized as an integral part of immigrants' acculturation experiences, yet research on social media is just emerging, and more detailed understanding is needed. Drawing on the interactive theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation (ITCCA), the current project used a mixed-method approach to understand how Chinese immigrants' social media use influences their acculturation experiences. Through focus groups and a survey, we examined which social media platforms Chinese immigrants use and for what purposes during their acculturation process, and what influence social media use has on their acculturation process in Canada. Our findings expand the scope of the ITCCA and offer important practical implications for service providers supporting newcomers.
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This paper underlines the importance of emotional and physical anchoring within international student experiences of dislocation, migration and place, noting the complex role of various media in situating students as at ‘home’ and/or ‘here’. Growth in the transnational mobility of international students is transforming infrastructures across ‘host countries’ globally. Yet, in these significant transformations, we are yet to fully understand how international students negotiate a sense of place and ontological security (Giddens 1991 Giddens, A., 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press. [Google Scholar]). Based on a qualitative study involving over 270 students at a large public university in Australia, this paper examines the everyday practices and negotiation of ‘feeling rules’ (Hochschild 1983 Hochschild, A.R., 1983. The Managed Heart: Commercialisation of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press. [Google Scholar]) of mainly Chinese international students around the rhythms and connections of digital and legacy media. Our findings suggest international students navigate a central structural tension: seeking out affective security and insulation from the risks of mobility, while continually being encouraged to push beyond their comfort zone.
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A series of studies of acculturative stress is reported, involving immigrants, refugees, Native peoples, sojourners and ethnic groups in Canada. Acculturative stress is defined as a reduction in health status (including psychological, somatic and social aspects) of individuals who are undergoing acculturation, and for which there is evidence that these health phenomena are related systematically to acculturation phenomena. A theoretical model and a comparative framework are presented within which the empirical studies were conducted. A total of 1,197 individuals were studied in the last decade and a half, using a common indicator of acculturative stress, for which reliability and validity indices are presented. Results indicate substantial variation in stress phenomena across types of acculturating groups, and across a number of individual difference variables (such as sex, age, education, attitudes and cognitive style), and across a number of social variables (such as contact, social support and status). A need for further comparative studies is identified so that acculturation phenomena may be understood in terms of their origins in variations across host societies, across acculturating groups and their interactions.
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A region of dramatic growth and transformation, Asia is witnessing an ever accelerating flow of capital, goods, and people, both within and beyond its geographical boundaries. Accordingly, domestic and international migration has also intensified in this thriving continent. Underlying this ceaseless flow of people is a rich technological landscape that enables communication links between migrants and their left-behind families, albeit with uneven levels of access to technology that translate into variations in the quality and nature of communication. Such long-distance communication has been revolutionised by new media, including various Internet- and mobile phone-based platforms. This chapter charts key trends in migration within Asia through a systematic review of key literature, and explains the critical role that new media platforms play in the process of migration, from the establishment and sustenance of emotional bonds to the generation of capital that can contribute to improved job opportunities and an enhanced quality of life.
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When young people interact, they absorb the peer culture that underpins and sustains their relationships with each other. Peer culture encompasses norms and conventions, shared interests and activities, and the unique modes of communication deployed in the afore-mentioned elements. The ways in which young people integrate their media consumption into their peer culture is the focus of this chapter. Specifically, it examines how young people incorporate media content into their peer interactions and appropriate a variety of communication platforms to socialize with their peers, thus generating distinctive traits, norms, practices, codes and shared identities that make up their unique peer culture(s). It covers the three salient ways in which young people around the world today interact with one another: face-to-face, via the mobile phone and over the Internet’s myriad communication channels. The chapter then provides a closer examination of youth subcultures that are media-based and media-facilitated.
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This review presents the contributions of anti-foreigner sentiment research, its theoretical and methodological limitations, and potential solutions for its further development. Six different explanations are proposed to account for the distribution of anti-foreigner sentiment within and across countries: economic competition, human capital, cultural affinity, social capital, political values, and the institutional environment. In this review, we argue that much of the extant literature heavily emphasizes variables, rather than causal mechanisms, and exhibits three main methodological limitations: (a) variable selection bias; (b) determining causality; and (c) endogeneity. We propose synthesizing prevailing theoretical perspectives around causal mechanisms and reformulating predictive models to strengthen a promising research program.
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Social networking sites (SNSs) are important tools for college students to maintain and develop social capital. Yet, few studies on the social implications of using SNSs have focused on international students and their use of different social media platforms for social capital. This study aims to fill this gap by examining the implications of using host country and home country SNSs for social capital among Chinese international students in the United States. A survey of Chinese international students at a large public university (N = 210) reveals that both Facebook and Renren use are positively associated with bridging social capital but not with bonding social capital. Facebook use has a stronger relationship with bridging social capital than does Renren use. Yet, only Renren use has a significant and positive relationship with maintaining home country social capital. These results have practical implications for international students to develop different types of social capital through different social media platforms.
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How do social media facilitate adjustment to changes in social structure and culture? This research examines the impact of online social networking on online and offline social capitals and adjustment of international students in the United States. A survey of 195 international students in a major Midwestern university showed that students’ interactions with Americans and home country friends using Facebook, extroversion, and horizontal collectivism were positively related to international students’ social adjustment and online bridging capital. Facebook usage mediated the relationship between extroversion and online social capital. The implications of social network site use, personality, and cultural difference on social capital and adjustment are discussed.
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Contract workers from the Philippines make up one of the world's largest movements of temporary labor migrants. Deirdre McKay follows Filipino migrants from one rural community to work sites overseas and then home again. Focusing on the experiences of individuals, McKay interrogates current approaches to globalization, multi-sited research, subjectivity, and the village itself. She shows that rather than weakening village ties, temporary labor migration gives the village a new global dimension created in and through the relationships, imaginations, and faith of its members in its potential as a site for a better future.
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This paper analyses the impact the phenomenal growth (2002–2009) and rapid decline (2010–2012) of Indian student numbers has had on the city of Melbourne. Specifically addressing the way the debate developed over the allegedly racially motivated attacks on students in 2009 the paper examines how conflicting narratives on Indian students could emerge presenting them as ‘victims’ and/or ‘profiteers’. Making use of an analysis of over a thousand media reports as well as drawing on ethnographic material the paper argues that the way the debate about the racist character of the attacks unfolded in popular media is revealing of the way the growth in Indian students in Melbourne has been experienced and perceived over time. In particular the entanglement of education and migration in Australia, allowing Indian students to become permanent residents by graduating from low-quality institutions, contributed to the perception of them being low-skilled migrants and as such ‘profiteers’. As a result the paper not only shows how a rapidly growing and highly commercial education industry was able to influence the dynamics and socio-cultural make-up of the city of Melbourne but also how the entanglement of education and migration produced a volatile situation with ultimately far reaching social and economic consequences for the city.