Dreaming the life: international students and the temporal complexity of employability
Undergraduates today are required to make strategic decisions about where and what they study, and how they allocate time to studies, extra-curricular activities, and work. International students are likely to experience the pressure to capitalize on their time more intensely because of the high cost of their degree, the work required to acculturate, and the uncertainty of mobility aspirations. Drawing on multi-modal, longitudinal data from a small, diverse group of working international undergraduates at a Canadian university, this article examines how they respond to pressures to be planful, employable and productive. We find that students’ lived experiences contradict idealized discourses of youth mobility. While they feel pressure to make the most of opportunities, the cost of intensive work and constraints on choices are apparent. The effort required to acculturate makes it difficult for such students to be efficient in their use of time. Finally, attempting to keep mobility options open in multiple sites that are constantly changing requires that they invest a significant amount of time and energy. Socio-demographic differences and mobility histories influence students’ ability to choose and their experiences of term-time work, as well as their ideas about what constitutes an appreciable life.