International Mobility and World Development

This research project uses numerical and narrative data to examine the impact of international mobility on world development. International mobility is broadly understood as the mobility of students, professionals, and youth. International student mobility can be transformative in terms of developing student migrants’ knowledge and skills, social and professional networks, and civic consciousness. Studying abroad can have an impact on student migrants’ understanding of who they are, what they want to become, and how they see their role in society. Internationally mobile individuals depart from the familiar to the unknown. Crossing borders involves acquiring new knowledge and being exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking.

We are interested in understanding how those with experience of international mobility contribute to the development of their home countries; and the ways in which these individuals link their contributions to their formative experiences abroad. The project will compare the life stories of changemakers from various countries who have had international mobility experience and those who did not.

The existing scarce literature, including the work of the Principal Investigator of this project, offers some preliminary evidence on the ways in which the implications of studying abroad can go beyond the individual-level. Institutional and national contexts at home and abroad can influence the ways in which international experience impacts mobile individuals and their preparedness to impact system-level changes at home.

The project offers macro-level modelling of the links between student flows and national development indicators since the 1960s. At the same time, the project provides a nuanced analysis of how changemakers interpret the impact of their international mobility on their self-formation and how they connect such transformation with their societal contributions.

A particular area of interest is the system-level outcomes of international exchange experiences in the United States, including an understanding of the contributions of ECA (the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs at the US State Department) foreign exchange participants to the development of their home countries.

The research project covers all six regions of the world: Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, the Middle East and Northern Africa, South and Central Asia, and the Western Hemisphere.