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The Rise of Late Study Abroad: South Korean Educational Migrants in Los Angeles

Carolyn Areum Choi, University of Southern California

This paper examines contemporary patterns of educational migration to the U.S. using a case study of South Korean educational migrants –the third largest foreign student population in the nation (after China and India). Specifically, it seeks to address the rise of “late study abroad” (study abroad post-high school) in transnational migration trends and how migratory pathways for language and/or higher education are increasingly used as strategies for upward mobility and (re)settlement among mid-to-working class South Koreans especially women. Previous research on student migration has primarily focused on the experiences of elite children and adolescents studying abroad in Western countries. However, since the 1990s, the liberalization of trade relations in education and tourism among Global North countries have opened up short-term overseas opportunities for non-elite adult groups who increasingly combine learning with labor and leisure migration. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork from 2013-2014, this study examines working Korean educational migrants attending colleges and/or English language schools in Los Angeles to investigate the ways practices of labor, learning, and leisure (3Ls) increasingly intersect in migrants’ classed and gendered lives. This work offers an intersectional approach to literature on transnational migration and Korean migration, stressing the need to analyze categories of migration simultaneously.