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Title:Finding one's own place in transnational lives: life trajectories, careers, and self-identities of Japanese young people who studied abroad
Author(s):Furukawa, Chie
Director of Research:Trent, William T.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Trent, William T.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Herrera, Linda; Lo, Adrienne; Pillow, Wanda S.; Abelmann, Nancy A.
Department / Program:Educational Policy Studies
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
study abroad
Abstract:This dissertation describes how Japanese young people find their own places in their transnational lives. Based on in-depth interview research, their individual life trajectories are traced to explore how they have been struggling to establish their way of lives, work careers, and self-identities. The interviewees are 12 Japanese people including 3 males (roughly 18-40 years old), who are current or former students of ESL (English as a Second Language) schools or community colleges in several cities in the US, and have stayed or lived in the US for an extended period (minimum one year). People with a wider range of age than what people usually may expect to be as "young people" are included in this research, considering "precariousness" (Allison, 2013) widely shared by contemporary Japanese people, particularly those who are relatively young. They tend to have specific difficulties with their unsettled statuses, especially in their employment conditions. The concept of self-identities, which was indicated as one of the key aspects of late modern societies, are applied as a conceptual lens to understand how young people find their own places in the era of flexibilities and uncertainties (Giddens, 1991). Self-identities refers to personal and reflexive projects finding who they are, what they want to do, and what they prioritize. The dissertation pays particular attentions to how transnational experiences of Japanese young people are contextualized at the intersections between education, work, relationships, families, and Japanese communities. Previous studies on study abroad and transnational migration explain motivations for study abroad predominantly by desires either for economic success in globalized labor markets or for international cultural-experiences. On the other hand, a couple of distinct trends have been identified to explain the purposes of transnational migration by the Japanese: 1) Escape from undesirable work/social environment, and 2) Self-discovery. My pilot interview research particularly aimed for uncovering what "self-discovery" means in the life contexts of the Japanese young people. The research targeted Japanese students who have studied in the US for about a year on an average. The research revealed the term "self-discovery" means to them the processes where they try to find ways to live with more confidence in their life choices, including their future work career and relationships with their partners/families. They prioritized that they are psychologically ready for the future career to what they actually are going to do. It is also suggested that their perspectives on the Japanese society tend to change positively over time, whether or not they escaped from Japan. This dissertation attempts to further articulate how they find their own places and ways of living by focusing on longer-term processes and to know what makes them to continue to stay abroad. This attempt is also situated as a pursuit of answers to two broader questions raised based on the review of previous research. The first one is if and how study abroad or transnational migrations that started with study abroad function as beneficial "psychological moratoria" to deal with the questions of self-identities, which many people commonly have in late modern societies. The second question is regarding possibilities that any kind of personal statement/social critique by each transnational migrant/mover will lead to more collective social changes that mitigate/solve oppressions and difficulties that today's Japanese, particularly young, people experience.The interview data was analyzed qualitatively, while individual stories were ethnographically described to deeply understand each life context. The analysis of the interview research in this dissertation demonstrates that not many of them had a serious conflicts against their social environment in Japan or extremely strong dissatisfaction against "Japan" in a general sense to the extent to call their actions as "escape" or "exodus", although it is still critically important to focus on the serious conflicts some of them indeed had. Instead, they expressed that they had their own personal agenda in their processes of exploring self-identities and deciding who they are and what they do. Study abroad often functioned as a way to tackle the agenda. The Japanese young people who started their studies at an ESL school or community college find their own places and their ways of living at the intersections between 1) education, 2) work, 3) relationships and families, 4) certain communities that may or may not include the Japanese, and finally, 5) relations to Japan and people living there. Finding their own places does not mean they can choose whatever places and lives without any constraint. When they prioritize their education and work opportunities, staying in the US may be the only choice for them. When they have partners and families, they are usually essential part of their lives. Their life choices start to be largely influenced by the significant others and they often have to make a choice against their original career plans for the sake of benefits of families. Their relations to Japan and the Japanese people including both those living in Japan and those in the US are often complex and ambivalent. They do not necessarily consider that a Japanese community exist just because there are Japanese people around. Even so, the relative generosity and flexibility of the diverse US society is supporting their transnational lives in many ways. The Japanese people able to feel their different ways of living are accepted in the US. Such a flexibility of the society, including lack of the second chances, is the factor that Japan needs to learn. While people’s actual lives in Japan are already flexible and unstable especially in terms of their job statuses, it seems the socio-cultural norms/expectations do not follow them well.
Issue Date:2016-04-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Chie Furukawa
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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