Wee Loon Yeo
(University of Western Australia)
Paper long abstract:
In 2007, I carried out ethnographic research on a group of Southeast Asian international students who have called St Andrew's Grammar School, a private all boy's boarding school in Western Australia, their home away from home. The boarding school, located in an affluent, leafy suburb appeared to be a cynosure of multicultural harmony, where the students live highly regulated lives. The research sought to find out how international students came to terms with cultural differences and positioned themselves in a complex environment such as a boarding school. Conversations revealed that this highly mobile group of students were constantly confronted with the dilemma of belonging and where home was for them. For these boarders, 'home' became as Baldassar (2001) describes, a shifting centre which does not stabilise. Hence, this centre was wherever the boarders were not.
Drawing on my experiences in the fieldsite, I discuss the international students' search for 'home' and their gradual acceptance of calling the boarding house a place where they belong. This discussion will also explore the boarders' reaction to cultural differences and its influence on their demarcation of home.
At home in mobility: ethics of hospitality and belonging