Training for flexibility: discourses and practices of international student travel
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the invocation of flexibility as an institutional rationale for encouraging international student mobility. I argue that this invocation acts more as a canon of ideological faith than a simple description of training practices.
Paper long abstract:
As in many other Western countries, across a variety of Canadian sectors and institutions, including those of government, tourism, and academia, an increasingly expansive set of rhetorical claims portray international student and youth mobility as a crucial tool of training and international exchange. An extended sojourn abroad is often represented as inculcating a capacity for flexibility because students learn new ways of doing things while working or studying outside their own country. And the capacity for flexibility supposedly denoted by a stay abroad is seen as providing students with marketable career credentials while also enhancing Canada's national competitiveness in the global economy. Yet there is little substantiating evidence either that students learn new skills relevant to their future careers or that their stays abroad will have any impact on their attractiveness to future employers. In this paper I will argue that the identification of international experience with flexibility functions more as a canon of ideological faith than a simple description of training practices. But is this faith in internationalism legitimized by reference to flexibility or faith in flexibility legitimized by reference to internationalism? This paper thus seeks to work through the ideological impetuses for a particular institutional invocation of flexibility.
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