Student v. Migrant | By Anushka Mehta

It would be remiss for me to begin my post this week without acknowledging the US Presidential election this week, and the waves of hateful rhetoric and actions that have taken place since then. With numerous stories floating around about Days 1-4 in ‘Trump’s America,’ (just take a look at Shaun King’s twitter handle), migrants are one of the (many) major groups in the population that are being targeted with hate-speech and crime. For example, a Google employee had this happen to him on Day 1 after the election:

Tweet that reads:

More examples can be found here, as well.

For the purposes of this blog post, I want to continue Tiffany’s discussion of the dichotomous relationship between student/migrant as epitomized by the Afghani migrant/student (Zekria) profiled in News Deeply. As students across the country that look ‘Other’ face vile behavior by their peers, the categorization of ‘student’ versus ‘migrant’ becomes ever more confusing. Zekria states that he would prefer to be perceived as an international student rather than a migrant. However, the current political climate in the US suggests that neither ‘student’ nor’ migrant’ have positive connotations here, as long as the person in question looks sufficiently ‘different.’

Recently, polls conducted for Universities UK (the representative organization for Britain’s universities) found that “less than a quarter of adults think of international students…as immigrants.” While the British government plans to restrict international student numbers to tackle growing ‘problems’ with immigration, the poll also reveals that a “vast majority of people do not want their numbers to cut,” according to Brendan O’Malley of University World News.


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“Two-thirds said that international students have a positive impact on the local economies of the towns and cities that they study in, and three in five (59%) agreed that their economic contribution helps create jobs.” — The Guardian

Through this rhetoric, we see examples of British perceptions of international students as economic producers; and we can extrapolate reasons for Zekria’s desire to be viewed as student rather than migrant (specifically, refugee). He wants to be perceived as someone who can realize his full potential through education, and become an economic producer, rather than someone viewed as a ‘welfare recipient.’


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Interestingly, this is at odds with much of the rhetoric in the US during this election cycle. Blatant racism has shaken the country to its core, with students from primary school through university becoming targets of hate (again, just take a look at Shaun King’s twitter handle). It is an interesting duality, then, to consider Brexit, and the British people’s desire to clamp down on immigration because immigrants were ‘stealing jobs,’ while simultaneously welcoming international students and considering them as boosts to the economy. How does this fit in with American rhetoric of anti-immigration, ‘job-stealing immigrants’ who are simultaneously ‘lazy’ and ‘reliant on the welfare state?’

The inconsistencies abound. Is Zekria’s desire to be viewed as a student more reflective of a British perception of students versus migrants? Does it matter if Zekria is a ‘student’ or a ‘migrant’ in the US, Britain, or other immigrant-receiving countries? Or would Zekria’s status as ‘other’ prevent him from being viewed as anything other than a ‘migrant?’


King, S. Twitter Handle. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from

Majidi, N. (2016, October 21). Call Us ‘Students’ Not ‘Refugees,’ say Afghans Migrating for Education. News Deeply. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from

O’Kane, S. (2016, November 10). Day 1 in Trump’s America. Medium. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from

O’Malley, B. (2016, October 14). Case for crackdown on student immigration unravels. University World News. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from

The Guardian (2016, October 13). Most Britons do not see foreign students as immigrants, survey shows. The Guardian. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from


One thought on “Student v. Migrant | By Anushka Mehta

  1. najibmadiha says:

    This post resonates with anyone who is an international student because the identity of the other is something that you cannot shed. I now wonder how much I would even want to get rid of my identity as the ‘other’. Sadly, being the ‘other’ automatically makes one susceptible to be viewed as an economic burden even when that isn’t the case.


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