Parents as protection from the market: how social class protects Nepali international students in Australian housing, work, and education markets
International students report heterogenous and varied experiences. For some, study in a foreign country is characterised by adventure, independence, intellectual stimulation, and frugal comfort. For others, the experience of studying abroad is characterised by hardship, precarity, exploitative work, and material deprivation. But why do these experiences vary so much? And what factors explain this variation? Existing studies on international students in Australia focus on drivers such as students' English language deficiency and poor government regulation of labour, housing, and education markets. Students with good (bad) experiences have good (bad) English, and happen to find employment, shelter, and training in well (poorly) regulated markets. This thesis builds on this work by arguing that these explanations leave out an important moderating factor - family social class - which effectively pre-sorts a large proportion of international students in Australia into 'low' and 'high' roads within the education, housing, and work markets. Using in-depth qualitative interviews with 12 Nepalese international students in Australia, this paper conducts a pilot study for a PhD, with the aim of testing the viability of a larger research project. This paper, first, articulates a framework for characteristing parental social class and how it gives rise to family social support during the migration experience. Second, it shows how family social support moderate students experiences of education, housing, and labour markets. I show that high family social class provides resources that a student can bring to bear in negotiating the challenges of migration and international education. I also show how a low family social class can leave students exposed to an exploitative labour and housing markets, and can undermine their ability to engage with their studies in Australia. The result is a cycle of disadvantage as their class position from their home country is reproduced and reinforced in their destination country. These findings suggest that poorly regulated markets in destination countries cause disproportionate hardship on international students of low social class.