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What is the meaning and the role of borders in the life of non-European international students in Finland?

By Alina Thimm


This research examines the role and meaning of borders in the life of international students by having a focus on the personal border stories of international students acquired through a problem-centred interview (Witzel, 1982). The mental aspect of borders has so far been overlooked in the border research. Therefore, the question aroused whether the classical border definition needs to be updated based on the students’ personal border stories. This is done by comparing the border stories with other researchers’ border definitions. Furthermore, when investigating the role of borders in an international students’ life, a paradoxical treatment by the Finnish authorities was discovered. A phenomenon which Moskal (2016) describes as ‘liberal paradox’. For this reason, I decided to also focus on whether the liberal paradox, meaning the states caught between open and closed borders, can really be discovered in Finland. This is done by comparing the interview content with the statements of the Finnish government and the University of Helsinki. The data is analysed with of Grounded Theory by Glaser & Strauss (1967). The analytical results can show that the liberal paradox is existing in Finland in the following areas: residence permit, travelling, banking and working. However, international students are in general satisfied with the situation. Problems are only reported at the beginning of the studies, when the residence permit is expired and after graduation. Furthermore, the working regulations are not satisfying international students. Even though the liberal paradox seems to be not severe from the international students’ perspective, it would be advisable for the Finnish government to improve the conditions in the listed areas. Border regulations do matter when an international student is choosing a country to study in abroad. Nevertheless, international students do not oppose border regulations in general, they are rather in the support of the regulation if the implementation is fair. In the end, international students also struggle with the liberal paradox and do not find it realistic to have a world without borders despite their dreams about it. The more theoretical part of the analysis of this master thesis can prove that researching the mental aspect of borders would be a valuable addition for the border research. However, a totally new border definition is not needed. Mezzadra & Neilson (2012)’s approach to treat borders as a method proved to be a sufficient approach as it allows the inclusion of personal border stories (Mezzadra & Neilson, 2012)

Topics: international students, liberal paradox, update border definition, personal border stories, Finland, Sosiologia, Sociology, Sociologi
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Year: 2018
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