As An International Student, Am I Contributing To The Brain Drain Of My Home Country?
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Politics and Activism

As An International Student, Am I Contributing To The Brain Drain Of My Home Country?

Short answer: it's complicated. Long answer: it's complicated.

Image of a U.S. passport.

Not to be that person, but if I don't reevaluate my whole existence and purpose every two days conveniently before finals, who am I?

Where is this coming from, you ask? I am currently taking a very interesting Developmental Economics class (Econ 112 for my fellow UCLA students) that deals with economic interactions between developing and developed countries (if you are annoyed by that terminology in the first place, I hear you and I feel the same) and how the exploitation (strong word yes, but I would argue that it is apt) of previously colonized countries is simply a matter-of-fact ongoing systematic oppression that is hard to realize even though you see it everywhere.

For an assignment, we had to choose a developmental issue that developing countries face and see what they are doing about it. I chose a topic that would interest me personally and more importantly, force me to face this lingering question that I have thought about since even before applying to higher education programs in different countries: brain drain.

Let's be completely frank here, I wrote the whole 4-page single-spaced paper a day before it was due and I do not know my grade yet, so if I bombed it? Well, a moment of silence for that. If you want to read it, hit me up but if I got a bad grade on it? Let us collectively pretend that this didn't happen.

My paper did not focus on personalized questions, instead, it dealt with policies of countries. Nevertheless, I will ask the personalized question here: am I contributing to brain drain and more importantly, do I have an obligation to care?

Brain drain refers to the loss of the academic and technological labor force through the moving of human capital to more favorable geographic, economic, or professional environments which translates to the ongoing globalization that facilitates movement of people who are able to move from countries that may not be able to provide them what they need/want to countries that might be able to.

Radical topic, yes but I would argue that it is important. I'm sure this article will not be a lot of people's cup of tea. That's fine. It wasn't my cup of tea either and I was too blissful in my not-knowing that I didn't even want to acknowledge it.

Let's not misunderstand: international students don't hate their countries. That is not what made them want to come (and maybe stay) in different ones.

There are nuanced reasons ranging from more exposure to a better salary that explain people moving from one country to another.

If everything in life was as clear cut as people try to make it out to be, what does that say about how we pride ourselves in our uniqueness?

As an international student in the USA, am I contributing to brain drain? The answer should indicate yes at first glance, but I think it actually is very complicated, like everything else in developmental economics. Which, if you have met me, you know I live for nuanced and complicated answers.

After making myself sit down and actually research it, I saw that the literature and research of brain drain included complementary ideas like brain circulation and brain gain, both of which I had never heard of.

Brain circulation is the idea that emigrating actually benefits both the destination country and the home country, not just the destination country. Brain gain, on the other hand, is the positive impact that an increase in the number of skilled workers in a country has as a result of immigration.

In recent years, there has been significant growth in the number of international students. In several developed countries, the inflow of foreign tertiary students has become a significant source of income for higher education (HE) providers and the economy as a whole (this is brain gain). However, this 'trade' in HE is unbalanced, with low‐income countries being significant net 'importers' of HE (here comes the brain drain).

An ongoing paper at Stanford University From Brain Drain to Brain Circulation and Linkage examines how brain drain isn't clear cut anymore because the highly skilled individuals that plan to stay in developed countries actually bring a lot of advantages to their home country, more than previously thought bringing popularity to the concept of brain circulation.

So, all in all, I would say brain drain is a complicated topic that varies in impact for different countries. The reality is that strictly speaking, brain drain is harmful to the economy of the home country but it also provides benefits that are only increasing with greater and easier connectivity between countries, not to mention benefits to the individual.

Does one have an obligation to care? That depends on how you classify your obligations and what you prioritize.

I guess my point is: the question of "am I contributing to brain drain?" is complicated and hard to answer. It is never clear cut but, like so many other things that involve people and trying to figure us out, it is worth pondering over.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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