Gap year and millennials: New research investigates the long-term effects of overseas experiences on young Australians

A young woman photographing a building in the sunset.

Whether it be as overseas workers, international students or travellers, young people between the ages of 25-39 today account for the greatest number of long-term departures amongst Australians. At this time of year in particular, high school and university graduates have the opportunity to choose their next path, and many will consider an overseas experience.

A new research project (opens in a new window)led by Dr Shanthi Robertson (opens in a new window)from the Western Sydney University Institute for Culture and Society, Professor Anita Harris from Deakin University and Professor Loretta Baldassar from the University of Western Australia, explores the reasons for high levels of international mobility amongst young Australians, and the challenges and experiences that they encounter in an increasingly globalised world. The research will look at young people aged 18-30, as they move in and out of Australia, to understand its effect on their economic opportunities, social and family ties, and sense of citizenship.

“Many young people today are looking to create global careers and lifestyles, and see living overseas as providing exciting new skills and experiences, or just a break from the traditional life-path”, Dr Robertson says.

“But while overseas experiences bring many benefits, they also bring challenges, including feelings of precariousness and an insecure future,” she says. “We want to understand the long-term effects of mobility on young people’s lives.”

She says that the new Youth Mobilities, Aspirations and Pathways project will help to improve the experiences of young people by advising government and non-government stakeholders such as youth social services, travel services, recruiters and education providers on how to best meet their needs.

Dr Robertson draws on the findings (opens in a new window)from a three-year research project (opens in a new window)on the experiences of young Asian migrants in Australia, saying that a sense of insecurity can be particularly strong for temporary migrants living and working here.

“Many young people who come to Australia temporarily end up staying on for extended periods, transitioning across different visa categories over time.”

“However, while the experience of living in a different country can be really rewarding and help young people to gain independence, it can also be economically difficult and socially challenging to make life decisions and transitions to adulthood alongside decisions of when and how to stay, leave or return. Everything from career pathways to romantic relationships can be effected by uncertain migration timelines.”

The Youth Mobilities, Aspirations and Pathways project is currently seeking participants (opens in a new window)to take part in research and is also offering a scholarship opportunity (opens in a new window)for a PhD candidate.

About the project

The Youth Mobilities, Aspirations and Pathways project is funded by the Australian Research Council and led by Professor Anita Harris, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University, Loretta Baldassar, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia and Adjunct Principal Research Fellow at Monash University, and Dr Shanthi Robertson, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Culture and Society, Western Sydney University.


23 January 2019