Pathways to imagined futures: Transitional challenges in higher educational migration

Meredith Joy deChabert, University of Pennsylvania


This study explores ethnographically the pathways to imagined futures that late adolescent Caribbean-American female students follow; the dimensions along which they make transitions in the process of educational migration; the kinds of transitional challenges with which they are faced and the ways in which they cope; and the roles played by their high school and postsecondary schooling contexts in facilitating or complicating their transitions and pathways. The first phase of data collection took place over a six month period on the Caribbean island of St. Croix and focused on the experiences of 19 female high school juniors and seniors at Beachside High School (BHS) as they prepared to migrate to the U.S. for college. The second phase of data collection took place in the United States over the course of a year and a half, during which time six graduates of BHS were observed and interviewed at their respective colleges. Data collection strategies included participant and direct observation, focus group interviews, telephone and electronic mail correspondence, surveys and questionnaires, and in-depth interviews. Ethnographic analysis revealed that BHS promoted a myth of “success,” defined as unlimited future possibilities following from participation in higher education in the U.S. Pursuing success required academic achievement at BHS, which required students to negotiate their Crucian ethnicity. Despite gaining access to higher education, BHS students faced challenges in the U.S. shaped by their transitions from a private high school to college, from St. Croix to the U.S., and from late adolescence to early adulthood. In the U.S., Crucian students were situated within sites of struggle around academics, financial limitations, heterosexual desire and the negotiation of gender roles, and social constructions of race and ethnicity that destabilized the BHS myth of success. Three pathways to imagined futures emerged. Two women followed the “traditional” college student pathway, finishing undergraduate degrees in eight semesters. Two followed an alternative pathway because of their experiences with early parenting but managed to finish their degrees. The remaining two were unable to manage transitional challenges and withdrew from higher education. Recommendations for future research on transnational higher educational migration are included.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Higher education|Cultural anthropology|African Americans

Recommended Citation

deChabert, Meredith Joy, "Pathways to imagined futures: Transitional challenges in higher educational migration" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3125805.