Welcome to the official webpage of the ‘Media and Transient Migrants in Australia and Singapore: Mapping Identities and Networks’ research project.

This three year project (2013-2016) project is funded by the Australian Research Council under its Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) fellowship scheme and based at RMIT University.

The temporary migration of people for work, study and lifestyle takes place on a global scale. Transient migrants are part of the ethnographic landscape of every nation, yet very little is known about how they negotiate everyday life in transience and the impact this has on their identities.

This project is a journey of discovery into the evolving cultural and social identities of transient migrants in two of the most notable destinations in the Asia-Pacific: Australia and Singapore. Both nations are host to large numbers of international students and professional skilled workers while Australia is a favourite destination of working holiday makers.

This project aims to ‘translate impermanence’ and interprets everyday life as made up of social networks and the media. In other words, who are the friends that transient migrants hang out with and how do they use entertainment and communication media to cope with living away from home.

The best way in which to learn about the everyday lives of transient migrants is to ask them. Over two hundred participants were interviewed in Melbourne and Singapore while more than 400 people responded to online surveys launched Australia and Singapore wide.

While the project is primarily undertaken by Chief Investigator Catherine Gomes from RMIT University, research assistants were invaluable in providing support in arranging for interviews in both Australia and Singapore and for helping conduct interviews while in Singapore.

At various points in this project, Basil Alzougool, Amber Yew, George Mouritidis, Joshua Wong and Dora Constantinidis were involved in this journey of discovery.


Asian international students in Australia strongly identify themselves as international students and form a parallel multinational society made up of fellow international students that has very few connections to Australian society.

There is a relationship between media consumption, social networks and identity in the international student experience.On the surface, international students tap into entertainment media and social networks as sources for various and sometimes interrelated reasons such as relaxation, community and wellbeing (e.g. to de-stress).On a deeper level however, entertainment media and social networks also help to maintain existing national and cultural identities in addition to aiding in the formation and reinforcement of new yet temporary ones such as being an international student.

Asian international students in Australia turn to familiar experiences that reflect their circumstance (as international students) and background (nationality, culture and language) in order maintain a sense of their everyday life during their Australian stay.

Asian international students form social networks with other international students mostly from their home nation as well as from Asia.These social networks helped international students by providing community support while living a transient life in a foreign nation.

Asian international students also admitted that they had very few or no local friends and found it difficult to identify with both “Australians” and Asian-Australians (and their concerns), thus making it difficult for them to feel “at home” in Australia, other than through international student networks.

International student participants generally considered Australians to be exclusively white/Caucasian rather than ethnically diverse.

Asian international students are not one dimensional but diverse actors whose individual tastes in the entertainment media is also reflective of their cultural diversity.This cultural diversity though is rooted in the consumption of transnational entertainment products (film, television and music) which many were already consuming in the home nation.While some of these entertainment productions came from the home nation and from other parts of the Asian region, the majority came from America (e.g. Hollywood).This diversity however does not include Australian-made productions, which unfortunately leads to a further lack of (cultural) connection to the host nation.

International students in Australia have aspirations for transnational mobility where they see themselves as living, working and/or studying further in countries other than their home nation. While they express devotion to their families in their home nations and are open to living longer in Australia through work and/or permanent residence, they are keen to explore the cities of America, Europe and Asia that are beyond their respective national borders. This eagerness for aspirational transnational mobility seems to be based on their experiences as international students learning to successfully live in a foreign nation through the social networks they make while in Australia and connecting with the home nation through social media.

In Singapore, Christianity functions as a culture of mobility for Asian transient migrant that allows for connections to the homeland to be maintained and a sense of belonging to the host nation to be created – both of which take place through the concept and active practice of community.

Asian international student participants have a laissez faire relationship with the host nation which they express as form of mild integration with indifference on social media and in their social relations. This fair weather connection to Singapore takes place even though Singapore’s multicultural population reflects the ethnic demographics of a number of participants, the Singapore government is uncompromisingly welcoming to international students, most participants have been studying in Singaporean institutions since their early teens and a majority of the group intend to take up permanent residence.