Academic Mobility and International Academics

Cover of Academic Mobility and International Academics

Challenges and Opportunities



Table of contents

(14 chapters)


Pages i-xx
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Section 1 Leadership


While emerging research suggests that women have made great gains within the higher education sector, significant challenges remain. Notably, women are still severely under-represented in leadership positions in the academe, and this is even more so for international academics. As an early-career academic, I am fortunate that my journey so far has allowed me to hold various leadership positions (both informal and formal). In this book chapter, I reflect on my own experiences. In so doing, I share insights into how to be an ‘opportunist’ in gaining leadership positions as a woman, breaking through the glass ceiling – that symbolic obstacle women hit – while being an international academic. The chapter starts with a brief overview of my background and my non-traditional pathway into the Sport Management discipline more broadly and the sub-discipline where I now feel at ‘home’. In what follows, I consider how some of the barriers and challenges I faced along the way have served to shape my future self. It is, perhaps, not without some degree of irony, that strategies I developed to mitigate or overcome these led to what I term self-created opportunities. The chapter then reflects on some of the successes I have achieved.


This chapter presents personal lessons that I have learned as an international academic from China to the United States, through my journey from an academic staff member to senior leadership positions in the field of education. Through overcoming barriers and seeking opportunities, I have learned the strategies of knowing ourselves, thinking critically, willingness to work on thankless assignments, broadening horizons, traveling, and ultimately, enjoying what we do.

Section 2 Experiences of Esteemed and Young Scholars


I worked as an academic in Malaysia prior to taking on a similar position at a research-intensive university in New Zealand. In this chapter, I discuss challenges I faced in the early stages of my career. I provide insights into my academic mobility strategies, adapting to a research-focused environment, understanding academic standards, becoming a prolific researcher/writer, transitioning to be a ‘slow’ academic and finally the pursuit of striving for work-life balance. I also share my success stories with a view that these would be of benefit to aspiring international academics.


The path to academic excellence is neither paved with roses nor easy; nonetheless, cautiously driving such a road has endless thrills especially when the driver is passionate about academia. This chapter intends to bring to the fore the hurdles I have been confronting in my academic path as an international scholar and a researcher in some of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, Malaysia and Canada (Global North and South institutions) for over 14 years. Hence, it mirrors my research experiences to guide Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and accentuates the importance of research culture, professional designations and networking with experts from other world knowledge bodies.


In the Malaysia National Higher Education Strategic Plan 2007–2020 and Malaysia Education Blueprint (Higher Education) 2015–2025, the country plans to become one of the international education hubs across the globe. One of the critical strategies is to increase the diverse number of international academics in Malaysian tertiary institutions. As an outcome of strategic initiatives derived from the blueprint, Malaysia has continuous recruitment of international academics in the country's universities. Against this background, this chapter will discuss my experiences as an international academic from Nigeria in a research institute in a Malaysian university. I will relate a few personal and professional issues and challenges that encountered in the course of my service in the country. I will then propose some practical suggestions to overcome these challenges.


The ivory tower of academia is intriguing yet an interesting place to enter, survive and thrive. As an international academic who has worked in four different countries, I ground my reflections in three spheres, namely my positionality, my institutional culture and global academic culture. In this chapter, I describe how these three dimensions may sometimes collide to induce conflict yet converge at some point to create a thriving space for international academics. I share my stories and lived experiences to elaborate on my experiences of challenges and opportunities in academia and share insights for those who seek to be a part of academia.


Numerous studies have explored international students' and graduates' experiences around the globe but with less emphasis on exploring international academics' experiences. Internationalisation of higher education is not only about international students, it also includes mobility of academic staff members. Therefore, this chapter reflects on my ups and downs as well as many other opportunities that I gained in a privileged journey as an international early-career academic from Malaysia. The chapter starts with my personal experiences of how I identify myself as an international academic, the motivations to migrate, professional challenges that I face not only as an international academic but also as an early-career academic, the strategies that I adopted to overcome the challenges and how I self-created opportunities not only for myself but also for other colleagues – international academics and early-career academics. I will end the chapter with significant successes that came my way.


Within a higher education system in Japan that is often regarded as insular, but which is increasingly striving to become more global in its outlook and makeup, we are classified as ‘international researchers’. Shannon entered Japan as a foreign migrant who was raised and educated in Australia, while Yusuke returned to his home country after 12 years abroad. This chapter provides an account of our personal experiences as two early career researchers beginning our academic careers in Japan.

Section 3 Personal and Family Experiences in Long- and Short-Term Mobilities


The Japanese government has introduced various policies to attract highly skilled professionals including foreign faculties at higher education institutions. However, there is little guidance for foreigners, especially from the Global South to navigate the job hunting process. When we came to Japan to pursue our doctoral studies (along with a 7-year-old and a 7-month-old), we did not plan to work here afterward. However, learning the language (even at survival level), finding a mentor (inside and outside the university), actively participating in academic conferences, and being the agent in our study and work helped us overcome the roadblocks.

In this chapter, a husband and wife reflect on their academic journey abroad – challenges and opportunities – in Japan. We hope that our experience and advice would be useful for young families interested in pursuing education abroad and perhaps working in Japanese academia.


Short-term international mobility has become popular among academics who are seeking new scholarly experiences abroad for a limited period. Short-term international mobility refers to staying abroad for a few days, weeks or months for scholarly work, although there is no specific definition of ‘short’. In this chapter, I describe my experience of a five-month international stay on my first sabbatical. After positioning myself as a researcher on academic mobility and a mobile academic, I describe the international mobile experience from preparing to travel to returning home. Based on personal reflections, the chapter shares the challenges that early-career academics might confront and offers strategies to enjoy meaningful experiences in short-term mobility.


In this chapter, we explore our academic mobility journeys – with particular consideration of the role of gender, class and sexual identity. The chapter takes shape as a dialogue, where together, we discuss the challenges and opportunities we encountered, the strategies we enacted and the successes we have had as scholars on the move. By having a conversation with an-Other about our mobile subjectivities, we hope to offer points of reflection for other international academics as they contemplate or negotiate their own movements.


Pages 201-205
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Cover of Academic Mobility and International Academics
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Surviving and Thriving in Academia
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