Parachute Kids from Korea: Motivation, Institutional Forces, and Adaptive Experiences of K-12 Early Study Abroad Migration

Open Access
Lee, Jennifer
Graduate Program:
Educational Theory and Policy
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 07, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Mindy L Kornhaber, Thesis Advisor
  • Soo Yong Byun, Thesis Advisor
  • parachute kids
  • early study abroad
  • South Korea
  • study abroad agency
  • education migration
This study investigates the experiences of parachute kids, who are generally East Asian K-12 school age minors living overseas and attending school without the accompaniment of their parents. The study particularly focuses on expanding the understandings on why and how young adolescents from Korea arrive in the U.S. alone for educational purposes. A qualitative approach was taken in this study, particularly using the tools of face-to-face interviews and open-ended questionnaires. Ten Korean college students and graduates living in the U.S. were recruited to provide a retrospective view of their experiences as parachute kids. Findings show that students’ motivation for coming are generated by push and pull factors stemming from the social, political, and economic dynamics of Korea, and perceptions about the American dream. Participants’ experiences indicate the existence of an institutional infrastructure aiding the migration process of parachute kids. Students experienced highest stress in adjusting to host families and lower stress in adapting to schools and academics. Lastly, students’ self-motivation for coming abroad is found to influence their satisfaction and view of success in their early study abroad experience. This research suggests policy implications and future research directions for ensuring safe and healthy adjustment for parachute kids arriving to the U.S.