Lost in Lockdown? The Impact of COVID-19 on International Student Mobility

Presenter/Author and Affiliations:
Jing Yu, University of California Santa Barbara


International higher education has experienced exponential growth in the past two decades. Due to the uneven power relations within the global context, the United States has been the number one “Educational Hub” (Knight, 2011) to lead internationalization of higher education in multiple forms, the top priority of which lies in international student recruitment and enrolment. While the rise of conservative populism and anti-immigration rhetoric after the election of Donald Trump as the President, the U.S. did not see a substantial drop in the number of international students, especially from mainland China. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 crisis thoroughly disrupts the traditional mobility experience and has broader implications for U.S. higher education. As the international mobility of Chinese students is a strong driver in global educational business driven by neoliberal ideology, the short- to mid-term effects of this disruption largely influence the overall student demographics for the coming academic year. Therefore, it is urgent to understand what factors will affect Chinese students’ decision making and how U.S. higher education institutions should adapt to this crisis as well as plan for an uncertain future. I propose to conduct a timely research project this summer to explore how COVID-19 affects Chinese students’ perspectives on their decisions to continue, defer, or drop study abroad for the next academic year and beyond. Likewise, the study will examine students’ attitudes toward how the U.S. government and their university are coping with the virus. I plan to recruit 20-25 Chinese undergraduate students enrolled into a US Research University in the UC system for individual interviews via Zoom. The empirically grounded qualitative data can provide U.S. institutional admissions and international student offices with sufficient information to restructure strategies for better accommodating Chinese international students’ needs in the midst of COVID-19.

About Author

Jing Yu

Affiliation/s: University of California Santa Barbara
Email: jing02@ucsb.edu

Jing Yu is a fifth-year PhD candidate in Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. She received M.A. in Foreign, Second and Multilingual Language Education (FSMLE) from the Ohio State University in 2015. Her research interests focus on international student mobility, recruitment, and enrolment as well as lived experiences of international students in the context of American higher education. In her dissertation, she majorly explores issues on inequality in international student mobility on a global scale and Chinese international students’ racialized experiences on and off the campus in the US. Ethnographic methodology has been adopted to investigate dissonances of institutional missions and international students’ realities. Her research responds to the growing need for insights into how to increase global equality in study abroad and student mobility.

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