Quarantined between cultures: Using a participatory research approach to empower Chinese students residing in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic

Rodney H. Jones
Authors and Affiliations:
Rodney Jones, University of Reading
Sylvia Jaworska, University of Reading
Zhu Hua, University of Birmingham

This paper reports on the use of a community-based participatory approach to understanding the communication challenges of Chinese university students studying in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese students comprise the UK’s largest proportion of international students and are important to HEI’s financial sustainability. While residing in a foreign county in the midst of a global pandemic is difficult for all international students, Chinese students face unique challenges arising from their exposure to sometimes contradictory media messages, their differing expectations and practices when it comes to public health and personal hygiene from much of the UK population, and the threats of racial discrimination and COVID-19 related stigmatisation that they have faced. In the project, five participant-researchers from the Chinese-student community were engaged for six months in exploring how they and their peers accessed and evaluated information, negotiated intercultural differences, and coped with COVID-19-related stigma, and how these processes affected their attitudes towards studying in the UK. Throughout the project, participant researchers took responsibility for setting the research agenda, interpreting the findings, and devising creative and culturally appropriate ways to communicate the results to policy makers, university authorities and other students. The results will improve the ability of universities in the UK to support Chinese students and international students more generally , and the unique participatory approach developed in the project can be adopted to studying and supporting other multicultural/multilingual communities in the UK during times of crisis.

About Authors

Rodney H. Jones

Affiliation/s: University of Reading
Email: r.h.jones@reading.ac.uk

Rodney H. Jones is Professor of Sociolinguistics and Head of the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading. He works in the areas of intercultural health communication and digital literacies.

Sylvia Jaworska

Affiliation/s: University of Reading

Dr Sylvia Jaworska is Associate Professor of Professional Communication at the University of Reading. Her areas of research include institutional communication and corpus assisted discourse analysis.

Zhu Hua

Affiliation/s: University of Birmingham

Zhu Hua is Professor of Educational Linguistics, International lead for the School of Education, and Director of the Mosaic Group for Research on Multilingualism at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on intercultural communication and the experiences of migrants in the UK.

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