They Come, They Experience, They Change?: International Students’ Educational Experiences and Perceptions of China Amidst the COVID-19 Outbreak

Presenter: Dr. Qiuping Pan
Author and Affiliations:
Dr. Qiuping Pan, University of Melbourne
Minghui Ye, University of Melbourne; Huaqiao University (China)

China has become one of the most popular study destination countries. In less than a decade, the number of international students in China has increased by 185%, from 265,090 in 2010 to 492,185 in 2018. However, as scholars have noted, similar to other non-English speaking countries, China remains understudied in the existing literature concerning international education. This research is an attempt to address this gap. It investigates the experiences and perceptions of international students studying in Chinese universities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, it engages with the literature on international education and public diplomacy to examine the under-examined policy assumption that international education can effectively serve China’s public diplomacy purposes and enhance its international image. The pandemic represents a suitable context to test this assumption. Because, while China has made great effort in recruiting and welcoming international students, the pandemic seems to have triggered strong racism and xenophobia in China as media reports suggest. Moreover, recent research also suggests that international students may experience stronger feelings of being unsupported and unwelcomed due to online teaching and lack of support and social contacts during the pandemic. This research thus asks: how has the COVID-19 outbreak affected international students’ experiences and in turn changed their perceptions of China? To answer this question, this research draws upon both quantitative and qualitative data from surveys and in-depth interviews conducted among international students enrolled in Chinese language learning programs in two Chinese universities. By focusing on students enrolled in similar Mandarin-learning programs, the design of this research also allows it to explore how nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, and linguistic and cultural background can intersect to result in varying experiences and perceptions among international students. As such, this research can contribute both empirically and theoretically to the emerging literature on international education in China.

About Authors

Dr. Qiuping Pan

Affiliation/s: Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Melbourne

Dr. Qiuping Pan is a research fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Melbourne. She completed her Ph.D project, which revolves around the transformations of overseas Chinese communities in Australia, at the University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on examining the opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls associated with transnational mobility for the lived experiences and social practices of individuals, social diversity and inclusion, nation-building processes, as well as global linkages. Her main research fields include Migration Studies, the Study of Chinese Overseas, China Studies, and Nonprofit Studies.

Minghui Ye

Affiliation/s: Chinese Language and Culture College, Huaqiao University, China

Minghui Ye is a teaching fellow in Huaqiao University, China. Specialised in Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages, she has been teaching Chinese language and culture to international students for 6 years. Her research interest mainly focuses on intelligent teaching, Chinese international education, and Chinese international students’ educational experience.

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