International Student Migration: Pre-COVID Educational Paths of Chinese Undergraduate Students at Emory University


According to the Open Doors report published by the Institute of International Education (IIE), over 372,000 students from the People’s Republic of China were enrolled at a U.S. college or university in the 2019-2020 academic year (IIE, 2020). Often employing a ‘push-pull’ model of international student migration, prior academic research has sought to identify the primary factors which motivate Chinese students’ desire to receive an overseas education. However, the recent deterioration in U.S.-China relations, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, are expected to both alter and depress international patterns of Chinese student migration. Combining two datasets collected at Emory University in the past three years, our study investigates the pre-COVID educational paths of Chinese students from high school to American colleges and their motivations for pursuing undergraduate education in the U.S. Drawing from 190 survey responses and 15 interviews of Chinese students, our study highlights how Chinese students navigate the complex application process and identifies the key factors influencing students’ decisions, particularly with regards to the political and economic status quo of the United States and China, parent-student aspirations, and the perceived value of higher education in the U.S. At the end of the paper, we will discuss another set of 20 recent interviews with Chinese students at Emory, which provided insights into challenges and concerns of the students during COVID-19; these insights in turn prompt reflection of future patterns of international student migration.

Author Information
Hong Li, Emory University, United States
Levin Arnsperger, Emory University, United States
Michael Cerny, Hertford College in the University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2020
Stream: International Education

This paper is part of the ACE2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Li H., Arnsperger L., & Cerny M. (2021) International Student Migration: Pre-COVID Educational Paths of Chinese Undergraduate Students at Emory University ISSN: 2186-5892 The Asian Conference on Education 2020: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon