As of 2019, nearly 370,000 students from the People’s Republic of China were enrolled at a U.S. college or university. 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 surveys and 17 interviews of Chinese students at Emory University in the span of three years, our study highlights how Chinese students navigate the complex application process and identifies the key factors influencing students’ decisions, such as with regards to the political and economic status quo of the United States and China, parent-student aspirations, and the perceived value of an overseas education. Furthermore, based on recent interviews with over 20 Chinese students at Emory University, we will discuss the unique challenges and concerns of Chinese students studying in the U.S. during COVID-19 that provide early insight into how online learning might shape future patterns of international student migration.
Levin Arnsperger, Emory University, United States
Hong Li, Emory University, United States
Michael Cerny, University of Oxford, United Kingdom