Jinze Mi, '23

Going Home? The Experiences of Chinese International Students Dealing with Coronavirus

Over the past two centuries, five generations of Chinese students arrived in the United States with a resolution to serve their families and revive their homeland, but also curious to learn about other countries and different ways of life. In past decades, many Chinese students studying abroad have struggled to decide about their lives after college or graduate school: where did they want to live and to work and why? Where did they feel most happy or most at home? Often these questions were not easy or clear to answer. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., 360,000 Chinese students were studying in America. Some returned home immediately, but many have been on the fence for weeks or months, trying to decide whether to go home or to stay in the States, during a time of worsening relations between the two countries. In this project, I will interview Chinese students in the States, in mainland China, in Hong Kong, and in Taiwan about their experiences during the pandemic. I will look at how they are encountering prejudice, sometimes in the States, where the virus has been called “kung flu” and blamed on China, and sometimes in their home country, where people are calling students studying abroad unpatriotic and warning they could be bringing the virus back with them from the West. How is the experience of the pandemic prompting them to think about their own identity, or about the similarities and differences between China and the U.S.? What are the different stories they have heard about the virus in different countries? I hope this project will shed light on family relationships, information flows on mass media, and reconfiguration of national pride during this time of crisis.