Asian International Student and Asian American Student: Mistaken Identity and Racial Microaggressions


  • HyeJin Tina Yeo University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
  • Ruby Mendenhall Carle Illinois College of Medicine
  • Stacy Anne Harwood University of Utah
  • Margaret Browne Huntt University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



race, stereotypes, microaggressions, Asian international students, Asian American students, higher education, racial campus climate, racialization


This study examines the experiences of Asian American students who are mistaken as Asian international students; it provides insight into domestic students’ perceptions of and potential racial microaggressive experiences of international students. Drawing from racial microaggressions survey data of Asian Americans, this study highlights the multiple layers of overt racism, microaggressions, and xenophobia directed against students who are perceived as Asian international students. The Asian American students’ narratives reveal that international students are often racialized by skin color, English proficiency, and nationality, which reflect U.S. racist framings of Asian Americans. Thus, we argue that racial experiences of Asian international students should be addressed as a part of U.S. racial ideology, notions of Whiteness, and racial microaggressions on campus.

Author Biographies

HyeJin Tina Yeo, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

HYE JIN TINA YEO, Ph.D. candidate, is in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her major research interests are motivated by the exploration of intersectional identities for international students; specifically how diversity, equity, racial formation, racial identities of international students contribute to identity formation at Predominantly White Institutions. She also has an interest in racial microaggressions and cultural/racial resiliency.

Ruby Mendenhall, Carle Illinois College of Medicine

RUBY MENDENHALL, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology and African American Studies and the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Her research examines how living in racially segregated neighborhoods with high levels of violence affects Black mothers’ mental and physical health using surveys, interviews, crime statistics, police records, data from 911 calls, and genomic analysis. She also employs big data to recover Black women’s lost history, studies the use of the Earned Income Tax Credit for social mobility, and examines how racial microaggressions affect health and sense of belonging of students of color on predominantly white campuses.

Stacy Anne Harwood, University of Utah

STACY ANNE HARWOOD, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah. Her major research interests include urban planning in multicultural communities; local immigrant integration and planning; racism in everyday integrated spaces; and cross-racial coalition building in working-class White communities.

Margaret Browne Huntt, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

MARGARET BROWNE HUNTT, Ph.D. is the Assistant Director for Strategic Research Initiatives and Chief Diversity Officer at the Cancer Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include issues relating to educational inequality and race and ethnicity with a focus on social stratification and mobility, equality of opportunity, and social and organizational change.


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How to Cite

Yeo, H. T., Mendenhall, R., Harwood, S. A., & Huntt, M. B. (2019). Asian International Student and Asian American Student: Mistaken Identity and Racial Microaggressions. Journal of International Students, 9(1), 39–65.