Lost in Lockdown?

The Impact of COVID-19 on Chinese International Student Mobility


  • Jing Yu University of California Santa Barbara




international student mobility, US higher education, international students, China


Due to uneven and hierarchical global context, the United States has been the world’s number one “Educational Hub” (Knight, 2011), leading the internationalization of higher education in multiple forms, the top priority of which lies in international student recruitment and enrollment. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has thoroughly disrupted the traditional mobility experience—a situation that has broader implications for the demographic landscape of US higher education. This article explores how COVID-19 and pandemic-related Sinophobia affect Chinese students’ perspectives on their educational decision-making. Based on Zoom interviews of a sample of 21 Chinese undergraduate students, this study demonstrates that despite the leading role of the US in international education, it is gradually losing appeal to Chinese students due to disillusionment with the romanticized imaginary of the US, anxiety about uncertain policies, and safety concerns. The unidirectional student mobility from mainland China to the US may be interrupted with Singapore and Hong Kong as the emerging destinations.

Author Biography

Jing Yu, University of California Santa Barbara

Jing Yu is a PhD candidate in Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. She received M.A. in Foreign, Second and Multilingual Language Education (FSMLE) from the Ohio State University in 2015. Her research interests focus on international student mobility, recruitment, and enrolment as well as lived experiences of international students in the context of American higher education. In her dissertation, she majorly explores issues on inequality in international student mobility on a global scale and Chinese international students’ racialized experiences on and off the campus in the US. Ethnographic methodology has been adopted to investigate dissonances of institutional missions and international students’ realities. Her research responds to the growing need for insights into how to increase global equality in study abroad and student mobility.





How to Cite

Yu, J. (2021). Lost in Lockdown? The Impact of COVID-19 on Chinese International Student Mobility. Journal of International Students, 11(S2), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11iS2.3575