Fighting Against Risks and Uncertainties

Chinese University Students’ Decision-Making About Study Abroad Under COVID-19


  • Wenqin Shen Peking University
  • Yilin Chai Peking University
  • Feifei Gu Peking University
  • Kun Zhang Peking University
  • Jing Feng Peking University
  • Xueting Liu Peking University
  • Ziyou Mo Peking University



COVID-19, studying abroad, undergraduates, China, risk, uncertainty, immobility


Building on a theoretical model of decision-making under risk and uncertainty, this paper examines how Chinese college students made decisions about international moblity or immobility during the Covid 19 pandemic. The paper finds that among the 118 interviewees, most continued to choose to study abroad, whilst some gave up after getting offers from prestigious Western universities. We further analysed the divergent patterns of two choices which can be explained by resilience to risks and uncertainties and lack of thereof. For those who have given up studying abroad, the symbolic capital and labor market advantages brought by degrees (especially master degrees) from Western universities have become uncertain and offset by the risk of the epidemic. These findings suggest that, in addition to safety, college students will prefer certainty more than before when choosing whether to go abroad and the study abroad landscape may change based on this mindset.

Author Biographies

Wenqin Shen, Peking University

Wenqin Shen, Phd, is an associate professor of higher education, Peking University. His work has focused on international academic mobility (especially the mobility of college graduates, doctoral students and postdocs) , doctoral career trajectories and the idea of liberal education.

Yilin Chai, Peking University

Yilin Chai, is a research assistant at School of Mathematics, Peking University.Her research interests are on international academic mobility, research productivity of doctoral students and early career researchers.

Feifei Gu, Peking University

Feifei Gu, is a master student of graduate school of education, Peking University. Her research interests are on international student mobility, geopolitics of higher education the intersection of international politics and higher education.

Kun Zhang, Peking University

Kun Zhang, is a master student of graduate school of education, Peking University. Her research interests are on international student mobility and sociology of higher education.

Jing Feng, Peking University

Jing Feng, is a master student of graduate school of education, Peking University. Her research interests are on international student mobility and transition from higher education to work.

Xueting Liu, Peking University

Xueting Liu, is a doctoral student of graduate school of education, Peking University. Her research interests are on Creativity in higher education, international student mobility and sociology of higher education.

Ziyou Mo, Peking University

Ziyou Mo, is a master student of graduate school of education, Peking University. Her research interests are on international student mobility and internationalization of higher education. 


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How to Cite

Shen, W., Chai, Y. ., Gu, F., Zhang, K., Feng, J., Liu, X., & Mo, Z. (2023). Fighting Against Risks and Uncertainties: Chinese University Students’ Decision-Making About Study Abroad Under COVID-19 . Journal of International Students, 13(3), 305–322.



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