“Why Do They Hate Us?”: Learning from the Racialized Experiences of Chinese International Students in the United States during COVID-19


  • Charles Liu Michigan State University, USA
  • Cheng-Ching Liu Michigan State University, USA
  • Ravichandran Ammigan University of Delaware, USA
  • Michael Kaplowitz Michigan State University, USA




Chinese international students, diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice (DEIBSJ), student success


In this qualitative study, we explore Chinese international students’ overall racialized experiences at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at a predominantly white institution (PWI) in the United States. Using in-depth one-on-one interviews and a focus group, we shed light on the impacts of xenophobic incidents against Chinese international students and how institutions of higher learning could better serve all of their students. Three main themes emerged from our findings: (a) racial resiliency in the face of discrimination, (b) positive self-concept through group support, and (c) increased motivation to advocate for themselves. Implications from this study provide a basis for how institutions could design, shape, and engage in initiatives that improve success for Chinese international and other minoritized students.


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Author Biographies

Charles Liu, Michigan State University, USA

CHARLES LIU, J.D., Ph.D. Candidate, currently serves as associate director for university advising at the office of undergraduate education, at Michigan State University (MSU). He has earned his Juris Doctorate from Ave Maria School of Law. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) program at the College of Education at MSU. His research interests include institutional practices and policies that affect student success initiatives. Email: charlie7@msu.edu.

Cheng-Ching Liu, Michigan State University, USA

CHENG-CHING LIU, Ph.D., MBA, R.N., is an Assistant Professor at the College of Nursing, at Michigan State University. Her research interests include international students' health promotion, self-care, and well-being. Email: chengliu@msu.edu.

Ravichandran Ammigan, University of Delaware, USA

RAVICHANDRAN AMMIGAN, PhD, is the Associate Provost for International Programs and an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Delaware, USA. He leads his university’s internationalization strategy and global engagement efforts and directs the Center for Global Programs and Services. His primary research focuses on the student experience at institutions of higher education globally. Email: rammigan@udel.edu.

Michael Kaplowitz, Michigan State University, USA

MICHAEL D. KAPLOWITZ, J.D., Ph.D., is a professor of environmental policy and sustainable development at Michigan State University. Kaplowitz also serves as one of two MSU Faculty Athletics Representatives to the Big Ten and the NCAA. In addition to teaching multiple sections of Introduction to Community Sustainability, Kaplowitz co-facilitates intergroup dialogues on race for faculty and staff at MSU. His research includes international and US-based projects with students and colleagues focused on improving community well-being and sustainability. Email: kaplowit@msu.edu.


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