Conference Paper

The Social Mobility Perception of Chinese International Students in the U.S.

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Abstract

This study explores the transitional identity of the youngsters who experience dual mobility—the horizontal mobility (geographic relocation) and the potential, upward mobility—in the process of pursuing higher education overseas. While individuals’ identity dynamics have been examined in multiple mobility forms such as migration, nomadism, and short-term travel, the identity project of international students has been underresearched even if these globally mobile youngsters represent a unique mobility form in which often only one county is deliberately selected for a motivated, fix-term, and voluntary relocation. While studying abroad can be simply viewed as an act to convert economic capital into the globally-recognized cultural capital, the interview data collected among international students from China reveal that the informants were aware of their capital loss as much as their capital gain. As a result, they developed an alternative framework to interpret their mobility experiences. This study illuminates the emerging market youngsters’ motivation to pursue higher education overseas when it no longer guarantees traditionally-defined upward mobility, and brings insights into the scholarship of youth culture regarding the youngsters’ value to define their social positions and to build social class boundaries.

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