Individualization and Its Effects: A Case Study of Chinese Students in the United States


This thesis employs the theory of reflexive individualization to analyze the educational and personal experiences of Chinese students who came to America for higher education. It draws on interviews of sixteen Chinese students who were juniors and seniors at the time the study was conducted. I found that study abroad in America often presented an imaginary utopia of choice and individuality for Chinese students, but the reality of study abroad was more complex than this portrait. My study shows that child-parent relationships are being renegotiated in China, and that these new family dynamics have an effect on the study abroad experiences of Chinese students. Students often praised American higher education for its freedom of choice and opportunities to develop a sense of self, but this newfound freedom sometimes complicated relationships with parents, a situation made even more confusing by the high tuition being financed with parental funds. I also found that study abroad promotes stresses due to a higher level of individualization in American society, such as lack of direction, regret about past decisions, and uncertainty about the future. In addition, this transnational approach to individualization is still largely constrained by nation-state boundaries and policies in the long-term.



Chinese students, individualization, study abroad, parent-child relationships