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An Exploration of Generation Z Chinese International Students’ Sense of Belonging

Yin, Shengjun (2023) An Exploration of Generation Z Chinese International Students’ Sense of Belonging. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Large number of existing studies employ acculturation as the framework to explore Chinese international students (CIS), which recently have been criticized from post-colonial perspectives (Spencer-Oatey et al., 2007; Tierney, 1999; Yao, 2015). With Gen Z Chinese international students step into American higher institutions, this study aims to expands the understanding of Gen Z CIS by learning their undergraduate experience and position them as part of the university members at the first place. Through the conceptual framework sense of belonging, which is defined as “the students’ perceived social support on campus, a feeling of connectedness, or that one is important to others” (Strayhorn, 2012, p.16), I examined whether CIS’s undergraduate experiences on-campus and their relationships with others help them feel belonging to their university community. Twelve senior Gen Z CIS were participated in the semi-structured two rounds of interviews using smallball and purposeful sampling (Patton, 2002). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith et al., 2009) were employed to generate the results.
Four key themes emerged from the data. First, Gen Z CIS place a huge focus on academic success, as well as the aspects that lead to it, including, but not limited to, devotion to their studies, faculty-student interactions, and research and internship opportunities. Secondly, the quality of interactions with their American peers, faculty, and staff is extremely crucial, as whether the feedback they receive makes them feel accepted and valued or like an outsider will end up influencing their perceptions of the community as a whole and affect the degree to which they wish to engage and join. Finally, Gen Z CIS’ were able to use the skills they had acquired from their previous experiences to make themselves part of the university community, while at the same time maintain their bond with the Chinese community.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDeAngelo, Linda
Committee MemberGunzenhauser, Michael
Committee MemberMcClure,
Committee MemberTseng, George
Date: 11 January 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 August 2022
Approval Date: 11 January 2023
Submission Date: 12 December 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 127
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sense of belonging, Chinese international students
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2023 19:32
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2023 19:32


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