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Being Chinese or Being Different: Chinese Undergraduates’ Use of Discourses of Chineseness

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Myths about “the Chinese learner” developed from an outsider perspective abound in the Western world. The focus of this article, however, is how discourses of Chineseness were used by the Chinese international students themselves who, as undergraduate students in a New Zealand university, were the subjects of my doctoral research. It examines the students’ notions of Chineseness and how these served in explaining their own narratives, either through identifying with, or distancing themselves from, “Chinese” traits, indicating alternatively a shared experience of the challenges of the new academic culture, or marking themselves out as having a special ability to thrive within it. Whichever way they used them, the discourses seemed to serve a purpose of fortifying their sense of identity and membership. By the end of their study, they were able to reflect carefully on their experiences and discuss new third space identities in which both Chinese and New Zealand values were forging new realities for them.


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