Intimate relationships and mobility intentions of Thai international students in Chinese universities: A gendered analysis
Abstract Although extant research has found family critical in understanding international student mobility, studies focusing on the role of intimate relationships, such as marriage or romantic relationships, are few in number and typically with a backdrop of the Global South‐to‐North mobility pattern. Based on data collected among Thai nationals studying in Chinese universities, intimate relationships are found in this study to pull partners across borders towards each other. This general trend nevertheless hides a stark disparity between genders in the sense that people are attracted by intimate relationships and in their mobility intentions. Contrary to popular belief, women in this study are less attached to their intimate relationships. Instead, they strategically plan on going to places where better chances for self‐realisation exist. By examining Thai female international students' cross‐cultural experiences and real‐life situations, we suggest that their compatriot intimate relationships often fail them because more than their share of household chores are stuck with them, even when they study abroad. Female international students in this article are neither willingly docile nor overtly rebellious, rather, they practically manoeuvre and cope according to their transnational circumstances and capabilities. The implication of these more mobile female international students on gender relationships is also discussed in light of Bourdieu's practice theory. Results in this study contribute to the understanding of international student mobility by focusing on intimate relationships and by incorporating a gendered and critical perspective.
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