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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for One (1) Year

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Gretchen B. Rossman

Second Advisor

Ryan Wells

Third Advisor

Laura A. Valdiviezo

Subject Categories

Higher Education | International and Comparative Education


This dissertation situates current Tibetan international students and returnees in the unprecedented changing phenomenon of the global flow of people, knowledge, and culture within the trend of the higher education internationalization. Informed by the discourse of transnationalism, this research explores lived experiences and identity of Tibetan international students and returnees during their international education mobility journeys, it questions how their academic and social experiences in the U.S. are intertwined with their everyday negotiations of identity, network, and culture. In addition, the study examines how, why and to what extent have Tibetan international students’ overseas educational experiences impacted the personal, professional development and identities of those who returned to work in China/Tibet. Adopting a qualitative thematic analysis approach, the study recruits sixty-five Tibetan international students and returnees who are either currently studying at the U.S. universities or graduated from such higher education institutions. It collects data through interviews, surveys, texts, documents, and videos from Chinese social medias, in addition, through research memos. Data collection is centered around participants whose lived academic and social experiences, as well as cultural practices and perceptions on identity. Findings demonstrate significance of phayul, a Tibetan word for homeland, as an abstract transnational social field in Tibetan international students’ education mobility and its impact on their lived experience abroad. Tibetan international students bring their cultural practices and Buddhist values to their new transnational space, such practices including burning incense and chanting mantras. Such movements of cultures across borders are ways for the participants to reconnect with their homeland and rework their identity. In return, their everyday cultural practices, and rituals in the transnational space, reshape their identity.


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