Thai university students studying in China: Identity, imagined communities, and communities of practice

Mark Feng Teng, Gavin Bui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research on studying abroad has documented the value of exploring students' interactions with the members of their host community with a focus on the theoretical concepts of identity, imagined communities, and communities of practice. Following this line of research, this qualitative study breaks new ground through investigating how nine Thai students studying in China navigated the complex process of identity negotiation in their imagined communities and communities of practice. This investigation revisits intercultural sensitivity, proximity and boundaries in exploring how the students' communities of practice afforded different opportunities to demonstrate their identities. The findings reveal that the students envisioned belonging to an imagined community of foreign students in China by demonstrating the identities of cross-cultural mediators and dedicated language learners. However, the misalignment between the students' imaginations and the realities in their host communities caused predicaments with their identity negotiation. The Thai students' multi-layered experiences and the social contexts of Chinese language learning influenced their identities, which in turn mediated their senses of belonging to imagined communities of Chinese speakers, and their self-perceived Chinese language competencies. Relevant pedagogical implications of the findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-368
Number of pages28
JournalApplied Linguistics Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • communities of practice
  • identity
  • identity negotiation
  • imagined community


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