The Temporal Experience of Chinese Students Abroad and the Present Human Condition

Anders Sybrandt Hansen


This article examines the experiences of Chinese elite university students abroad through the lens of temporality. In the struggle to get ahead, elite students are expected to carefully deploy their time. Studying abroad, it is argued, has become one more step in a culturally idealised temporal arrangement of how one is expected to go about advancing. The downside to this ethics of striving is shown to be a pervasive sense of restlessness (浮躁, fuzao). The article shows how relocating to a different life environment allowed a group of elite students to respond to their temporal predicament in existentially creative ways that registered socially as personal maturation. It is argued that these responses were set in motion by the students’ inhabiting an expanse of not-yet-purposeful time. Treating the temporal experience of Chinese elite students as a pronounced inflection of an increasingly global temporal mode of striving, the article enquires into the temporality of the present human condition.

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