The Role of WeChat in Building Relationships amongst International Students


  • Ke Chen University of Canterbury
  • Cheryl Brown
  • Kathryn MacCallum



social media, International students, Connecting peers, WeChat, New Zealand, Higher Education


In recent decades, there has been an increase in studies on international students’ use of social media in their host countries. However, there has been limited investigation on how these students utilise social media to help them learn and adjust to their new surroundings. The purpose of this study is to find out how one group of Chinese international Students (CIS), utilised WeChat to support their living and study through building relationships amongst each other in New Zealand (NZ). Nine in-depth individual interviews were conducted focusing on critical incidents that these students experienced while studying in NZ. The analysis of these incidents yielded several themes. The findings identified that CIS used social media in many different ways but primarily to help them maintain and create social networks in their host country, construct and sustain community, and engage in peer interactions and collaborative learning. Overall, CIS frequently utilised WeChat for connecting with peers to cope with variety of issues, including emotional support, building a social network, an outlet to vent about stress, isolation and depression, amongst many others. This study highlights the importance of social media in creating a sustainable connection amongst peers that contributes to student wellbeing in the higher education sector.