Based on a project on Chinese Malaysians’ educational mobility across the Chinese-speaking world, this paper highlights their reasons for attending university in Taiwan while examining their subjective formations as ethnic Chinese vis-à-vis transnational processes. Resulting from ethnographic and interview-based research conducted in 2019–2021, the findings demonstrate that the students’ choices for higher education are, to a great extent, culturally driven and historically contingent. Thus they provide an alternative view to the dominant paradigm of international student mobility that emphasises economic and future career incentives. By focusing on three factors—state racism, historical connections, and Sinophone cultural consumption—that motivated them to leave Malaysia and go to Taiwan, this paper moreover draws attention to the transnational infrastructures (e.g. policy, media, interpersonal networks) that have continually reproduced and transformed a long-existing migration pattern.