Abstract: European countries such as Germany and Finland are increasingly interested in attracting and retaining international tertiary students to supply their workforces with highly skilled labor. However, the retention rate among international tertiary graduates is relatively low despite the favourable policy incentives. Drawing on field research on mainland Chinese tertiary-level students in Finland and Germany, this article unravels this “mystery” by pinpointing a trend towards a "weak integration trap" among Chinese students. Weak integration trap refers to the situation in which the students can ensure their survival, but lack the capability to pursue their aspirations, to gain access to valuable resources in the host society, or to become full members of that society. They may in consequence fail to complete their studies and remain in the host society after graduation as they desired, and may also lack a sense of belonging, or experience low levels of well-being.