Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Judith A. Ponticell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Johanna Lasonen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janet Richards, Ph.D.


international admissions, language support programs, student experiences


Because of the tremendous growth of Chinese international students’ enrollment in American higher education and the rapid rise and development of Pathway programs in American universities, I determined the main purpose of this research was to determine the experiences of three Chinese international students in a Graduate Pathway program at a public four-year university in the Southeastern U.S. Three research questions were addressed:

  1. How do three Chinese international students describe their academic experiences in a Graduate Pathway program in the U.S.?
  2. How do these students describe differences in their learning experiences between the U.S. and China?
  3. How do these students describe their co-curricular experiences in a Graduate Pathway program in the U.S.?

To better understand the experiences and challenges of international students, I conducted a qualitative exploratory study to examine the experiences of three Chinese international students, using narrative representations of those experiences.

I collected data through in-depth interviews. I used reflexive thematic analysis to analyze the data. I identified eight broad themes in this study: accomplishment, resources, instructional style, ambitions, lifestyle, social interactions, institutional support, and culture shock. Across these themes, students’ stories revealed their thoughts, beliefs, comprehensions, and factors motivating them to face challenges. In my representation of their narratives, I intertwined my personal recollections as a Chinese international student, illustrating shared commonalities and differences.

Leadership, faculty, and staff at universities and language training institutes must understand how Chinese international students experience academic learning and co-curricular experiences in the U.S., what challenges they face, and what supports are needed from universities and language training institutes for them to achieve academic success.

The Chinese international students participating in this study recommended changes to the Graduate Pathway program: (a) improve academic training quality, (b) provide daily language training, and (c) promote student services support. Their recommendations informed the implications of the study both for improving practice in the Graduate Pathway program and for potential future research related to Undergraduate Pathway programs and increased online learning.