Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2023 Moe Htet Kyaw. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department

First Advisor

Lisa Smulyan


The dominant frameworks of analysis in the international student migration literature characterized students’ decision-making processes as dichotomous or binary through consideration of either push/pull factors or professional, sociocultural, and personal factors (Alberts & Hazen, 2005; Guo, 2010; Wang & Miao, 2013). More specifically, generalizations have been made regarding specific demographic factors such as nationalities, socioeconomic status, and/or gender. The goal of this study was to examine the differential experiences of Chinese international students. Through an initial survey of broad student experiences and basic demographics followed by interviews, I was able to highlight the heterogeneity of students’ experiences and provide a more nuanced view of individual narratives. Student experiences were then characterized in three interrelated stages of their narratives: experiences before departing China and motivations for coming to the US, experiences during their arrival in the US and at Swarthmore College, and their future aspirations and pathways. The findings suggest 1) the incompatibility between homogeneous frameworks of nationality and actual student experiences, 2) the interdependence of past, present, and future experiences, and 3) the agency students hold in the course of their personal development. As a result, implications include 1) shifting away from deficit frameworks and towards culturally responsive frameworks, 2) moving beyond temporally static frameworks by the implementation of longitudinal designs, and 3) rejecting passive frameworks by recognizing student agency.

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Education Commons