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"I Just Strong Myself": Stories of Oppression and Resilience Among Chinese International Students
Willard, Tanya

2017, Doctor of Philosophy, Miami University, Educational Leadership.
Chinese international students make up the majority of international students on United States college campuses. Yet, the experiences of this population have received little attention. Much of the existing literature is informed by a deficit perspective, which assumes that students’ challenges are due to either individual or cultural differences. I argued that there is a third possibility. I used critical narrative inquiry and decolonization to explore Chinese international student experiences in classes, and to reveal the systems and structures that create their lived experiences.

I conducted three interviews each with seven Chinese international students at Miami University. Data collection also included document analysis and an examination of social media sites, particularly Yik Yak, in order to better understand the campus climate. Major findings of this study include evidence of invisibility, racism, and colonization in participants’ classes, and resilience in the face of oppression.

This study confirms that Chinese international students experience challenges in class. Students struggled to keep up in class discussions and group work, were hesitant to seek help from professors and peers, preferred to be in classes with other Chinese international students, and actively sought out opportunities to be with their Chinese peers outside of class.

This study also revealed the structures that “affirm and perpetuate a system of coloniality” (Kerr, 2014, p, 87) and racism. What appeared on the surface as students’ reluctance to seek help from peers and professors because they cannot speak English is actually the result of a system that asserts that there is such a thing as standard English, and that positions English at the top of a linguistic hierarchy (Tsuda, 2008). Racism and colonization oppress Chinese international students by devaluing their language, their culture, and in effect, their personhood. Students’ stories also revealed the ways they embodied resilience, particularly through speaking up when they are not being heard in their classes, and establishing “homeplace” (hooks, 1990).

The findings of this study reveal the myriad ways that Chinese international students’ experiences are deeply rooted in system of oppression such as racism and colonization. This study has implications for conceptualizing the experiences of Chinese international students in United States higher education, and I suggest possible avenues for future research. I also provide recommendations for faculty and administrators for creating a campus culture that honors the voices of this population.
Kathleen Goodman (Committee Chair)
Elisa Abes (Committee Member)
David PĂ©rez (Committee Member)
Virginia Wickline (Committee Member)
199 p.

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Willard, T. (2017). "I Just Strong Myself": Stories of Oppression and Resilience Among Chinese International Students. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Willard, Tanya. ""I Just Strong Myself": Stories of Oppression and Resilience Among Chinese International Students." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2017. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 23 Oct 2017.

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Willard, Tanya ""I Just Strong Myself": Stories of Oppression and Resilience Among Chinese International Students." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2017. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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