Transcendence of Time and Space: The Lived Experiences of Chinese International Graduate Students in the United States
Hultgren, Francine H.
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This phenomenological study explores the lived experiences of seven Chinese international graduate students in the United States. The students in this study range in age from the twenties to thirties and are pursuing advanced degrees in various disciplines including Education, American Studies, Economics, and the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The phenomenological question is: What are the lived experiences of Chinese international graduate students in the United States? This research is conducted in the tradition of hermeneutic phenomenology drawing on the work of philosophers such as Heidegger, Gadamer, Dilthey, Merleau-Ponty, and Casey as foundational "grounding" for the study. Each of these philosophers brings key foundations to help illuminate the phenomenon, through such existentials as lived body, space, time and relation. Van Man provides the methodology to guide the study. Through individual conversations with each participant, the themes generated revolve around orienting to a new environment, both academically and socially; finding familiarity in the midst of unfamiliarity, while living in between two languages and two cultural worlds, both literally and metaphorically. Their journey to the U.S. is a journey with possible return to their home country; however, the return to their past and familiar practices is transformed and different. Their self-doubt and identity navigation are all revealed in this dissertation, such as their eagerness to "fit in" the U.S. environment while still making an effort to maintain their "Chineseness." They also desire to establish friendships with Americans, contribute to their study fields, and experience the joy of freedom to achieve their "American Dreams." This study concludes with pedagogical recommendations that can help international students become more self-oriented and find fulfillment in their studies. The importance of listening and genuine care surfaced. In addition, it takes more a collaborative effort amongst different academic and support units to create a home community where international students can find places to belong.