Coping and adjustment during COVID-19

Experiences of Chinese international doctoral students in the United States




While the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in China impacted Chinese international students’ families’ lives, the spread of the virus in the U.S. heavily influenced their own. Drawing upon the stress and coping model (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), this qualitative study unpacks Chinese doctoral students’ experiences and coping at one large research university in the U.S. during the pandemic. The open-ended interviews with eight Chinese international doctoral students revealed the stressors associated with the sudden changes in participants’ personal, social and academic lives. Findings showed that participants experienced learning obstacles, health concerns, funding uncertainties, and limited social interactions. Participants mainly utilized emotion-focused strategies to cope with the daily life stressors, the tense political climate and hate speech targeting Chinese people in the U.S. This study contributes to the dialogue about stress coping in the pandemic and suggests education practitioners possible improvements in student services.


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How to Cite

Zhang, J., & Sustarsic, M. (2022). Coping and adjustment during COVID-19: Experiences of Chinese international doctoral students in the United States. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 14(3b).



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