International Postgraduate Students’ Lived Experiences of Academic, Psychological and Sociocultural Adjustment During the COVID-19 Pandemic




international students, adjustment, pandemic, COVID-19


This in-depth qualitative study investigated how international students experienced academic, psychological and sociocultural adjustment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst a burgeoning body of research examines the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international students, few studies foreground students’ lived experiences. This study gathered data through semi-structured interviews with 30 international postgraduate students who undertook degree programs at British universities in 20-21. A thematic analysis revealed that COVID-19-related stressors negatively impacted students’ psychological adjustment and led to a sense of isolation and detachment from the host environment, with students reporting difficulties in instigating and maintaining social ties. Experiences of academic adjustment were nuanced, with findings suggesting that the pandemic acted as either a barrier or facilitator of adjustment, depending on the students’ personal circumstances. With global epidemics increasingly likely, the findings from this study can support higher education institutions in developing institutional policies on how to support their international students in times of global health crises.


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Author Biographies

Alina Schartner, Newcastle University

ALINA SCHARTNER, PhD, is a Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University in the UK where she teaches and researches intercultural communication. Her research interests include the internationalisation of higher education and the experiences of internationally mobile groups, in particular the adjustment of international students. Email:

Yao Wang, Newcastle University

YAO WANG is a PhD candidate at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK. Her major research interests lie in migration and social justice, decolonization and inclusivity of higher education, and experiences of international students.


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How to Cite

Schartner, A., & Wang, Y. (2024). International Postgraduate Students’ Lived Experiences of Academic, Psychological and Sociocultural Adjustment During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 16(1).



Empirical Article