This is an outdated version published on 2021-06-15. Read the most recent version.

A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Inquiry at a Canadian University

Protective and Risk Factors for Chinese International Students in COVID Times with Gender Comparison


  • Lin Ge University of Regina, Canada



Chinese international students, COVID-19, resilience theory


This hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry explores the lived experiences of Chinese international students at a Canadian university in COVID times with gender comparison. Ten participants between 20 and 30 years of age are interviewed via Zoom meetings and WeChat videos to reveal specific insights they have gained from their experiences. Based on resilience theory as a theoretical framework, the findings display the students’ protective factors, including internal assets and external resources, i.e., perceived competence, coping skills, self-efficacy, family connectedness, parental support, peer support, school connectedness, and community support, and the risk factors the students face during these challenging times, i.e., academic barriers, mental issues, health threats, and racial prejudges. The interactions of protective factors and risk factors are examined, in reducing or avoiding the negative effects of adversity exposure. Special resilience-based interventions are discussed.

Author Biography

Lin Ge, University of Regina, Canada

LIN GE is a Ph.D. in Education at the University of Regina, Canada. Her major research interests lie in the area of marginalized groups’ education research, higher education research, trans-cultural education research, and social and philosophical foundation of education research. She was a reviewer in 2019 CASWE-ACFTS conference and reviewed and offered feedback for 130 proposals submitted. She has been a reviewer in the Journal of International Students since 2019. Besides, she is an associate copyeditor in Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education. Email:


Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Benjamin, T. L., & Black, R. S. (2012). Resilience theory: Risk and protective factors for novice special education teachers. Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, 5–27.

Boardman, J. D., Blalock, C. L., & Button, T. M. M. (2008). Sex differences in the heritability of resilience. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 11(1), 12–27.

Chao, C. G. (2016). Decision making for Chinese students to receive their higher education in the U.S. International Journal of Higher Education, 5(1), 28–37.

Ching, Y. R., Renes, S. L., McMurrow, S., Joni Simpson, J., & Strange, A. T. (2017). Challenges facing Chinese International students studying in the United States. Educational Research and Reviews, 12(8), 473–482.

Creswell, W. J., & Poth, N. C. (2018). Qualitative research design: Choosing among five approach (4th ed.). Sage.

Fergus, S., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2005). Adolescent resilience: A framework for understanding healthy development in the face of risk. Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 399–419.

Fischer, K. (2020). Confronting the seismic impact of COVID-19: The need for research. Journal of International Students, 10(2), i–ii.

Garmezy, N., Masten, A. S., & Tellegen, A. (1984). The study of stress and competence in children: A building block for developmental psychopathology. Child Development, 55, 97–111.

Ge, L., Brown, D., & Durst, D. (2019). Chinese international students’ experiences in a Canadian university: Ethnographic inquiry with gender comparison. Journal of International Students, 9(2), 582–612.

Gill, R. (2020, June 7). Asian communities across Canada report rising racist behaviour during COVID-19 crisis. GLOBAL NEWS.

Gomez, C., Kalata, N., Singh, I., & Loiero, J. (2020, March 24). International students feeling isolated and financially strapped as they wait out pandemic. CBC NEWS.

Government of Canada. (2020, April 24). Current situation.

Graber, R., Pichon, F., & Carabine, E. (2015). Psychological resilience: State of knowledge and future research agendas. Overseas Development Institute,

Gu, Y. D. (2020, June 29). Chinese international students face COVID-19 dilemma: Stay put or spend big bucks to go home. Cronkite News.

Hammond, C. (2018). Five myths about loneliness. BBC.

Husserl, E. (1980). Phenomenology and the foundations of the sciences. Martinus Hijhoff Publishers.

Jones, W. T. (1975). The twentieth century to Wittgenstein and Sarte (2nd ed.). Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Kandil, C. Y. (2020, March 26). Asian Americans report over 650 racist acts over last week, new data says. NBCNEWS.


Li, Z. (2016). Chinese international students attending American universities: How can we help you? A qualitative study on Chinese international students’ acculturation experiences (Publication No. 5872) [Doctoral dissertation, Brigham Young University]. BYU Scholars Archive Thesis and Dissertations.

Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative research in education: A users guide. Sage.

Lin, X., Su, S., & McElwain, A. (2019). Academic stressors as predictors of achievement goal orientations of American and ESL international students. Journal of International Students, 9(4), 1134–1154.

Luthar, S. S. (2006). Resilience in development: A synthesis of research across five decades. In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology: Risk, disorder, and adaptation (pp. 739–795). John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Ma, C. X. (2020). At present, 1.42 million students are still abroad and most of them choose to stay here. SOHO.

Modaq. (2020). Canada: an update on Canada’s travel ban resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.


Masten, A. S., Cutuli, J. J., Herbers, J. E., & Reed, J. M-G. (2007). Resilience in development. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 117–131). Oxford University Press.

Moir, M. (2020, May 27). Despite hesitations, these Chinese students say they still plan to study in Canada. UA AU.

Oramas, J. E., Gringarten, H., & Mitchell, L. (2018). Chinese students in U.S. universities: A qualitative study of cross-cultural learning experiences, transition and adaptation. Journal of International & Interdisciplinary Business Research, 5(3), 20–40.

Ortiz, A., Chang, L., & Fang, Y. (2015, February 2). International student mobility trends 2015: An economic perspective. World Education News and Reviews.

Psychology. (2020). Resilience in counseling. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from

Rutter, M. (1985). Resilience in the face of adversity: Protective factors and resistance to psychiatric disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 598–611.

Rutter, M. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57, 316–331.

Rutter, M. (2003). Genetic influences on risk and protection: Implications for understanding resilience. In S. S. Luthar (Ed.), Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities (pp. 489–509). Cambridge University Press. /10.1017 /CBO9780511615788.022

Savin-Baden, M., & Major, C. H. (2013). Qualitative research: The essential guide to theory and practice. Routledge.

Schwartz, I. (2020, March 12). Media called coronavirus “Wuhan” or “Chinese coronavirus” dozens of times. Real Clear Politics.

Sharp, A. (2020, April 30). Nerves, anxiety and hunger for international students during COVID-19. Canada’s National Observer. https://www.national

Statistics Canada. (2016). International students in Canadian universities, 2004-2005 to 2013-2014. Author.

University of British Columbia. (2020). Keep learning.

University of Regina. (2017). Statistics.

University of Regina. (2020). Emergency funding.

University of Winsor. (2020). Emergency bursary funding. https://www. centre/287/emergency-bursary-funding

Usher, B. P. (2020, July 24). Why US-China relations are at their lowest point in decades. BBCNEWS.

van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. State University of New York Press.

van Manen, M. (1993). The tact of teaching: The meaning of pedagogical thoughtfulness. The Althouse Press.

Wilson, H., & Hutchinson, S. (1991). Triangulation of qualitative methods: Heideggerian hermeneutics and grounded theory. Qualitative Health Research, 1, 263–276.

World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Wu, H. P., Garza, E., & Guzman, N. (2015). International student’s challenge and adjustment to college. Education Research International, 2015, 1-9.

Xu, K. Y. (2020, July 12). Chinese students concerned over visas, being used as pawn in US immigration battle in election year. GLOBAL TIMES.

Yan, A. (2015). Why Chinese parents are sending their children abroad to study at a younger age. South China Morning Post.

Zagar, R. J., & Busch, K. G. (2009). Empirical risk factors for delinquency and best treatments: Where do we go from here? Psychological Reports, 104, 279–308.

Zimmerman, M. A. (2014). Resiliency theory: A strengths-based approach to research and practice for adolescent health. Health Education & Behavior, 40(4), 381–383.

Zimmerman, M. A., & Brenner, A. B. (2010). Resilience in adolescence: Overcoming neighborhood disadvantage. In J. Reich, A. J. Zautra, & J. S. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of adult resilience (pp. 283–308). Guilford Press.




How to Cite

Ge, L. (2021). A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Inquiry at a Canadian University: Protective and Risk Factors for Chinese International Students in COVID Times with Gender Comparison. Journal of International Students, 11(3), 586–607.



Research Articles