Likened to “a Boiled Egg”

A New Framework for Understanding Chinese Postgraduate Taught Students’ Transitional Experience


  • JIE Zhang Guangdong University of Finance
  • Dely Lazarte Elliot University of Glasgow
  • Kara A. Makara University of Glasgow



International students; intercultural adaptation; transitional experience; Chinese students; the United Kingdom


International students make significant contributions to the UK and Chinese international students represent the largest body of overseas students in the UK. Although previous studies have examined different aspects of this cohort, an in-depth and comprehensive investigation of the experience of Chinese postgraduate taught students is seemingly very limited. This research employed a longitudinal design and conducted 34 interviews with the facilitation of photograph- and diagram-elicitation techniques. With a phenomenological focus, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, an inductive approach, was employed for the data analysis of this research investigation. Nine superordinate themes emerged to capture academic, social, linguistic and psychological aspects of students’ experience as well as motivations prior to their experience and expectations subsequent to their journey. This research offers a holistic framework of student experience by illustrating various emerging needs in different layers and highlighting English proficiency and social connections as two influential factors on other elements of student experience.

Author Biographies

JIE Zhang, Guangdong University of Finance

Dr Jie Zhang is a Lecturer in the School of International Education, Guangdong University of Finance, Guangdong, China. She obtained her PhD in Education, from the School of Education, University of Glasgow, UK. Her research areas broadly include international education, intercultural adaptation, higher education, and transitional experience.

Dely Lazarte Elliot, University of Glasgow

Dr Dely Lazarte Elliot is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Education, University of Glasgow. With Dely’s international and interdisciplinary background in Education (the Philippines), Counselling Psychology (Thailand) and Psychology of Education (UK), her research interests lie at the intersection of educational & cultural psychology and higher education. To date, Dely has served as Principal Investigator for several externally- and internally-funded projects, while contributing to numerous research projects in education & educational psychology.

Kara A. Makara, University of Glasgow

Dr Kara Makara is a s Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow. She has a PhD in Educational Psychology and is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. Kara’s research broadly aims to understand how social interactions in educational settings influence motivation and learning. Her research interests include achievement motivation, academic and social goals, social development and peer relationships, academic help seeking, social networks within schools, and cultural differences in these processes.




How to Cite

Zhang, J., Elliot, D. L., & Makara, K. A. (2024). Likened to “a Boiled Egg”: A New Framework for Understanding Chinese Postgraduate Taught Students’ Transitional Experience. Journal of International Students, 14(3), 42–60.



Research Articles (English)