Becoming an Intercultural Doctoral Student

Negotiating Cultural Dichotomies




concentric storying, intercultural competence, intercultural learning experience, international doctoral students, self-reflexivity


International students experience both challenges and possibilities when they situate themselves in new sociocultural environments. The process of intercultural learning affects their self-formation and construction of their multiple identities. This self-reflective paper examines my experience as an international doctoral student transitioning from a Vietnamese cultural background to Canadian culture. By using concentric storying to deconstruct my journal entries, I found recurrent themes of conflicts and tensions emerging through different dialectical processes in my journey of becoming an intercultural doctoral student. My intercultural learning exposed my vulnerable self while I searched for my core values and beliefs. This journey has brought profound changes in making meaning of my adventure in transnational space. My story may shed light on the understanding of life in transition and provide direction for other international doctoral students seeking to enhance their intercultural competence in a similar educational landscape.

Author Biography

Tram Anh Bui, HUFLIT, Vietnam; Brock University, Canada

TRAM ANH BUI is a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Studies at Brock University, Canada and a lecturer at Ho Chi Minh city University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology (HUFLIT), Vietnam. Her major research interests lie in the area of student mobility, international student leadership, intercultural competence, EFL teacher education, and mindfulness in qualitative inquiry


Bui, T. A. (2019). Becoming an intercultural doctoral student: Negotiating identities through different dialectical processes [Paper presentation]. AERA, Division J, Toronto, Canada.

Chang, H. (2008). Autoethnography as method. Left Coast Press.

Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2006). Narrative inquiry. In J. L. Green, G. Camilli, & P. B. Elmore (Eds.), Handbook of complementary methods in education research (pp. 477–488). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Clandinin, D. J., Steeves, P., & Caine, V. (Eds.). (2013). Composing lives in transition: A narrative inquiry into the experiences of early school leavers. Emerald Publishing.

Cranton, P. & Wright, B. (2008). The transformative educator as learning companion. Journal of Transformative Education, 6(1), 33–47.

Dang, T. X., & Tran, T. L. (2017). From “Somebody” to “Nobody”: International doctoral students’ perspectives of home-host connectedness. In L. T. Tran & C. Gomes (Eds.), International student connectedness and identity: Transnational perspectives (pp. 75–91). Springer.

Deardorff, D. K. (2009). Synthesizing conceptualizations of intercultural competence: A summary and emerging themes. In D. K. Deardorff (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of intercultural competence (pp. 264–269). SAGE.

Deardorff, D. K. (2020, November 13). Student mobility and their intercultural development: Developing habits for an intercultural lifestyle [Keynote address]. Online Internationalisation: Meeting the Challenge of Student Mobility in a Global Pandemic. Virtual Conference, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. Henry Regnery.

Drake, S. (1991). The journey of the learner: Personal and universal story. The Educational Forum, 56(1), 47–59.

Drake, S. (2010) Enhancing Canadian teacher education using a story framework. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(2).

Drake, S., & Elliott, A. (1999, April). Concentric storying: A vehicle for professional development in teacher education [Paper presentation]. 1999 AERA Annual Meeting, Montreal, Quebec.

Gibbs, G. R. (2018). Analyzing qualitative data (2nd ed.). SAGE.

Gill, S. (2007). Overseas students’ intercultural adaptation as intercultural learning: A transformative framework, Compare, 37(2), 167–183.

Hofstede, G (2003). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. Profile Books.

Kim, Y. Y. (1988). Communication and cross-cultural adaptation: An integrative theory. Multilingual Matters.

Kim, Y. Y. (2000). Becoming intercultural: An integrative theory of communication and cross-cultural adaptation. SAGE.

Leung, W. H. M. (2017). Social mobility via academic mobility: Reconfigurations in class and gender identities among Asian scholars in the global north. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(16), 2704–2719.

Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. Jossey-Bass.

Nguyen, K. (1989). On the historical role of Confucianism. Vietnamese Studies, 94(4), 67–72.

Morgan, D. A. (2010). Journeys into transformation: Travel to an “other” place as a vehicle for transformative learning. Journal of Transformative Education, 8(4), 246–268.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2019). PISA 2018 Assessment and Analytical Framework [Annual report]. PISA, OECD Publishing.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2020). Learning to live together. PISA 2018 Results (Volume VI): Are students ready to thrive in an interconnected world? [Annual report]. PISA, OECD Publishing.

Pusch, M. D. (2009). The interculturally competent global leader. In D. K. Deardorff (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of intercultural competence (pp. 66–84). SAGE.

Savicki, V. (2008). Developing intercultural competence and transformation: Theory, research, and application in international education. Stylus Publishing.

Soong, H., Tran, L. T., & Pham, H. H. (2015). Being and becoming an intercultural doctoral student: Reflective autobiographical narratives. Reflective Practice, 16(4), 435–448.

Stole, W. H. (1998). Destiny and determination: Psychocultural reinforcement in Vietnam. In W. H. Stole & G. A. Devos (Eds.), Confucianism and the family (pp. 311–328). State University of New York Press.

Subramaniam, G. (2008). Confronting Asian concerns in engaging learners to online education. International Education Studies, 1(4), 10–18.

Taylor, W. E. (1994). Intercultural competency: A transformative learning process. Adult Education Quarterly, 44(3), 154–174.

Tran, L. T. (2011). Committed, face-value, hybrid or mutual adaptation? The experiences of international students in Australian higher education. Educational Review, 63(1), 79-94, DOI: 10.1080/00131911.2010.510905.

Tran, L. T. (2012). Transformative learning and international students negotiating higher education. In S. Sovic & M. Blythman (Eds.), International students negotiating higher education: Critical perspectives (pp. 124–141). Routledge.

Tran, L. T., & Gomes, C. (2017). International student connectedness and identity: Transnational perspectives. Springer.

Tran, T. N. (1999). Cơ sở văn hoá Việt Nam. [The fundamentals of Vietnamese culture]. Education Publisher.




How to Cite

Bui, T. A. (2021). Becoming an Intercultural Doctoral Student: Negotiating Cultural Dichotomies. Journal of International Students, 11(1), 257–265.



Cross-Border Narratives