An Intersectional Analysis of Chinese International Students’ Experiences in Post-Secondary Institutions in British Columbia




international education, Chinese international students, internationalization, intersectionality, discrimination, minoritization, narrative inquiry, critical theory, student affairs, intersectional policy, British Columbia


Internationalization continues to be a priority of the education mandate in British Columbia (BC).  While there is currently a surfeit of exploratory studies on international students’ (IS) experiences of challenges in their host institutions, little research has been done on examining their experiences from sociocultural context-based standpoints.  This study fills the gap by examining the daily lived experiences of Chinese post-secondary IS in BC through the lens of intersectionality.  First, the notions of cultural distance, nationality, and language proficiency were conceptualized as intersectional categories.  Next, narrative data were collected from six Chinese IS, and then analyzed through an iterative coding framework that connected narrative themes to the theoretical framework of intersectionality.  The results show how the interlocking categories created instances of minoritization among the participants due to power imbalances brought upon by compatriots, peers, and federal/institutional policies.  Implications in future directions of intersectionality research, policy, and practices are presented.   

Author Biography

Karlo Avenido, Simon Fraser University

Karlo is a passionate education professional with more than seven years’ experience in student affairs administration. He possesses a master’s degree in education from Simon Fraser University, specializing in leadership and administration. His research interests lie in creating policies, processes, and services that provide just outcomes for equity-seeking students. Karlo’s professional experience includes leading the student services and registration portfolios of a public-private partnership institution, as well as administrative leadership in private and public colleges. With a strong passion for student success informed by the pursuit of equitable outcomes through policies and processes, Karlo brings an excellent blend of theory and practice in championing strong student affairs.


Altbach, P. G., & Knight, J. (2007). The internationalization of higher education: Motivations and realities. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(4), 290–305. DOI:

Andrade, M. S. (2006). International students in English-speaking universities: Adjustment factors. Journal of Research in International Education, 5(2), 131–154. DOI:

Atewologun, D. (2018). Intersectionality theory and practice. In D. Atewologun, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management. DOI:

Brown, L. (2009). Using an ethnographic approach to understand the adjustment journey of international students at a university in England. In Woodside, A.G., Megehee, C.M. and Ogle, A. (Eds.) Perspectives on Cross-Cultural, Ethnographic, Brand Image, Storytelling, Unconscious Needs, and Hospitality Guest Research (Advances in Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 3), Emerald Group Publishing Ltd., pp. 101-141. DOI:

Calder, M. J., Richter, S., Mao, Y., Burns, K. K., Mogale, R. S., & Danko, M. (2016). International students attending Canadian universities: Their experiences with housing, finances, and other issues. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 46(2), 92–110. DOI:

Canadian Bureau for International Education. (2018). International students in Canada. Retrieved from Canadian Bureau for International Education website:

Chan, E. (2010). Living in the space between participant and researcher as a narrative inquirer: Examining ethnic identity of Chinese Canadian students as stories to live by. Journal of Educational Research, 103, 113 – 122. DOI:

Chase, S. (2018). Narrative inquiry: Toward theoretical and methodological maturity. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (pp. 547 – 560). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Chen, J., & Zhou, G. (2019). Chinese international students’ sense of belonging in North American postsecondary institutions: A critical literature review. Brock Education Journal, 28(2), 48 – 63. DOI:

Cho, S., Crenshaw, K., & McCall, L. (2013). Toward a field of intersectionality studies: Theory, applications, and praxis. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 38(4), 785–810. DOI:

Connelly, F. M., & Clandinin, D. J. (1990). Stories of experience and narrative inquiry. Educational Researcher, 19(5), 2 – 14. DOI:

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. The University of Chicago Legal Forum. 140, 139-167.

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Columbus, OH: Pearson Education.

Duran, A., & Jones, S. R. (2019). Using intersectionality in qualitative research on college student identity development: Considerations, tensions, and possibilities. Journal of College Student Development, 60(4), 455–471. DOI:

Freeman, K., & Li, M. (2019). “We are a ghost in the class.” First year international students’ experiences in the global contact zone. Journal of International Students, 9(1), 19–38. DOI:

Gall, M.D., Gall, J.P., & Borg, W.R. (2007). Educational research: an introduction. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

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. DOI:

Grosfuguel, R., Oso, L., & Christou, A. (2015). ‘Racism’, intersectionality and migration studies: framing some theoretical reflections. Identities, 22(6). 635–652. DOI:

Gubrium, J., & Holstein, J. (2009). Analyzing narrative reality. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. DOI:

Government of Canada. (2019). Student direct stream: About the process. Retrieved from Government of Canada website:

Guo, Y., & Guo, S. (2017). Internationalization of Canadian higher education: Discrepancies between policies and international student experiences. Studies in Higher Education, 42(5), 851–868. DOI:

Hankivsky, O., & Cormier, R. (2011). Intersectionality and public policy: Some lessons from existing models. Political Research Quarterly, 64(1), 217-229. DOI: 10.1177/1065912910376385 DOI:

Heslop, J. (2018). International students in BC’s education systems. Retrieved from Government of BC website:

Hsieh, J. K.-T. (2018). Positioning the researcher in the studies of international student identities. Journal of International Students, 8(2), 659–676. DOI:

Khanlou, N. (2019). Post-secondary student mental health and well-being: A systems and intersectionality-informed approach. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 17(3), 415–417. DOI:

Kim, J. (2016). Understanding narrative inquiry. SAGE Publications.

Kovacs Burns, K., Richter, M. S., Mao, Y., Mogale, S., & Danko, M. (2014). Case study of a post-secondary institution and its response to student homelessness. International Journal of Case Studies, 3(9). 49–70. Retrieved from

Le, A. T., LaCost, B. Y., & Wismer, M. (2016). International female graduate students’ experience at a midwestern university: Sense of belonging and identity development. Journal of International Students, 6(1), 128–152. DOI:

Li, S., & Zizzi, S. (2018). A case study of international students’ social adjustment, friendship development, and physical activity. Journal of International Students, 8(1), 389–408. DOI:

Liu, A. (2009). Critical race theory, Asian Americans, and higher education: A review of research. InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 5(2), 1–13. DOI:

Liu, J. (2017). Beyond the cultural approach: Understanding the experience of Chinese international students in Canada from an intersectionality perspective. International Journal of Chinese Education, 6(2), 236–258. DOI:

Louie, A., & Qin, D. B. (2019). ‘Car talk’: Automobility and Chinese international students in Michigan. Identities, 26(2), 146–164. DOI:

Malcolm, Z. T., & Mendoza, P. (2014). Afro-Caribbean international students’ ethnic identity development: Fluidity, Intersectionality, Agency, and Performativity. Journal of College Student Development, 55(6), 595–614. DOI:

McKenzie, B., & Wharf, B. (2016). Connecting policy to practice in the human services (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Nash, J. (2008). Re-thinking intersectionality. Feminist Review, 89(1). 1–15. DOI:

Neale J. (2016). Iterative categorization (IC): a systematic technique for analysing qualitative data. Addiction, 111(6), pp. 1096–1106. DOI:

O’Leary, Z. (2014). The essential guide to doing your research project (2nd ed.). Sage Publications.

Okazawa-Rey, M. (2017). A “nation-ized” intersectional analysis: The politics of transnational campus unity. New Directions for Student Services, 157, 81–90. DOI:

Post-graduation work permit eligibility requirements. (2020, April 27). Retrieved from:

Quinton, W. J. (2019). Unwelcome on campus? Predictors of prejudice against international students. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 12(2), 156–169. DOI:

Rhein, D. (2018). International university students in Thailand: Shifting from universalistic models to an ethnicity matters approach. Journal of Research in International Education, 17(3), 286–308. DOI:

Sharma, S. (2019). Focusing on graduate international students. Journal of International Students. 9(3), i–xi. DOI:

Srivastava, P., & Hopwood, N. (2009). A practical iterative framework for qualitative data analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(1), 76–84. DOI:

Tian, L., McClain, S., Moore, M. M., & Lloyd, H. (2017). An examination of ethnic identity, self- compassion, and acculturative stress in Asian international students. Journal of International Students, 9(2), 635–660. DOI:

Tsuda, Y. (2014). The hegemony of English and strategies for linguistic pluralism. In M. Asante, M. Yoshitaka, & Y. Jing (Eds.), The Global Intercultural Communication Reader (pp. 445 – 456). Routledge.

Wang, Y., Li, T., Noltemeyer, A., Wang, A., & Shaw, K. (2018). Cross-cultural adaptation of international college students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 8(2), 821–842. DOI:

Windsong, E. A. (2018). Incorporating intersectionality into research design: An example using qualitative interviews. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 21(2), 135–147. DOI:

Yao, C. W. (2016). “Better English is the better mind”: Influence of language skills on sense of belonging in Chinese international students. Journal of College and University Student Housing, 43(1), 74-89.

Yao, C. W. (2018). ‘They don’t care about you’: First-year Chinese international students’ experiences with neo-racism and othering on a U.S. campus. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 30(1), 87–101.

Yao, C. W., George Mwangi, C. A., & Malaney Brown, V. K. (2019). Exploring the intersection of transnationalism and critical race theory: A critical race analysis of international student experiences in the United States. Race Ethnicity and Education, 22(1), 38–58. DOI:

Yao, C. W., & Viggiano, T. (2019). Interest convergence and the commodification of international students and scholars in the United States. Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity, 5(1), 81–109. DOI:

Yeo, H. T., Mendenhall, R., Harwood, S. A., & Huntt, M. B. (2019). Asian international student and Asian American student: Mistaken identity and racial microaggressions. Journal of International Students, 9(1), 39–65. DOI:



How to Cite

Avenido, K. (2022). An Intersectional Analysis of Chinese International Students’ Experiences in Post-Secondary Institutions in British Columbia. Journal of International Students, 13(1), 22–39.



Research Articles (English)