Resilience construction among international PhD students: Learning from Facebook posts, daily practices, and creative nonfiction

PhD Thesis

Oukraf, A. 2021. Resilience construction among international PhD students: Learning from Facebook posts, daily practices, and creative nonfiction. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Centre for Language and Linguistics
AuthorsOukraf, A.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

This study investigates the construction of the resilience term among international PhD students during their study period in the UK. Resilience is a term used in different fields: Psychopathology, Socio-Ecology, Education, and Sociology, where it is given less importance than other fields of interest. Therefore, I decided to delve into students’ experiences from a sociological view while acknowledging and referring to works from other fields when needed.

The methodology employed to have a deep insight into students’ PhD experiences is ethnography. The means by which I make sense of the different views and interpretations is by connecting threads. I decided to use the term threads connections to analyse the various methods of the study. The methods vary from observations of international PhD students’ ‘online’ practices on Facebook, semi-structured interviews, interview observation, personal communication, research diary to creative non-fiction. The non-fiction method, which had an auto-reflection part, helps me as a researcher and a participant to better understand the PhD experience, where I look at things from a stranger’s lenses. I do this by adding a past experience or event from an insider’s point of view. It is worth noting that creative non-fiction is used as a method for the study and as a tool that enables me to explain certain parts of the thesis, such as methodology.

The difficulty I faced in conducting this research both as a researcher and a participant brought me closer to understanding and voicing students’ experiences. The findings of this study revealed that resilience is constructed in various ways. It ranges from a process presented as a human being ageing; the older they get, the more resilient they become. Resilience can be agency or resistance to social, cultural, and political structures. We can see it in individuals’ daily challenges and creative coping strategies. These strategies are utilised in ways that nurture physical and mental well-being. It is also present in individuals’ creation of familiarity from unfamiliar situations and places in ways to be accepted. This means that it focuses on bridging the connection between the Self and the Other either to present the Self or to understand the Other.

The implication of this study for researchers on resilience is to have an in-depth study where individuals’ experiences are analysed and connections are made. It is possible to shift from using and abusing the term by giving labels such as resilient and vulnerable. How individuals view the world and cope with its challenges might be different, but that does not give us the right to judge someone to be resilient or not, depending on a reaction to one event. Also, studies
on international students must stop making assumptions about them. It is high time to stop Othering students coming from other parts of the world. Being different does not entitle researchers studying international students or other individuals to think less of them or treat them with inferiority. They have to be perceived equally to other students. Also, their experiences matter as much as the experiences of others.

This study is not limited to the educational area, for example, international students, supervisors, and educators. It is for every individual who finds life challenging and those who look at possible ways of coping with difficult situations.

KeywordsInternational PhD students; Resilience construction; Learning from Facebook
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Publication process dates
Deposited27 Jun 2022
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