Thriving in the Academy: Thai Students' Experiences and Perspectives

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Virginia Tech


In this dissertation, I investigate how Thai doctoral students adapt to and navigate academic expectations in their nonnative language. Through coded semi-structured interviews with eight participants from six different universities across the U.S., I analyze the lived experiences, stories, and challenges faced by Thai doctoral students in Humanities disciplines as students in Humanities are believed to rely more on writing as a mode of inquiry than students in STEM. I explore how, and to what extent, they cultivated agency to meet the expectations of the academy and how they assimilated into the U.S. academic culture. I initially hypothesized that writing was the most challenging skill, given that composition program and classrooms are virtually nonexistent in Thai curricula and students coming into the U.S. academy from such educational backgrounds would have limited exposure to formal writing instruction. Interestingly, through thematic coding schemes, I found that, while writing was challenging, there were other significant factors impacting their education. In my analysis, I found that students also had to navigate academic reading, participation in active classroom discussions, and acculturation into U.S. academic setting, all of which challenged their learning experiences. I argue in the dissertation that these complex social negotiations, not accounted for in most pedagogical structures in U.S. education, result in inequitable access to curriculum and undo hardships on students. By amplifying the voices of Thai students, this project highlights the ways that Thailand's educational system, deeply entrenched discourses of loyalty to Thailand's monarchy and the Criminal Code Act 112, impacts Thai students' formation and navigation of academic identity while encountering the U.S. Academy.



Rhetoric, Composition, L2, NNES, Thai students, doctoral studies