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Revisiting the ‘U-curve’ hypothesis: international students’ academic, sociocultural, and psychological adjustment trajectories at a British university

Lookup NU author(s): Xuan Zhao, Dr Alina SchartnerORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Taylor and Francis Ltd., 2024.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.This mixed-methods longitudinal study investigated the academic, sociocultural, and psychological adjustment trajectories of international students undertaking one-year postgraduate degrees in the humanities and social sciences at a single British university. It also sought to re-examine the applicability of ‘U-curve’ hypothesis. Three waves of self-report questionnaires (N = 120, 108, 102) measured international students’ adjustment satisfaction and their adjustment patterns throughout nine months period. Additionally, three rounds of semi-structured interviews (N = 16) were conducted to explore students’ lived experiences and adjustment trajectories over time. The findings revealed complex adjustment patterns that differed across academic, sociocultural, and psychological domains. Enablers and barriers to adjustment, as perceived by the students, included cultural distance, English language ability, academic workload, previous personal experiences, and university support. The study contributes to the theoretical understanding of international students’ adjustment, provides insights into the experiences of student sojourners in the UK higher education context and increases knowledge regarding student support services.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zhao X, Schartner A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Higher Education

Year: 2024

Volume: 14

Issue: 2

Pages: 343-366

Online publication date: 30/03/2023

Acceptance date: 16/03/2023

Date deposited: 19/05/2023

ISSN (print): 2156-8235

ISSN (electronic): 2156-8243

Publisher: Taylor and Francis Ltd.


DOI: 10.1080/21568235.2023.2193702

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/04nr-n785


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