Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Larsen, Marianne A


This study investigates the experiences of Chinese parachute kids: secondary school international students who ‘parachuted’ to Canada without parental accompaniment, with a focus on the relationships between their faced challenges, social supports, and well-being. The researcher applied a qualitative case study by conducting face-to-face interviews with eight participants, aimed to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences through analyzing their narratives under the concept of Bourdieu’s capital theory. Compared to existing studies, the results indicate similar challenges faced by Chinese parachute kids. However, those who had participated in a higher standard ‘study abroad’ program enjoyed a higher degree of social support from peers and their school institutions compared to those that did not. Moreover, individual’s language skills, cultural competency, as well as social connection with peers and school were found to be positively related to their personal well-being. In the final section, suggestions for improving secondary school study-abroad programs are provided.

Summary for Lay Audience

This is a case study about the experiences of Chinese parachute kids. The term ‘parachute kids’ refers to Asian international students who have ‘parachuted’ to a new country or a new environment without parental accompaniment to seek a better education (Zhou, 1998). This study is built on existing knowledge about international students, their experiences, the challenges they face and supports they draw upon. This case study captures in-depth insights into Chinese parachute kids’ transnational experiences in a Canadian international high school. Given that less supportive structures are available for secondary students compared with those in higher education institutions, this study aims to focus on how Chinese parachute kids perceive their challenges and social supports. Findings show the distinct experiences of those who participated in a ‘2+1’ study-abroad programs (2 years in high school in China before they study abroad for 1 year) and those did not. Specifically, participants in a higher standard program experienced better cultural adjustment and social connectedness. A higher standard ‘2+1’ program not only incorporates advanced teaching material, technique, but is also equipped with supportive system that can facilitate students’ transition to Canada. Participants from the higher standard programs indicated positive well-being through greater social supports; whereas those who did not have such experiences faced greater pressures and negative well-being. This study provides an opportunity to hear the voices of these visible minority students and to provide recommendations to stakeholders such as teachers and other school staff about how to better support Chinese parachute kids while studying in Canada.