This phenomenological study explored international Chinese students’ academic experiences at a rural public university in America to identify factors with a perceived impact on student academic experience and persistence. Participants included seven undergraduate and five graduate students. Findings indicated that positive academic factors included immersion in American higher education, practical knowledge, and application. Academic challenges include language barriers, unfamiliarity with the U.S. classroom culture, and unfriendly people. Results also showed that learning-related interactions with faculty, peers, and self contributed to their positive academic experiences. Interactions with faculty were experienced as most impactful. As a consequence of the analysis, a practical model that highlights the integration of the three types of interactions centered on the interaction with faculty was proposed. It is offered as a guide for suggested actions by both the university and the international Chinese students to improve students’ academic experiences and persistence at this university.