Due to the social movements in Hong Kong and the outbreak of COVID-19, many non-local PhD students (NLPhDs) were scattered in different locations outside of Hong Kong. Since then, online teaching has been widely adopted in higher education and it affords students with continuable study and research opportunities but NLPhDs still experienced ever-shifting challenges and difficulties. This study draws on qualitative research methods to reveal the experiences of nine NLPhDs from different locations (e.g., Mainland China, Turkey, Vietnam, The Philippines, South Korea and Kazakhstan). Data were collected through in-depth individual interviews with the participants, their reflective journals and follow-up conversations via social networking applications. The findings show that NLPhDs experienced multifarious obstacles in study (suspended work, difficulties in adapting to online learning mode and stagnation in data collection). They had various emotional problems (stress, frustration, demotivation, sense of guilt and so on). However, they exercised agency (e.g., moving to spatially supportive contexts for study, reaching out to extra online resources, seeking supports from supervisors and tackling emotional problems) to overcome the challenges and difficulties. This study offers implications for doctoral students who are facing universal difficulties in times of crisis and their supervisors regarding how to offer appropriate support to their students. Copyright © 2023 selection and editorial matter, Kevin Wai Ho Yung and Huixuan Xu; individual chapters, the contributors.