Postmodern institutional interactions in Australian universities, among students and staff, entail negotiation of identity, legitimacy, and social capital . For many international students, this happens in an additional language and culture, in English. The case study presented here profiles four international non-English speaking background Ph.D. students in an Australian university, observes their out-of classroom departmental interactions, and uses a sociocultural perspective of second language in use to map their approaches to the negotiation of institutional identity. Two focus group interviews with the participants illustrated how, despite similarities among the participants in the beginning as newcomers to a Western university, students chose different pathways for integration, engagement in institutional interactions, and identity construction. The discussions highlight the role of agency and intentionality in participation and learning through interaction which leads to a critique of the international student as a label that underplays student agency.