This paper seeks to highlight the issue of learner agency in the supervisory relationship. Although this study is confined to the perceptions of a small group of Chinese-speaking international students, this issue is not one peculiar to them. Dealing with status imbalances in this relationship is a challenge that faces all students regardless of their cultural and linguistic background. However, it is undoubtedly more complex when the parties are drawn from very different backgrounds. In this paper we examine relationships between supervisors and their English as an additional language (EAL) students and the way in which these relationships influence the writing of the thesis, focusing on the dynamics between the two parties and language support offered by the supervisors. Taking the notion of agency as a point of departure, we interpret data from the point of view of the students and attempt to capture their voices. As Lea notes, research in this area 'has been practitioner-based and practitioner-led' (Studies in Higher Education 29, no. 6, p. 742). Students' first-hand accounts of their interactions with supervisors during the thesis writing process will hopefully provide different insights into this nuanced and often problematic relationship and its effect on students' sense of agency.