Running Head: ACCULTURATION PROCESSES STUDENT 1
Venir sin temores, a exponer la cultura1: Factors Impacting Culture Shock Among some Ecuadorian Sojourners in the U.S.
This study reports the findings of research conducted on factors impacting the acculturation process among a group of Ecuadorian students participating in a teacher training program. Thirteen participants were interviewed upon arrival and departure and a thematic analysis was done using Kim and Ruben's (1988) Stress-Adaptation-Growth Model as a guide. The main finding of this study is the identification of a continuum grounded in expectations which determined enduring attitudes. Additionally, participants provided three sets of reflections that related to the degree their expectations were met. The factors or elements impacting acculturation were dependent on each reflection and are described using the conceptual labels from the S-A-G model. Finally, group conflict arouse between participants in each dimension pole as different ideologies emerged through interaction.
Venir sin temores, a exponer la cultura2: Factors Impacting Culture Shock Among some Ecuadorian Sojourners in the U.S.
With 764,495 international students, United States universities have witnessed a record high enrollment of foreign students in 2011-2012 (Institute of International Education, 2012). This study investigates the implications of this increased enrollment for universities with the intention to help universities throughout the country to comprehend the many factors that influence the acculturation process of international students. Although studies in the past have already established some of these acculturative factors, the need to further the study of intercultural communication in this context has reemerged as universities around the U.S. have strived to create multi-cultural campuses. Thus, it is imperative to examine the needs of this population to maximize their experience abroad, as well as to question the extent to which the goal of creating multi-cultural colleges has actually been met.
Intercultural communication surrounding the cultural adaptation process has long been studied by researchers attempting to determine the relevant factors that influence these interactions. Central to this study is acculturation, which refers to the process of becoming communicatively competent in a different culture (Hall, 2005). Literature in the area indicates that in order to cope and acculturate, many immigrants and sojourners have to experience stress (e.g., Kim, 2008; Kim, 2005a; Kim & Ruben, 1988). There are various models that have been developed to help understand this complex process. However, few have articulated a systematic relationship between intercultural communication, culture shock and adaptation (Kim & Ruben, 1988). This study responds to these exigencies by examining factors influencing the experience of culture shock among some Ecuadorian students in a Southwestern university. Kim and Ruben (1988) propose a systematic way of viewing intercultural adaptation based on General Systems Theory, and their Stress-Adaptation-Growth Model will be used as a conceptual framework to guide this study (Kim & Ruben, 1988). Following a review of literature, the research questions will be presented as well as a discussion of findings and further implications.
Culture Shock and Acculturation Research
Several studies have analyzed culture shock and the acculturation process. In their study Zhou, Jindal-Snape, Topping and Todman (2008), describe theoretical concepts of culture shock. Their framework identifies what they call contemporary theoretical approaches, which “can be accommodated within a broad theoretical framework based on affective, behavioral and cognitive aspects of shock and adaptation” (p.63). Their study suggests a better understanding of the process of acculturation, but it is strictly theoretical.
Other studies have focused on the impact of culture shock in the individual’s psychology (Schwartz, Unger, Zamboanga, & Szapocznik, 2010; Yeh, Inose, & Mayuko, 2003). Schwartz, et al. (2010) propose acculturation as a multidimensional process. They argue that to understand acculturation it is imperative to understand the interactional context in which it happens. Context includes characteristics of the individual, the country and group where the person comes from, socioeconomic status, geographic region and local community, and fluency of language. The latter was found to be detrimental to explain acculturative distress. Research conducted by Yeh and Inose (2003) on international students in the United States report English fluency as a significant predictor of acculturative distress. Schwartz et al. (2010) propose this may be due to the fact that “permutations among language, ethnicity, and cultural similarity, among other factors, affect the ease or difficulty associated with the acculturation process” (p. 240). While fluency is one potential predictor, other studies have investigated potential factors in different ways.
Additionally, researchers have more specifically focused on international student’s acculturation process. In an ethnographic study of the adjustment of international postgraduate students to a university in England, Brown and Holloway (2008) found that contrary to the U-Curve, “stress was at its most intense at the beginning of the stay, a stage marked by the experience of the symptoms of culture shock” (p. 45). These feelings are explained by Oberg (1960/2006) as belonging to the second stage of the adjustment process. Additionally, the study indicates that excitement was experienced about different aspects of student life, but these feelings were outweighed by stress, depression, anxiety and loneliness. Similarly, Ward et al. (1998) studied the adaptation of Japanese students in New Zealand. Results indicate, “both psychological (depression) and sociocultural (social difficulty) adjustment problems were greatest at entry to the new culture” (Ward et al., 1998, p. 286).
Other studies have emphasized Latino/Hispanic acculturation, with a focus on Mexican and Mexican-Americans. Perez (2011) studied linguistic acculturation in Hispanic youth and found the relationship between the context in which youth spend time and their linguistic acculturation affects their emotional well-being. Similarly, Nieri (2012) studied school context and individual acculturation of Latino Student. Her results indicate that youths in school with more linguistically acculturated students were more acculturated across time than those in schools with smaller proportions of linguistically acculturated students. Schwarts, Galliher, & Rodriguez (2011), on the other hand used a more diversified sample in their study of Latino’s self-disclosure with friends and acquaintances. This sample included exchange students, immigrants from Latin American countries and Latinos born in the United States. Fourteen Latin American countries were represented in this study. Results indicate that participants disclosed more to friends than acquaintances and that this disclosure was higher to Latino friends and acquaintances. Likewise, participants that were less acculturated had more disclosure with Latino friends and acquaintances than their acculturated counterparts.
As illustrated, previous studies on culture shock and adaptation of International students acknowledge the effect of culture shock and the hardships of the acculturation process. However, not many studies have been done using Kim and Ruben’s Stress-Adaptation-Growth model as a framework. Similarly, studies conducted on Hispanic/Latino samples focus for the most part on Mexican and Mexican Americans. This study will be conducted on a group of Ecuadorian participants, an underrepresented population in the study of intercultural communication.
In order to understand Kim and Ruben's (1988) Stress-Adaptation-Growth model it is important to define some terms in its perspective. In this context, culture is referred to as “the collective life patterns shared by people in social groups such as national, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, regional and gender groups” (Kim & Ruben, 1988, p. 305). Intercultural communication is understood as the process occurring in a situation in which a communicator's pattern of verbal and nonverbal encoding and decoding are different because of cultural dissimilarities. Kim and Ruben (1988) explain that communication situations are considered to be intercultural “to the extent that the participants carry different cultural and subcultural attributes” (p. 305). Likewise, intercultural transformation refers to the behavioral, affective and cognitive changes beyond an individual’s native culture. This change normally encompasses what has been termed “culture shock.”
Culture shock is commonly viewed as negative and problematic. It has been used by researchers in different areas in order to provide an explanation for the frustrations and stress that sojourners experience while abroad. According to Xia (2009), the negative impact of culture shock has various effects on the individual. The major ones are depression, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness. The researcher explains these symptoms may interfere with the person’s ability to make decisions. Additionally, when people cannot overcome symptoms of culture shock, “they are likely to become hostile to host nationals, which may lead to handicap of interpersonal relationships” (Xia, 2009, p. 98). Zhou, Jindal-Snape, Topping, and Todman (2008) explain that early studies in intercultural communication emphasized the negative aspects of culture shock and were related to medical models of adjustment. However, by the 1980’s studies started to view sojourning as a learning experience (Zhou et al., 2008). The Stress-Adaptation-Growth model follows this tradition and defines culture shock as a generic process that happens when a sojourner’s needs are not met because of “unfamiliar cultural environment.” (Kim & Ruben, 1988, p. 310). The model also views culture shock as a necessary event for change and growth.
Kim (2008) explains that each adaptive change during acculturation is accompanied by stress defined as an identity conflict between the desire to maintain old cultural characteristics and the desire to change behavior and reach harmony. In other words, the conflict is between “the need for acculturation and the resistance to deculturation, that is, the ‘push’ of the new culture and the ‘pull’ of the old” (Kim, 2008, p. 363). These conflicting forces are often manifested by feelings of uncertainty, confusion and anxiety; symptoms of what is known as culture shock. In an open system perspective culture shock is understood as a “generic process that occurs whenever an individual’s internal capabilities are not adequate to the demands of the new environment” (Kim, 2008, p. 363). It is important to remember culture shock and the acculturation process presents differently in each individual.
The Stress-Adaptation-Growth model should be understood as a continual cycle. Once an environmental change causes an internal disequilibrium, the individual acts in order to bring harmony back to the system. Kim and Ruben (1988) explain the individual does this by “restructuring his or her internal communication system in order to accommodate the challenge” (p. 308). Equilibrium is then reestablished until a new threat challenges it. The model also explains stress and growth as integrated in the adaptation process because they cannot occur independently and they occur because of each other.
As mentioned before, stress causes an individual negative feelings, however it is also important to recognize stress as responsible for learning and growth. Growth is the disintegration of one way of thinking of the world and a reorganization including new ways of viewing the world. Kim and Ruben (1988) explain this self-organization as a shift between the old internalized cultural system and the creation of a new system, which enables the person to be better prepared for future intercultural experiences. Therefore, the intercultural encounter contributes to the evolution of the social system to which an individual belongs. As a consequence an intercultural identity is developed. This identity is open-ended and adaptive in nature and has a “transformative self-other orientation” (Kim, 2008, p. 364). Kim (2008) indicates two key elements of intercultural identity. The first, individuation, defines the other as a singular individual instead of a member of a social group. The second element, universalization, refers to the ability to see commonalities between different cultures and see points of consent past points of differences. Kim and Ruben (1988) explain an intercultural person who has had various intercultural encounters and adaptations tends to have a more accepting attitude toward cultural difference. Intercultural individuals possess high level of communication competence and have the capacity to communicate with individuals who are from different backgrounds. It is important to reiterate that the process of acculturation involves a transformation of behaviors, psychological health and intercultural identity. According to Hall (2005), a person that acculturates will therefore develop functional skills in order to act effectively in the new culture. The individual will also feel satisfied in the host culture and will develop an identity that is simultaneously inclusive, but also recognizes legitimate differences (Hall, 2005)
Factors that Influence the Acculturation Process
Kim (2005b) explains intercultural communication competence is developed on an individual case-by-case situation. The researcher describes differences in intercultural communication competence are “rooted fundamentally in a given individual’s adaptive capacity to deal with relatively high levels of unfamiliarity, anxiety, and psychological distance” (Kim, 2005b, p. 560). There are four factors that influence the acculturation process: personal communication, predisposition, environment, and social communication practices (Hall, 2005).
Personal communication. Personal communication refers to the sojourner’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral ability to communicate effectively in the host culture (Hall, 2005). Kim (2005a) explains the successful adaptation of an individual is achieved “when their personal communication systems sufficiently overlap with those of the natives” (p.385).
Predisposition. Predisposition is what the individual brings to the experience of acculturation. Three components of this factor include the preparation for change, ethnic proximity and adaptive personality. Preparation for change refers to previous intercultural communication the individual has had in the past (Hall, 2005). Ethnic proximity refers to similarities of the home culture and the host culture. For example, Yeh and Inose (2003) study indicate international students from Europe experience less stress than students from Asia, Africa or Central/Latin America. The researchers explain that many cultural values from the United States are based on European norms, which might have allowed for a smoother adjustment. Finally, adaptive personality refers to aspects of openness and positivity from the sojourner (Hall, 2005).
Environment. Environmental factors discuss aspects of the host culture in the acculturation experience. Host receptivity refers to the psychological and structural accessibility of an environment (Kim, 2005a), while host conformity pressure refers to “the extent to which the environment challenges strangers to act in accordance with the normative patterns of the host culture and its communicative system” (Kim, 2005a, p.388).
Social Communication. The social communication factor is made of two types of communication, mass communication and interpersonal communication. The access and use of both channels allows an individual to acculturate faster. The first allows a person to access community knowledge and to practice language skills. This situation is also relatively stress-free. On the other hand, interpersonal communication can be stressful and is argued to be the most crucial factor in the process of acculturation (Hall, 2005).
These concepts will be used to understand potential factors impacting acculturation among a group of Ecuadorian students in a Southwestern university. Guiding this study is the following research question:
RQ1: Which identifiable elements prominent in an U.S. American cultural system cause more stress for participants?
In identifying and describing the stressors, we will be able to generate possibilities for support programs for international students. Furthermore, these insights may lead to an extension of the Stress-Adaptation-Growth model.
For this study, 13 Ecuadorian participants from different regions of the country were interviewed. Participants are part of a teacher's training program in a Southwestern university in the United States. They are English teachers in their home country and came six months to the program with the goal of becoming more proficient in the language as well as learning strategies on how to teach English. Two interviews were conducted, one at the beginning of their sojourn, with 13 participants, and one at the end, were 3 participants retired. Longitudinal comparisons were therefore evaluated with 10 participants. Interviews lasted from 30 minutes to one hour and a half. Questions asked referred to participants' experience in the country. These included a characterization of their experience, challenges encountered, elements that have facilitated the experience, comparison between their culture and the one at the host program, pre-arrival preparation, aspects learned through the experience abroad, advice they would give to future participants of the teaching program, and influence of a social support system. Four interviews were conducted in groups and two individually. All of them were conducted in Spanish, transcribed and then translated to English for analytic purposes.
Analysis essentially consisted of locating general themes across participant responses. Key symbolic themes were identified to the extent that they were both recurrent and prominent throughout the transcripts. The criterion of prominence proved particularly interesting in that several participants drew specific attention to certain themes. After the initial themes were identified, another iteration of thematic review occurred in order to increase confidence in the results. Following this, the themes were coded using the concepts from Kim and Ruben’s (1988) model. The second interviews followed the same process and were compared with initial interviews in order to examine acculturation longitudinally.
In attempting to answer the research question, four primary findings became evident. These include the identification of a continuum grounded in expectations that determine enduring attitudes. Second, there was no change over time in attitudes, which coincides with the previous continuum. Third, participants provided three sets of reflections that also related to whether or not their expectations were met. The factors or elements impacting acculturation as inquired about in the research question were able to be organized according to these reflections and described using the conceptual labels from the S-A-G model. Finally, group conflict arouse between participants in opposing sides of the continuum.
The overarching finding of the study was the identification of a continuum defined in terms of expectations being met. One group clustered around the dimensional pole of expectations met, while the other group clustered around not having their expectations met. The “expectations” dimension determined the process and mechanisms by which people cope with acculturative stress. Elements that produced stress became prominent depending on where the participant fell in the continuum. Reflections were also evident throughout participants’ experiences, which helped each individual form an opinion about their experience and the program. The remainder of this section will respond to the research questions in turn.
The second primary finding was that there was no identifiable change in attitude from the first set of interviews to the second set of interviews. This was particularly surprising given that every model of acculturation predicts attitudinal change. Once again, the lack of change was evident in self-reports of attitudes regarding whether or not expectations had been met.
The third primary finding is participants’ reflections, which related to whether or not their expectations were met. Reflections were mainly through a comparison between home and host country and can be divided in three subgroups: Reflections on the worth of culture, host culture denigration, and sharing cultural values. Interestingly, elements impacting acculturation as inquired in the research question varied according to the type of reflection the participant engaged in. These factors are organized using the S-A-G model.
Reflections on the worth of culture
These reflections are behavioral in nature and were most commonly held by those who were better able to adapt to the American culture. These participants tend to lie in the “met expectations” dimension pole of the previously mentioned continuum. These participants explain that toward the end of their experience they felt they were “at home.” For example participant O explained that upon return from a trip to her on-campus apartment she opened the door and said: Hogar dulce hogar. Home sweet home.
For these participants, host reciprocity was a major factor that helped them throughout their sojourn. They reflect on their own country and wish to adopt host reciprocity aspects such as friendliness and tolerance to their own culture.
For example participants explain something that has facilitated their experience in the city has been people’s willingness to help. They explain people are very “educated” and respectful, something they are usually not used to in their home country. N said:
Nos hemos quedado admirados del respeto que tienen aquí hacia el transeúnte. La gente como le abre la puerta, como es muy amable a pesar de que nosotros somos de otro país muy muy comunicativos, muy buenas gentes. Muy generosos. We are admired at the respect that they have here for the pedestrian, how people open the doors, how they are so nice despite the fact that we are the ones from another country. Very communicative, nice and generous.
Citizens of the host culture were also commonly characterized as friendly and trustworthy. For example one participant explained:
Aquí la gente es muy amable, amigable, muy.. es como de confiar. En Ecuador en cambio usted tiene que tenerse un poco de cuidado por que allá no puede utilizar joyas, usted no puede tener una mistad de una con otra persona que no conoce por que usted no sabe quien es, tal vez le puede robar, hay mucha delincuencia en Ecuador. Here people are very nice, friendly, very... like you can trust. In Ecuador, on the other hand, you have to be careful because there you can’t wear jewelry, you can’t have a quick friendship with another person that you don’t know because you don’t know who that person is and maybe you can get robbed, there is a lot of delinquency in Ecuador.
Even though participants believe people in the host country are friendly, they reflect on their country and acknowledge that people might not be as friendly, not because they don’t want to, but because of the higher crime rates in their home country. Although they understand Ecuador’s high crime rates might be a factor influencing citizens being less approachable, they often refer to certain habits in their culture and country as being a “bad culture” or “having bad norms.” For example participant N said:
Porque lastimosamente se ha traído esa mala cultura de allá de Ecuador, de que “no puedo esto entonces no hago, si no me califican entonces protesto.” Because unfortunately we have brought that bad culture from Ecuador, that “I can’t do this so I don’t do it, if they don’t grade me then I protest.”
Participant F adds: A mi me gustaría llevar parte de esta cultura o hacer la mía. Por ejemplo el respeto que se tienen entre una persona y otra. Otra la amabilidad incondicional que se da la gente. Que no necesariamente tiene que ser tu amigo para brindarle la mano. Aquí sin ser tu amigo la gente te apoya en cualquier situación que suceda. Que no se da allá en nuestro país. I would like to take part of this culture or make it mine. For example, the respect that they have between people. Another, the unconditional kindness that they give to people. That he/she does not have to be your friend to give them a helping hand. Here, without being your friend people support you in any situation that occurs. And that does not happen in our country.
For these participants friendliness is something that they want to apply in their culture upon return. They reflect the lack of tolerance and kindness are a bad reflection on the Ecuadorian culture, something that should change.
Host culture denigration
This reflection was primarily seen on participants whose expectations were not met. Environmental factors such as technology, the prominence of Spanish spoken through the city, and physiological needs were the most salient elements causing stress in participants.
Upon arrival they were disappointed in the lack of tall buildings and high technology. They expected the infrastructure to be much better than in Ecuador. For example in one interview, as participant E said he felt the city and the experience was beautiful, another participant constantly interrupted and added “but” or “not always” as a defense for what he thought could be better. He explains:
A veces hacemos a nuestro país pequeño, mas chiquito de lo que es pensando en que afuera es un mundo de maravillas y que ahora viendo la realidad no es así totalmente. Tiene sus cosas buenas. En mi punto de vista personal no es como la televisión, como la comunicación, las masas lo pintan, que es lo máximo. Es, tiene sus cosas buenas pero tampoco es un mundo de maravillas. Sometimes we make our country small, smaller than what it is thinking that outside is a world of wonderful things and that now looking at reality it is not totally like that. It has its good things. It is my personal point of view, that it is not like TV, like communication, the masses portrays it, that it is the best place. It is, it has its good things, but it is not a world of wonder.
As a response participant E said that when he returns and is asked about the United States he will respond: Es como cualquier otro país, como cualquier lugar. It is like any other country, like any place.
Participants imagined the United States as tall buildings and number one in technology. However,
Llegue aquí y personalmente yo si dije llegue a la ciudad de los picapiedras porque las casa con pequeñitas, todo es plano, las plantitas se parecen. I arrived and personally I thought I arrived to the Flintstone’s city because the houses are small, everything is plain, and the plants look alike.
Similarly S explains: Ellos [otros Ecuatorianos] piensan, bueno no se, que venir acá a un país de habla nativa, estar en una universidad de Estados Unidos, van a utilizar la mejor tecnología. En resumidas cuentas usted se da cuenta que igual, nuestro país es pequeño pero tiene lo mismo en pequeño. They [other Ecuadorian] think, well I don’t know, that coming here to an English speaking country, being in a university in the United States, they will use the best technology. But you can tell it is the same, our country is small, but it has the same in small.
For participants whose expectations were not met, the lack of high technology was detrimental for their sojourn and was perceived as a main factor that made the experience negative. Additionally, participants expressed discomfort with the fact that many natives in the town where the university is located can speak Spanish. This may be due to the nature and objectives of the program, which is to learn strategies in how to teach English once they return to their home country. During a group interview participant L said:
Yo pensaba que, que se yo que las personas solamente hablaban inglés, que mi prioridad aquí era el inglés que todo me tenia que comunicar en ingles, pero me di cuenta que las personas también tienen un segundo idioma, que es el español. I thought that people only spoke English, that my priority here was English and I will have to communicate all in English, but I realize that people have a second language, which is Spanish.
For participants that lie in the “unmet expectations” of the continuum, the fact that Spanish is prominently spoken throughout the city was a major disadvantage because their main objective of coming to this program was not fully achieved. One participant explains: Nosotros necesitamos practicar y aqui no hay practica. We need to practice, and here we don’t have practice.
This made participants feel uneasy and pressured because they have many expectations from colleague and the government upon return. S explains:
Es muy frustrante, por ejemplo en mi caso, yo voy a regresar al Ecuador... en el trabajo cada que yo chateo con compañeros o compañeras, me dicen que voy a ya saber todo, que voy a ir experta para capacitarles, de que voy a hablar como una nativa, de que esto de que el otro…Entonces si va a ser frustrante que me digan “oye tu aprendiste esto,” pero lastimosamente lo que hice fue recordad lo que yo ya aprendí y no aprender algo nuevo por que yo en verdad lo que hubiera querido es mejorar las destrezas. Si es muy difícil para mi, lastimosamente no se logro. En el trabajo para mi va a ser mucha presión cuando regrese. It’s very frustrating, for example in my case, I am going to go back to Ecuador… In my job, every time I chat with my coworkers, they tell me I am going to know everything, that I will go back to train them, that I am going to speak like a native, that this and the other…So it will be frustrating that they tell me “hey you learned this,” but unfortunately what I did was remember what I had already learned and not learn something new because what I would have liked is to improve the skill. It is very difficult for me, unfortunately it wasn’t achieved. In my job it will be a lot of pressure when I return.
As expected, participants had certain difficulties regarding their physiological needs, especially food. It was evident that for those whose expectations were not met, these elements were more relevant to their experience and made their adaptations more difficult.
One participant said: Para unos esta bien por ejemplo la comida picante, pero para mi ya no. Eso es para unos esta lindo la comida china, pero para mi ya no. For some for example, the spicy food is good, for me it’s enough. That’s it, for some the Chinese food is nice, for me it’s not any more.
Not only did this group felt their needs were not met, but they felt administration did not listened to them when they asked for accommodations. This led them to feel anxious and felt they were left alone.
Sharing cultural values
Although this subcategory can relate to the first subcategory, its uniqueness is that participants want to adopt American values not because their culture is “bad,” but because it is necessary to appreciate their own culture and country as much as American’s appreciate theirs. For example participant E explained he feels the city has become his home and he has learned to love a city and country that is not his. He adds:
La enseñanza es amar al país. Yo veo la bandera de Estados Unidos en casi todas partes. Hay nacionalismo aquí lo que no hay, al menos en mi ciudad no hay. The lesson is to love the country. I see the United States flag in almost everywhere. There is nationalism here that at least in my city there is not any.
In this type of reflection, participants believe that both cultures have positive and negative aspects, but it is important to show appreciation for ones own culture and country. Something that is not seen in Ecuador. The main factors influencing acculturation among these participants is social communication, specifically personal communication regarding their own country and culture.
One participant explained the importance of demonstrating the Ecuadorean identity:
Venir sin temores, a exponer la cultura. Que hay identidad. Si no diríamos que somos ecuatorianos de labios para afuera pero nuestra actitud demuestra ser occidental de segunda mano podríamos decir. [It is important] to come without fear, to expose our culture. That we have identity, if we don’t, we would say that we are Ecuadorean from lips out, but our attitude show we are second hand occidentals we can say.
Similarly another participant explains that Ecuador can be small and sometimes its citizens believe that goals cannot be met in the country:
Que a veces en nuestros países vemos que no podemos hacer algo por que estamos en nuestro país, creo yo que podemos hacer mucho mas que estando afuera. That sometimes in our countries we see that we cannot do something because we are in our country, but I think we can do much more than being out.
Participants in this category lie throughout the expectations continuum and not in one specific extreme.
Understanding these reflexive mechanisms helps identify participant’s relative position in the expectations continuum. It also leads to the identification of group conflicts between participants in the extreme poles of the continuum. Even though support networks were generally perceived positively in coping with feelings of loneliness, group network conflict was prominent between people in opposite sides of the continuum. For example participant Z described the network of Ecuadorean as ‘The Big Brother:’
Aquí estoy observando y aprendiendo y viendo la realidad es como un compañero dice, aquí estamos como Gran Hermano[se ríe]. Estamos dentro de la Universidad y ya van a ver lo que va a ir pasando entre nosotros. Espérate que sea Mayo. Y realmente estoy aprendiendo tanto de aquí como de mi misma cultura. Here I am observing how we [Ecuadorian] are in reality like a classmate says, ‘We are like The Big Brother’ [laughs]. We are in the same University and you will see all what will happen. And in reality I am learning about here as I am learning about my same culture.
The main reasons for these conflicts are the tensions that arise during interactions between participants in the extremes of the continuum. K best describes this situation when she explains:
Veo mucha discordancia, no concordamos en algunas opiniones contrarias que está a veces generando un poquito de conflicto dentro del grupo en general por que empiezan como que ‘tú te quejas por esto’ y ‘tú te conformas con lo que te dan.’ I see a lot of discrepancy, we don't agree with many opinions that are sometimes generating a little bit of conflict inside the group in general because they start like “you complain about this” and “you conform to what they give you.”
Despite agreement on the existence of group’s conflict, both sides are quick to explain it was great to have the group of Ecuadorian to serve as moral support during the experience abroad. For example participant F said:
En cuanto a los sentimientos he sentido el apoyo [de los Ecuatorianos] porque muchas veces cuando uno se siente solo tranquilamente sale a cualquier lado y puede conversar con cualquier persona de algo y es como que uno se descuidara del sentimiento, como que se libera un ratito, porque tiene alguien con quien conversar digamos. In regards to the emotions, I have felt the support [of the Ecuadorians] because many times when one feels lonely one goes out and talks to any person about something and it’s like you forget about the feeling, like you get liberated for a little bit because you have with who to talk.
The identified continuum grounded in perceived expectations helped identify different reflections provided by participants as well as delineate group conflict that emerged due to dialogical tensions.
The data presented in this study led to a number of findings. The first and most prominent is the identification of a continuum grounded in expectations that determined persistent attitudes. Correspondingly, there was no change over time in participant attitudes. Additionally, participants provided three sets of reflections that related to whether or not their expectations were met. The factors or elements influencing acculturation varied within reflections and expectation, and were organized using the S-A-G model as conceptual framework. Evidently, those participants whose expectations were met reflected on the worth of culture. For these participants, host reciprocity was a major element influencing their positive perception. Reflections of participants whose expectations were unmet were based on host culture denigration. For these participants environmental factors such as technology, Spanish language prominence and physiological needs, were stressors during their sojourn. Participants also engaged in reflections of sharing cultural values. This participants lie throughout the continuum and had mixed feelings regarding their expectations. Factors prominently discussed by these participants are social communication, particularly interpersonal communication. Finally, network conflicts arouse between dimension poles of the continuum as members whose expectations were met were described as “conforming and defending the program of study” whereas members whose expectations were unmet were described as “complaining about everything.”
The primary limitation to the present study concerns a lack of participation among the members. While the author is also Ecuadorian, this did not necessarily mean that participants were willing to engage in the interview. There could be any number of reasons to account for this, but likely it can be traced to a perceived difference in class status within Ecuador. Regional differences within Ecuador may also account for some of the hesitation. Also, it could certainly be the case that being asked to participate in an interview while contending with the effects of culture shock is another stressor itself.
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