U-Curve, Squiggly Lines or Nothing at All?

Culture Shock and the Erasmus Experience

  • Claus-Ulrich Viol Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum
  • Simon Klasen
Keywords: culture shock, cultural adaptation, U-curve, European Erasmus, student exchange

Abstract

Despite their controversial status in the current literature on sojourner adjustment, classical U-curve and four-stage models of culture shock continue to enjoy remarkable popularity. This study aims to investigate their validity by starting from (recollected) sojourner experience. Using a qualitative approach, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 50 students who had taken part in the European Erasmus exchange to see if any adaption patterns would emerge that tally with previous conceptions or offer alternatives to them. Our results show that neither moments of crisis or shock, nor any of the four stages or the typical culturally induced adjustment problems were generally reported. Accounts instead focused on success, personal growth, and a three-phase structure that divided the experience mainly in terms of social contacts and eventfulness. Furthermore, emotional ambivalence emerged as a distinctive feature throughout the entire stay. We propose that the specific characteristics of the Erasmus experience account for some of our results. Students’ close relationship with their international peers, which is one of these features, may thus facilitate cultural adaptation.

Abstract in Spanish

A pesar de su estado controvertido en la literatura actual sobre la adaptación de todos los que pasan tiempo en el extranjero, los modelos clásicos de choque cultural de curva en U y de cuatro etapas continúan tener una gran popularidad. Este estudio tiene como objetivo investigar su validez partiendo de la experiencia (recordada) de un residente temporal. Aplicando un enfoque cualitativo, realizamos entrevistas semiestructuradas con 50 estudiantes que habían participado en el intercambio europeo Erasmus para ver si surgía algún patrón de adaptación que coincidiera con concepciones anteriores u ofreciera alternativas a las mismas. Nuestros resultados muestran que, en general, no se informaron momentos de crisis o choque, ni ninguna de las cuatro etapas o los típicos problemas de adaptación culturalmente inducidos. Las representaciones, en cambio, muestran el éxito de los estudiantes, el crecimiento personal y una estructura de tres fases que dividió la experiencia principalmente en términos de la densidad de eventos y contactos sociales. Además, una ambivalencia emocional emergió como un rasgo distintivo durante toda la estancia. Proponemos que las características específicas de la experiencia Erasmus dan cuenta de algunos de nuestros resultados. Para dar un ejemplo, parece seguro que las relaciones de los estudiantes con sus compañeros internacionales de estudios facilitan la adaptación cultural.

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Published
2021-12-20
How to Cite
Viol, C.-U., & Klasen, S. (2021). U-Curve, Squiggly Lines or Nothing at All?. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 33(3), 1-28. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v33i3.607
Section
Research Articles