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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The cultural adaptation of Japanese college students in a study abroad context : an ethnographic study Segawa, Megumi


Using ethnographic methods, namely in-depth interviews and participant-observation, I examined the everyday experiences of fifteen female Japanese students during a nine-month study abroad. I attempted to investigate (1) the nature of cultural learning in the participants of this study during their sojourn and (2) how different social networks in the sojourn context affected the processes of their cultural learning and adaptation to the host environment. I employed models of cross-cultural adaptation based on a perspective of cultural learning / social skill acquisition as a theoretical framework. During the first few months in Canada, students without previous international sojourn experiences seemed to be physically and emotionally vulnerable. Some students experienced emotional upheaval which was consistent with previously published accounts of the characteristics of the sojourner adaptation process. A close association of the Japanese within their group throughout their sojourn resulted in the formation of an ethnic enclave in the dormitory community. This provided a support network for most of the Japanese students, but at the same time, caused interpersonal conflicts in the group. The strong group solidarity also negatively affected the relationship between the Japanese students and their Canadian peers in the dormitory. The Japanese students in this study not only had to adapt to the socio-cultural characteristics of the host environment, but also to the norms and values of their own group which reflected their cultural heritage. Although they encountered a number of challenges while in Canada, the process of overcoming difficulties and absorbing new experiences enabled them to grow personally and intellectually. Towards the end of their sojourn and after returning to Japan, the students recognised positive changes in their attitude and behaviour which they attributed to the different experiences they had through their study abroad. While several findings of the study indicated that the participants' adaptation to the new cultural setting reflected theoretical propositions in the cross-cultural adaptation literature, the study also showed how the unique nature of the students' sojourn environment had a significant impact on their adaptation process.

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