Research strands

This project aims to further the current knowledge and understanding in a number of different but related research areas. Over 25 constructs were measured during the project, to explore the research questions summarised in the four strands below:

Strand 1: Acculturation

Living abroad can lead to acculturative stress

Intercultural exchange can lead to phases of ‘culture shock’ or ‘acculturative stress’ during the adaptation process. In this project we investigate whether there is a standard temporal course of stress and adaptation during an intercultural exchange (e.g., Do all exchange students go through the same phases? At what times does stress occur? For how long does it last? Does it reoccur? etc.). We also examine what factors facilitate adaptation, such as different coping strategies, social support, motivation, and personality.

Related measures: general well-being (e.g., stress, self-esteem), cultural adaptation (sociocultural and psychological), and coping strategies

Strand 2: Cultural learning

Cultural learning is conceptualised in three ways in this project:

  • Bi-cultural learning relates to the knowledge and understanding that is specific to the host and home culture
  • Inter-cultural learning relates to an awareness of culture in general (e.g. cross-cultural competence)
  • Extra-cultural learning concerns personal development with merits beyond an intercultural context, such as greater perspective taking, empathy and self-esteem

We assess the extent to which sojourners develop along each of these types of learning and identify the variables that influence them.

Related measures: self-reported language proficiency, cultural knowledge of home and host country, and cross-cultural competence

Strand 3: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intergroup processes

How does intercultural contact influence perception of others?

One of the primary goals of intercultural exchange is to foster positive contact between different groups. To what extent is this goal currently achieved?

In this study the effect of intercultural contact on the perception of different cultural groups is examined. Specifically, how contact with three target groups (co-nationals, host-nationals and other internationals) influences stereotypes and feelings towards the home and host national groups. We also examine whether identification with the ingroup can change as a consequence of intercultural exchange.

Related measures: contact frequency and quality, intergroup anxiety, intergroup affect and identity

Strand 4: Cultural distance

Cultural distance refers to the degree to which two cultures differ (e.g., the home vs. the host culture). These differences can be either objective or subjective in nature. Objective differences may be socio-economic indicators such as life-expectancy, economy, education and language. Subjective differences are those perceived by the individual and therefore may vary from person to person e.g., perceived friendliness or intelligence of the host society. How much of an influence does cultural distance have on the course of an exchange? In this study we investigate the role of objective and subjective cultural distance in moderating stress, adaptation, cultural learning and intergroup contact.

Related measures: perceived cultural distance between sojourners’ home and host culture