Varieties of culture shock for international teachers to consider: A literature review
Stroud Stasel, Rebecca
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This paper examines contextual information critical to teachers who go overseas to work in international schools. When teachers move abroad to work, they become sojourners between cultures. Rich learning and growth awaits sojourners, but so do obstacles, one of which is how to successfully acclimatize to the new cultural environment. This process has numerous monikers; perhaps the most comprehensive one is sojourner adjustment, departing from the original concept of culture shock, which was initially considered an occupational and even a psychiatric malady. Today, our understanding of culture shock has changed significantly, from an anomalous pathological event to a ubiquitous process that is challenging and often painful, yet that also results in valuable growth opportunities. Therefore, before examining sojourning teachers’ needs, what supports are helpful, and what contributes to their thriving in international teaching positions, an understanding of sojourner adjustment is helpful. Literature on sojourner adjustment for K-12 teachers in the international arena exists, but not in abundance. This literature review therefore looks broadly at literature on a variety of sojourner experiences as they pertain to cultural adaptation. Finally, literature on sojourner adjustment offers an instructive lens for understanding certain complex hurdles that international teachers face. However, it would be even more helpful to look at sojourner adjustment in combination with other lenses, such as risk-taking, the role of trust, and organizational dynamics that can affect sojourner adjustment. Although these additional lenses are not addressed in the present literature review, they are certainly recommended.