International lifelong learners

First and Foremost

Although my readership is low to non-existent, I must apologize for not blogging for the past couple months.  After writing my last post, I got an exciting new idea for my next post that I could use for my next research project.  Because of that, I needed to request approval from my current IRB.  While I was waiting for approval, I started writing a non-blog article to eventually publish in a scholarly journal.  The pressure to publish there is greater to publish here, and I would love to discuss this matter further with anyone interested.  But on to the topic at hand…

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The culture-learning that sojourning ELTs go through is the same as the culture-learning that international students go through.


This hypothesis is my reaction to reviewing an article by Adrian Furnham, who reviewed literature on culture shock.  According to Furnham, culture-learning is a type of culture shock that sojourners need to “survive and thrive in their new settings” (p.88).

There was a paragraph on page 89 that struck me after conducting my own thorough literature review on sojourning ELTs plus conducting my own study on the adjustment process of a few sojourning ELTs for my dissertation.  In this paragraph, Furham describes four types of typical problems that international students face.  To me, all four types can be attributed to problems that sojourning ELTs face as well.  They are:

  1. Racial discrimination, language problems, accommodation difficulties, separation reactions, dietary restrictions, financial stress, misunderstandings, loneliness
  2. Becoming emotionally independent, self-supporting, productive, and responsible member of society
  3. Working hard under poor conditions
  4. National or ethnic roles of sojourners is often prominent in their interactions with host members

I believe there is plenty of evidence of all four of these problems in the sojourning ELT blogosphere now.  For example, my previous post highlighted Baye’s issues with racial discrimination.  Furthermore, I have plenty of data from my dissertation research participants concerning all four problem areas.

So what?

This puts me on a path to provide evidence that my hypothesis could likely be correct.  In my dissertation, I suggested that sojourning ELTs should be a new type of sojourning group to investigate for culture shock or acculturation studies.  Although I still believe their experiences are not the same as international students or corporate employees sent overseas, I am more convinced that sojourning ELTs are more similar to international students than corporate employees.  I’m sure sojourning ELTs in private schools would disagree, and I’d like to have that debate.

Closing Argument

If you are or were a sojourning ELT like I was, please go through this checklist and see how many of these characteristics apply or applied to you, especially during your first few years teaching abroad:

  • In your twenties
  • Well-educated
  • Highly motivated
  • Adaptable
  • Better off than most of your peers
  • Experienced feeling of alienation while being surrounded by “superficial pleasantries” of your hosts

These actually describe international students in Furnham’s literature review.  I see the similarities between sojourning ELTs and international students comforting as it helps build my narrative as an international lifelong learner.

What do you think?  If you are or were a sojourning ELT, how similar or different were your culture-learning experiences from international students?


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