Johanna Abrams is a 21-year old senior Economics major at State University. At State, she has been on Orientation staff for 3 years, facilitates the freshman Leadership learning community, and is an active member in both the economics and accounting honors societies. She lives with three roommates in a house located in Hanover, Ohio. Johanna’s mother and father currently live in San Francisco, California, and her brother attends law school in Oregon. Johanna has never lived in the same location for more than 10 years. Her family must relocate due to her father’s job. Born on Toledo, Ohio, Johanna has lived in Germany, Ohio, California, and Texas. She attended boarding school for three years during high school in Pennsylvania. Growing up in various locations proved to be difficult for Johanna. She had to assimilate to many new cultures while attempting to create and maintain an identity. As a self-proclaimed “sojourner,” it was interesting to speak with Johanna about how she negotiates her identity through an intercultural communication lens.
“Culture shock is the psychological and emotional reaction people experience when they encounter a culture that is very different from their own (Furnham & Bochner, 1986)” (Oetzel, 2009, p. 126). Although we all experience culture shock differently, researchers have compiled six different stages, which describe what sojourners should expect when experiencing a culture for the first time (Oetzel, 2009, p. 128): 1) honeymoon, 2) crisis, 3) recovery, 4) adjustment, 5) reentry culture shock, and 6) resocialization. The honeymoon stage is when sojourners are excited about being in a new location (Oetzel, 2009, p. 128). Crisis then starts after the enthusiasm wanes (Oetzel, 2009, p. 128). During recovery, sojourners once again see some favorable features regarding the new culture and its people (Oetzel, 2009, p. 128). Adjustment is when sojourners gain a level of comfort within the new culture and are able to function well in most cultural experiences (Oetzel, 2009, p. 128). Then, sojourners experience reentry culture shock, and rise against the culture of their original home. Lastly, sojourners experience resocialization, in which they realize they were harsh on their original culture, remember the positive aspects of it, and realize that people living in different cultures have a different way of life (Oetzel, 2009, p. 129).
Culture shock is an appropriate concept to analyze. Johanna recalled that she experienced its cycle with every relocation. For example, when she moved to Texas, she was not used to the level of respect people have for the elders of the community. Upon moving to California, she quickly realized the culture and lifestyle was very task and goal oriented. Most of Johanna’s acquaintances in California were concerned with getting good grades in school and participating in as many extracurricular activities as possible. This, in turn, meant that they did not socialize with...