Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Mark A. Hector

Committee Members

Kathleen L. Davis, P. Gary Klukken, Howard R. Pollio


The purpose of this study was to understand the experience of sojourning in East Tennessee by individuals from East Asia. Understanding the experience of these individuals is achieved through the descriptions of their own experiences in their own words. A qualitative method was used to understand the experiences of individuals who came from East Asian countries: China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, and who have lived in East Tennessee.

In phenomenological interviews, sixteen participants described their experiences of sojourning in East Tennessee. These interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, and then analyzed by an interpretive research group to identify common themes within and across transcripts. Interpretive analyses revealed five themes of the experience of sojourning in East Tennessee. Themes that emerged in this study were contextualized and grounded by the theme of Changes Over Time. From the ground, five themes emerged: (a) Differences, (b) Difficulties, (c) Coping, (d) Relationships, and (e) Findings in Me. The ground of Changes Over Time represented the context of time and its continuous flow where individuals found differences between the home and host culture, faced difficulties of living in a foreign country, and developed their strategies to cope with these difficulties. The ground is also the context where the participants experienced changes in their perception of self and others and obtained an understanding of the host culture and adjustment to a new environment.

The first theme, Differences, encompassed the participants’ observation and understanding of the differences between their home and host culture. The second theme, Difficulties, reflected the participants’ awareness of difficulties when they entered the new environment. These difficulties include weak language skills, lack of cultural background, emotional distress, food and financial problems, getting sick, uncertainty of the future, and limitations of being foreigners. The third theme, Coping, conveyed the participants’ descriptions of how they coped with the difficulties and how they learned coping skills. The fourth theme, Relationships, reflected the participants’ relationships with people including family, friends, and romantic relationships. The fifth theme, Findings in Me, conveyed the participants’ perception of changes in themselves and values, and future plans.

The findings of this study illustrate and describe the experience of sojourning in East Tennessee by sixteen individuals from East Asia. These findings provide an understanding of the cross-cultural adaptation process and the meaning of living in a foreign place from the perspectives of sojourners from East Asian countries. The sixteen participants’ rich descriptions of their experiences of sojourning help us to understand that cross-cultural contact is often an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

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