“Things take time here”: a phenomenology based ethnography on the social and professional adjustment challenges and strategies of two american fulbright teaching assistants in Turkey

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Approval Date: 2016

Thesis Language: English

Student: Servet Günce Erman



This ethnographic study investigated the social and professional challenges that two American Fulbright teaching assistants faced and the strategies they employed for navigating these challenges during ten-month sojourn in Turkey. The purpose of the study was to understand the cross-cultural adjustment process that the two American Fulbright teaching assistants went through based on the three dimensions of Black et al.’s (1991) Framework for International Adjustment: general, interaction and work. The study uncovered that highly strong cultural components were embedded in the behaviors and perspectives of the participant teachers. The emerging challenges and dissonances which were mostly inflicted by cultural differences were of the central focus when exploring the social and professional adjustment patterns of the two teachers. By integrating phenomenological elements into an ethnographic approach, the data were collected through observations, unstructured interviews, journals, class videotapes and blog. The findings were primarily related to two areas: culture shock and cross-cultural competency development. The data confirmed that cross-cultural adjustment is a multi-faceted and complex phenomenon. Over the course of ten months, teachers were overridden by culture shocks and transitions in cultural understanding, language barrier and cross-cultural differences were the main obstacles behind the challenges emerged. In order to overcome these challenges and successfully operate in new settings, the teachers developed some adaptation strategies such as seeking advice from cultural informants, drawing on prior cultural experiences, observation and trial-error. The study provided some implications both for the prospective sojourner teachers and administrators who are involved in inter-cultural exchange programs. The importance of mentorship in cross-cultural adjustment and cross-cultural training is emphasized in order to enable teachers make the best of these cultural exchange programs so that they can grow as culturally responsive teachers.