Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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Acculturation research convincingly demonstrates that moving to a foreign country may not only cause adaptive changes in an individual’s home country identity but may as well initiate the identification with the receiving society. Nevertheless, the knowledge on how identity formation is influenced by the migration process itself and in how far it may differ for temporary migrants, such as sojourners, is still fragmented. Therefore, this paper aims at extending the existing research by applying a longitudinal mixed methods approach; 176 German high school students were surveyed before, during and after spending one year in the US. Analyses reveal that, in comparison to a control group, transition increased the exchange students’ German identity beyond the sojourn. Furthermore, US identity increased strongly during the exchange but dropped after returning home. Additionally, the results of 24 semi-structured interviews conducted one year after the exchange present insights into the meaning of the development and maintenance of those identities over a period of 2.5 years. The results contribute to the understanding of home and host country identity negotiations by investigating the impact of three triggering events and their qualitative meaning: the anticipation of the exchange, the actual transition to the US and the return to Germany.

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