After reading Women in Cross-Cultural Transitions and evaluating the various stories in the book, I recognized a common theme throughout them all. Many of the people had similar experiences and I soon realized that they could have benefited from the following:
1) A support group. Several of the people in the book stated that having other who were experiencing the same thing helped them in their transition. People who understand you and with whom you can commiserate can make difficult situations a little easier to bear.
2) Their native language. One of women in the book wrote about the “respite” she found when she was able to speak with other students from the same country in her native language. Other people I’ve know who have lived abroad for an extended period of time also mentioned that having this was a life saver for them. While it’s important to learn the target language, it’s also extremely beneficial to be able to have contact with ones native language.
3) To be understood. Many of the women, especially students, stated that their peers had never lived abroad and didn’t understand what they were going through. While a support group can fulfill many needs, the students found themselves in numerous other situations when they were surrounded by ignorant people.
4) Awareness. First, awareness of themselves and their cultural values. Many of the women seemed to know a lot about their native culture and gave examples of their life before going abroad. Second, awareness of the target culture’s values. While the women were able to compare their culture and the target culture, they sometimes misinterpreted what they saw in the target culture. Their misinterpretation caused them to judge the situation negatively, thus leading to a negative intercultural experience. When they began to realize why things were happening the way they were, they could understand and appreciate the situations around them. Last, awareness of the target country’s perception of the individual, their nationality, accent, etc. Being aware of the relationship between your country and the target country can help prepare people for what lies ahead. It can explain strange behaviour and help people to debunk myths or explain differences that others may be afraid of.
5) Assimilation opportunities. Many of the women stated that when they had opportunities to become a part of the new country’s culture, their experience changed for the better and they felt they were able to make contributions. The more opportunities one has to get into the culture and be accepted among people from the target culture, the better. If the majority of one’s time is spent not feeling like an outsider or judged and instead feeling accepted and part of a community, valued for who they are and not their “foreignness”, their cross-cultural transition will be smoother and more positive.