First Advisor

Geremie Sawadogo


Research Topic: This study addresses the question of how East African college students' cultural concepts of hospitality influence their adjustment process in the USA. It examines how the cultural differences in the roles and rituals of hospitality affected the students' social adjustment while studying in New England. Issues that were addressed during the research were: 1) the definition of hospitality in East Africa and the USA; 2) the transfer of cultural norms for "hosting" and "guesting" from one context to another; and 3) the direct impact of the East Africans' cultural perception of hospitality on their social adjustment.

Methodology: Sixteen East African students attending colleges or universities in New England were interviewed face-to-face. The students came from the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The data from the interviews was supplemented with questionnaires from an additional three respondents making a total of 19 East African students. Drawing on intercultural communication and organizational theory, a definition of hospitality was established to include social and cultural constructs which influence one's concept of hospitality. This definition, along with the author's own experience in East Africa and the U.S., provided the framework from which to analyze the research data.

Conclusions: Hospitality plays a key role in intercultural communication because it fosters interaction between the host and the guest and reflects the culture, its values and that which has meaning in a society. Hospitality in East Africa is seen more as an obligation, where in the U.S., it is considered a virtue. This study found the East African students did not transfer the hospitality norms from their own cultural context to the U.S. as they did not expect the same displays of hospitality in the host culture that they would have in their home country. Hospitality affected East African college students' adjustment because the cultural differences in hosting and guesting norms failed to consistently provide the springboard from which positive relationships are formed. The students lacked meaningful friendships and social support networks which, in turn, affected their social adjustment.

Application: Although this study and its findings were intended for college or university personnel and student leaders, it has implications for anyone who interacts with the stranger, foreigner or guest. Those involved in professional exchange or home exchange, particularly between East Africans and U.S. Americans, may gain helpful insight into their relationship with each other. Conversely, this study may be useful to the U.S. American going to East Africa.


International and Comparative Education | International and Intercultural Communication