Date of Award

1-1-2011

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Educational Leadership and Policies

Sub-Department

Higher Education and Student Affairs

First Advisor

Christian K Anderson

Abstract

When U.S. students study abroad, they take with them their own culture - their behaviors, beliefs, and values - that are grounded in their sense of American identity. They share their culture with those they come into contact with, and their host families in particular. Yet little has been asked of the host families regarding what they may learn about American culture from having U.S. students living in their homes and what the hosting experience means to them. This study addresses a gap in literature by providing further explanation of the outcomes of the experience for Spanish host families from their perspective. The findings indicate how these families come to interpret American culture, as well as their own culture, via the hosting experience.

This phenomenological study included 17 interviews with host family representatives in Granada and Valencia, Spain as well as five observations of host family-student interactions conducted in the host family homes. An inductive approach combined with continual comparative analysis was used to examine the findings and draw conclusions. Weber's (1986) cultural iceberg model provided a conceptual framework for analyzing both the nature of the cultural transmission from student to host as well as host families' interpretation of American and Spanish cultures.

The evidence indicates surface level culture learning related to basic lifestyle, food, and food practices as well as deeper culture learning connected to values, religion, and politics. Hosting American students positively affects the Spanish hosts economically, socially, and culturally, but also at times has negative implications. Four primary roles held by host family members include local guide, beyond the classroom teacher, cultural mediator, and family/mother. Respondents most frequently perceived Americans and American culture as being practical and independent, while they perceived Spanish culture as being significantly family-oriented.

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