Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Invisibility Dreaded and Desired

Dr. Erla Kristjansdottir.

This study examines the intercultural experience of U.S. science majors, who worked in laboratories for three months in France, and then returned to the U.S. to continue their studies. The project required traveling to conduct interviews with the students on site at four locations, two in the U.S., and two cities in France. Using phenomenological methodology, the students were interviewed prior to, during and after their experience in France in order to obtain the core information of the students’ adaptation experiences in France. Furthermore, laboratories were visited for the purpose of observing the students’ interaction with the hosts.

The study reveals that the inability to speak French was a major challenge for the U.S. students. Not being able to fit in the linguistic space, and thus being unable to interact with the French people made the students become very self-conscious about aspects of themselves, which created a feeling of being invisible. The study also illustrates how the students’ nationality and ethnicity created differences in experience in the French context of everyday living. The students’ experience of rejection forced them to identity their own values and stereotypes, which aided them to internally reflect on their own opinions and worldviews to help them understand their hosts’ non-receptiveness due to their nationality. Finally, learning about the French value system aided the students in eliminating stereotypes they had about the French culture, and enabled them to see their culture in a new light.


Dr. Erla Kristjansdottir  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Communication Department
State University of New York

Dr. Kristjánsdóttir is an Assistant Professor at SUNY Fredonia. Her teaching and research interests revolve around intercultural transitions and how people from different cultures can work and live peacefully together despite their cultural differences.

  • Sojourners
  • Adaptation
  • Intercultural transitions

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)