Teaching Expatriate Adaptation While Dealing With Reality: The Impact of a Tragedy on the Study-Abroad Experience


  • Kenneth J. Levine University of Tennessee at Knoxville, United States
  • Sally L. Levine Case Western Reserve University, United States




international education, expatriate adaptation, tragedy, U-shaped models


This paper explores the relevance of the accepted U-shaped models of expatriate adaptation to students engaged in an international educational experience when they are faced with a tragedy. In this study-abroad course, an examination of the existing adaptation models and how they provide a set of expectations for the process of cultural adjustment is presented as course material. During a particular four-week summer program, one of the nineteen students who went abroad died in an accident at the end of the first week. It became clear after the tragedy that the models studied failed to explain the impact of a personal tragedy of this magnitude on the students’ adjustment process. This unfortunate event provided an opportunity to conduct a quasi-experiment to consider the impact of personal tragedy for students to question a body of research through their own personal experience and for scholars to re-examine and update the existing models.

Author Biographies

Kenneth J. Levine, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, United States

Kenneth J. Levine, JD, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Levine’s research agenda concentrates on international communication, organizational communication and leadership. Dr. Levine is an advocate for the inclusion of international and intercultural material in the classroom and has organized and taught a summer study-abroad program in Paris and Brussels since 1998. In this role, he has introduced students to international communication issues as the students experience the similarities and differences in communication between the U.S. and Western Europe at the organizational, interpersonal and political levels. 

Sally L. Levine, Case Western Reserve University, United States

Sally L. Levine, architect and educator, began teaching study abroad programs in 1996, while on the faculty of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Currently at Case Western Reserve University, she helps her students question the status quo and explores innovations that speak to the needs of the 21st century. Ms. Levine approaches both her teaching and architectural work from a humanist perspective. In her profession, Ms. Levine is a nationally recognized expert in Universal Design.




How to Cite

Levine, K. J., & Levine, S. L. (2014). Teaching Expatriate Adaptation While Dealing With Reality: The Impact of a Tragedy on the Study-Abroad Experience. Journal of International Students, 4(4), 342–350. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v4i4.453



Research Articles (English)