A sojourner is a person who resides in a country other than his or her country of origin for an extended time. Sojourners leave their home country for a specific purpose (e.g., teaching, studying, working, military service, humanitarian aide) but have no intentions of applying for citizenship or moving permanently to the host country. International students, peace corps volunteers, military personal, missionaries, and people who temporarily work overseas are all examples of sojourners. Usually this temporary move is purely by choice; however, in certain cases, like that of military personnel, their service may be voluntary but their requirement to move may be a demand of their service and thereby not totally of their own accord. Sojourning has become increasingly popular as technology and communication have advanced to create a global economy.

Sojourning can be considered a major life stressor and individuals may see a counselor for assistance in adjusting to their relocation. Cognitive, behavioral, and emotional adjustment will be necessary. Upon arrival in their host country, many sojourners describe a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, isolation, numbness, irritability, confusion, a sense of loss and/or violation, frustration, anger, exhaustion, depression, and reduced confidence. These tend to be most prevalent upon their arrival in the host country and dissipate over time. A failure to recover from the transition into another culture may result in an early return to their native country, difficulties performing their duties in the host country, and prolonged distress. This failure to adjust may have long-term effects on their career path and interpersonal relationships. Counselors can assist their clients by helping them adjust to their new environment and normalizing their feelings. Counselors must be respectful of their unique worldview and not suggest they change to fit in with the culture of the new country. It is important to understand what the sojourner’s expectation is for counseling and how counseling is viewed in his or her country of origin. This will be critical in determining the client’s expectations of the counselor. Sojourners may present many challenges to the counselor, such as less fluency in the host culture language, different nonverbal behaviors, and different customs. It is necessary for counselors to familiarize themselves with the customs of their culture of origin to facilitate a multiculturally sensitive approach to treatment.

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If sojourners are able to negotiate the adjustment into their host culture, they may return to their native country having gained a new understanding of international relations and an increased appreciation for both their native country and their host country.


  1. Sussman, N. M. (2000). The dynamic nature of cultural identity throughout cultural transitions: Why home is not so sweet. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4(4), 355-373.
  2. Ward, C. (1996). Acculturation. In D. Landis & R. S. Bhafat (Eds.), Handbook of intercultural training (Vol. 2, pp. 124-147). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  3. Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001). The psychology of culture shock (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis.

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