Mandy M. Chan


Expatriation is becoming an attractive career path for many people due to the global economic movement. People experience career transitions due to change of organization, locations, responsibilities, reporting structures, and work groups. Expatriates in particular experience more extreme changes because of challenges they encounter from language differences, geographical distance across countries, culture, habit, and life style. These changes influence people's perspective in seeing things, including their self-identity. The aim of this research was to explore the evolvement of expatriates' self-identity. A qualitative research design using reflexive narrative inquiry was employed. Seven current and former expatriates from Australia, Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States participated in this study. Through an interview process, these individuals reflected upon and shared their international experience retrospectively. Using expatriates' own narrative, an individual identity transformation story was constructed in order to answer the research question of this study: How does international experience influence a person's self-identity? Participants noticed significant and previously unknown changes in their behavior and outlook from their assignments. These varied based upon their motives for accepting the assignment, social interaction, work requirements, and personal attitudes. The study reveals that international assignments help expatriates discover the identity that they may not have recognized previously, and affirms and transitions their already known identity to a different level through new learning and relationships from their experiences. Expatriates' enjoyment of their experience is highly influenced by their social interaction and dialogue with others. One of the drawbacks from expatriation, especially for those who are on long-term international assignments and deep immersion in the local culture, is the losing of their definition of home. As a result of this study, recommendations include an opportunity for organizations to conduct a fit-gap analysis with employees. Results can provide information on employees' level of readiness to take on an international role, and for organizations to better support employees' preparation needs. Onsite coaching and support groups for expatriates can be beneficial to alleviate the stress that occurred during their on-boarding. In addition, expatriates are encouraged to establish their social network in the host country.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organization change; International business enterprises -- Employees; Identity (Psychology); Aliens -- Psychology

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;