Defining Meanings of Happiness through a Multicultural Lens: Impact of a Japan Study Abroad Trip

[Speaker] Teranishi Martinez, Christy:1
1:California State University Channel Islands (United States of America)

In Western cultures, happiness is often determined by individual experiences, defined by heightened positive feelings and emotions. In Eastern cultures, happiness is often intertwined with interconnectedness to one's family and community, and achieved by developing intentions, mindfulness, compassion, and tranquility. This study examined the extent to which meanings of happiness change over time and across contexts. Twenty-two American undergraduate students participated in a Japan study abroad trip. Pre- and post-survey data were collected to examine changes in flow (i.e., immersion in a challenging yet enjoyable activity), relationships, spirituality, and happiness. Contrary to expectations, after returning home, students reported no change in flow or happiness. In support of hypotheses, students reported decreased negative mood, increased inspiration, and stronger connectedness to nature. Students reported having a greater awareness of multiculturalism and diversity, opening up their hearts to develop transnational friendships and understand the meaning of respect, interconnectedness, and harmony across cultures.
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