Money Matters: A Cultural Analysis of the Experiences and Expectations of American Students in Sweden Regarding Tuition Fees
Sammanfattning: This thesis analyzes the experiences and expectations of American students conducting full-time master’s studies in Sweden and how their monetary valuation of education, demonstrated through paying tuition, impacts their studies. This thesis additionally aims to explore how students adapt a specific academic habitus during their US educational experiences that they, in turn, bring with them to study in Sweden. They must then adjust their habitus and expectations to the less commodified education system that they experience in Sweden. With the help of the theoretical frameworks of Georg Simmel’s philosophy of money and valuation, Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and field, Monique Scheer’s ideas of emotions as habitus-created practices, and Erving Goffman’s analysis of socialized rules of conduct and expectations, an ethnographic study was conducted involving individual interviews, focus groups, and autoethnography. This study revealed that American students’ academic habitus is influenced by the heavily commodified education system that they experience in the US. In Sweden, this causes them to frequently mentally enact the role of a customer within their education who has purchased a specialized service and expects specific value back for their purchase price. This creates acculturative stress and tension both individually and in the classroom, as the Swedish academic field does not present itself as a purchasable service, but rather as a collaborative public good in which all participants have an equal right to gain and develop knowledge. This study will not only contribute to a better understanding of American students’ experiences in Sweden but will also allow higher education employees in Sweden to better anticipate American students’ expectations and reactions to particular behaviours, both inside and outside the classroom.
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