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Culture and Identity in Study Abroad Contexts

After Australia, French without France

Series:

Marie-Claire Patron

This book examines the effects of a study abroad experience on students’ culture and identity and the impact of these effects on their readjustment to their home culture. It explores issues of culture and identity from the perspective of French students studying in Australia. Issues of perceived cultural proximity between France and Australia, a relative lack of prior knowledge of the host country before the period of study and the impact of distance all influence aspects of these students’ experiences. Employing long-term and cross-sectional studies focusing on culture shock, reverse culture shock and cultural identity issues, the author investigates the cyclical journey of French academic sojourners and examines the impact of the acculturation and repatriation processes and the language experiences on their perceptions of cultural identity. Once the students had traversed the difficult stages of culture shock and reached the stage of full recovery (adjustment), they no longer wished to go home. What impact has this process had on the returnees who faced the insularity of their home society once they returned home? Is the French community beginning to acknowledge the start of a brain-drain of the educated French overseas? What are the implications for borderless higher education? What value should be placed on pre-departure preparation from participating institutions and the individuals themselves, both on a linguistic and a psychological level? This book poses questions relating to these issues.

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Preface 9

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9 Preface This book investigates the effects of a study abroad experience on students’ culture and identity and the impact of these effects on their readjustment to their home culture. The book examines these issues of culture and identity from the perspective of French students studying in Australia. These sojourners make for a particularly interesting case study as issues of perceived cultural proximity between France and Australia, a relative lack of prior knowledge of the host country before the period of study and the impact of distance all affect aspects of these students’ experiences. Intercultural exchanges in Australia for French academic sojourners constitute a recent phenomenon as French students were traditionally involved primarily in European exchange programmes under the auspices of associations such as ERASMUS and formerly SOCRATES. This incontrovertibly rewarding expe- rience can also be stressful and perplexing. What transpires when they return home may have an even greater impact on their future as they experience reverse culture shock, a phenomenon constituting a gap in research. With the age of globalisation, students from many countries are deciding on destinations never before considered for their exchange experience, sometimes with insufficient preparation pre- departure for the intercultural exchange and post-sojourn for the re- entry adjustment. These decisions may have serious implications for borderless higher education. The internationalisation of tertiary stu- dents is consequently worthy of further investigation. This research is based on close observation of a group of tertiary French students who were experiencing difficulties during their academic sojourn in Australia...

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