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Culture and Identity in Study Abroad Contexts

After Australia, French without France


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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Chapter One - Background to the Research: A Brief Review of Literature 23


Chapter One Background to the Research: A Brief Review of Literature Cross-Cultural Encounters In order to understand sojourners, one needs to examine what happens when they adapt to a foreign environment and when they return home. It is therefore useful to provide a brief critical review of literature from diverse disciplinary fields subsumed under the banner of cross- cultural encounters, focusing on the salient themes that are fund- amental for the understanding of this group of travellers. Further reference to the substantive themes will be made in subsequent chapters. An understanding of these interrelated themes is essential because the processes of acculturation of academic sojourners to a foreign country and their ensuing repatriation have enormous impact on issues which relate to the transformation of their cultural identity, their interpersonal relationships abroad and upon their return home, their personalities and outlook on life and their future direction and career choices. The dynamics of cross-cultural adaptation imply a complex process with multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional and multi-societal approaches that contribute to our understanding of how individuals born and raised in one culture adjust their life patterns to a foreign one (Kim, 2001; Ward et al., 2001). Given the complexities of former and current conceptualisations across disciplines such as psychology, anth- ropology and social and behavioural sciences, this book is oriented primarily towards an educational and sociocultural perspective. The following substantive themes underpin my framework: the social psychological phenomena of ‘Culture Shock’ and ‘Reverse Culture Shock’, and ‘Cultural Identity Issues’. Other areas of research subsumed...

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