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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 Three - Acculturation in Australia: Culture Shock 53


Chapter Three Acculturation in Australia: Culture Shock En tous cas, sur la Gold Coast ce qui m’a choquée c’est qu’il y a rien! Vraiment rien! C’est un peu pauvre en culture. Bon on peut parler de l’art aborigène.1 (And after fifteen months) I don’t know what is the traditional Australian. It’s a new country also. But it’s something very American or English […] [There is] not much culture. The Australian personality is just like the American (Diane). Whether one approaches the concept of culture shock from a psychological perspective, from whence the term originates, from an academic, sociocultural or anthropological standpoint, or from a more comprehensive approach as in this project, there is consensus on the notion that a period of adjustment is experienced by all involved in immersion experiences in a new culture. The incidence of culture shock experienced by French academic sojourners in Australia is clearly worth investigating. The data demonstrates that although this discrete group of international students adapted successfully in this country, a degree of culture shock was registered by the majority of subjects who may not always have perceived this state using the traditional term. Various nomenclatures relating to culture shock were employed by the students to describe their own versions of the types of shock. These included ‘acclimatisation shock’, ‘climatic shock’, and ‘linguistic shock’. A distinction must be made between situations causing curiosity at discovery of elements the French may perceive are quaint or odd and the more serious emotional reactions described in...

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