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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 Four - Reverse Culture Shock: The Readjustment Process 147


Chapter Four Reverse Culture Shock: The Readjustment Process It has been widely acknowledged that there is a gap in research describing the re-entry or re-acculturation processes of various sojour- ner groups following at least six months abroad in an immersion experience (e.g. Kim, 2001; Martin, 1986; Storti, 2001b; Uehara, 1986; Werkman, 1982). The implications of cross-cultural education in distant locations may produce dramatically different experiences with diverse consequences from those exchange students who remain within Europe to a large extent. As neither Europe-based French academic sojourners, nor those who venture further afield to study, feature in empirical studies, the gap is significantly wider. Storti (2001b) among other researchers (e.g. Gaw, 2000; Kim, 2001; Martin, 1986; Sussman, 2001) censures the lacunae in research in the area of re-entry processes, as scholars have focused essentially on the overseas experience. They have produced a voluminous literature on the phenomenon of culture shock, as well as seminars and workshops to ease the process of adjustment in immersion transitions in order to equip sojourners with coping strategies. Storti argues that, although sojourners are generally expected to go home at some stage, the significant process of readjustment in one’s own culture is totally taken for granted. Few returnees expect difficulties in re-adapting to their country of origin. When they have grown up in the familiar culture, there should be no unknown factors to challenge them and family and friends are there to welcome them back to the fold. One only need pick up where one left...

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