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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 Five - Cultural Identity Issues 241


Chapter Five Cultural Identity Issues This chapter focuses on cultural identity issues which have grown out of the data analysis of chapters three and four. The re-negotiation of cultural identity during intercultural transitions, from the perspective of the participants of this study is of paramount importance as the ramifications of identity remodelling may dramatically affect the future of these young sojourners. This is because their self-concept and self-esteem have been altered to varying degrees, irrevocably in some instances, and the way they perceive their new cultural identity during the difficult re-entry transition back into France may have lasting personal and social consequences. An important issue has emerged. In France, as in many other nations, there is evidence of an innate fear of the hegemonic effects of English for its undesirable influence on the cultural identity of the young generation. Therefore, the link between language, culture and identity increases in significance during the transitional processes of adaptation and readjustment. Language, after all, has been considered a part of humans’ unique cognitive endowment (Erard, 2005). It stands to reason that language is an intrinsic marker of one’s cultural and national identity (eg. Hill, 2002; Liddicoat et al., 2003). Liddicoat (2002) argues culture is entrenched in even the simplest language and is perceived as inseparable from the way we live our lives and use our language. The complexity of culture becomes apparent when one considers it in its sociolinguistic context, that is, how it shapes the things we say, when we say them...

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