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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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Chapter Six - Conclusion and Implications of Findings 305

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Chapter Six Conclusion and Implications of Findings This study emerged from close observation of a group of French students who were experiencing difficulties during their academic sojourn in Australia and were concerned about their re-entry. This was because once they had traversed the difficult stages of culture shock and reached the stage of full recovery (adjustment), they no longer wished to go home. For this reason, the cyclical nature of living transculturally and the vicissitudes involved with the formation of a hybrid identity of these sojourners was of great interest to this project. The investigation was based on three substantive themes: culture shock, reverse culture shock and cultural identity issues. The notion of of ‘perceived identity’ is of primary significance because the issues in this study are centred on the way the respondents think about themselves rather than developing an external view of others’ identities. Therefore the discourse of the respondents about their own culture has been respected and their views have been taken as evidence of what they wished to project rather than as information about their original culture (see Holliday, Hyde and Kullman, 2004). From a non-essentialist perspective of the dynamic nature of culture, Holliday et al. (2004 p.5) argue cultures ‘flow, change, intermingle, cut across and through one another regardless of national frontiers and have blurred boundaries’. Given these parameters, the French respondents in this study belonged to and traversed a complex multiplicity of cultures both within and across societies. The end result was a dynamic move...

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