September 15, 2004: Headlines: Culture Shock: Reverse Culture Shock: Daily Trojan: Students face reverse cultural shock

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Culture Shock: September 15, 2004: Headlines: Culture Shock: Reverse Culture Shock: Daily Trojan: Students face reverse cultural shock

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Students face reverse cultural shock

Students face reverse cultural shock

Students face reverse cultural shock

Students face reverse cultural shock

Office of Overseas Study offers re-entry program for students who study abroad.
By Christie Paik
Published: Wednesday, September 15, 2004
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When senior Carolyn Davidson returned home to the United States after studying abroad in Nicaragua in fall 2003, she saw the world differently.

The international relations major said she "had trouble communicating with students who haven't been in an undeveloped country" after she returned from the Central American country.

"Nicaragua is as different as you can get from the United States," she said. "I saw Los Angeles in a very different way afterwards."

One of the little discussed happenings of the study abroad experience is reverse culture shock, when students happily return home from a period spent abroad only to feel dissatisfied with their homecoming.

According to the Office of Overseas Studies, students usually have trouble reconnecting with friends and family, suffer boredom, feelings of wistfulness and view American policies in a negative light.

Davidson said her time spent abroad made her "definitely more skeptical about U.S. policies toward Latin America."

While in Nicaragua, Davidson slept outside in hammocks and bathed in a river.

"You definitely learn to appreciate things the United States and the university has to offer that aren't in other countries, and the friends that you have here," she said.

For example, Davidson discovered that American students have the "luxury to choose our own majors."

In Nicaragua, "they are motivated by making ends meet," so Nicaraguan students can't afford to dilly-dally in various academic fields like American students can, Davidson said.

Aware of these types of feelings, the Office of Overseas Studies holds a re-entry program each semester for students who have returned from abroad.

The program is designed to give students an opportunity to discuss their experiences and feelings with others, as well as provide information on how to apply skills learned abroad to their careers.

"We provide students with information to prevent them from compartmentalizing their international experience," said Alison Easterling, an advisor with the Office of Overseas Studies.

The program, which lasts about 1.5 hours, allows students to talk briefly about their re-entry challenges but gives precedence to guest speakers who provide information about scholarships and future overseas opportunities, such as teaching abroad and the Peace Corps.

The program also includes a mixer where students answer questions such as, "What was your most embarrassing moment?" or, "What was your strangest travel experience?"

"We recognize the challenges of re-entry, but we would rather focus on the positive," Easterling said.

Engineering major Adam Ho said he appreciated the wide range of ethnic cuisine that Los Angeles has to offer more after he returned from studying in France last year.

But Ho, a senior, said he "realized how everyone is sheltered and biased in America."

Ho, who had previously never been out of the United States, said he also "realized how big California is and how dependent we are on cars."

Ho said he was disappointed at the lack of things to do after he returned home.

"The thing I missed the most is that there was always something to do late at night. Here you have to plan ahead because most places shut down at around 2 a.m., and there's not much to do afterwards," Ho said.

Jennifer Barnhill, a French and business administration major who also studied in France, had similar feelings.

"I had done and seen so much while I was away in Paris, that coming back here was somewhat disappointing," Barnhill said. "The very first time I came back to the campus, I took one look at the students around me and immediately felt like I was too old to relate to them. Paris affords a unique aspect of culture and refinement that you just don't find around here."

Their mixed feelings aside, all three students expressed a desire to return to the country where they studied.

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Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Daily Trojan

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Culture Shock; Reverse Culture Shock



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