Wry Exchange

Reverse Culture Shock, Part 2
05-21-08, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Exchange Students | Tags:

 Reverse Culture Shock, part 2

As hard as reverse culture shock is to see, I feel sorry for the students who don’t experience it.  I can tell one of this year’s students, ‘Zeus’, won’t have culture shock when he returns home.  Why?  We tell the students “You’ve become ‘one of us’ if you had a successful year.”  Zeus hasn’t, he is the same as he was in the beginning.  Zeus knows it, and is proud.  He was happy when I told him he was completely the same as in August. He wasted an entire year.  FESs have to be flexible, open to new experiences, and tolerant.  Zeus is arrogant, and hasn’t learned anything.  Not surprising that he’s had problems making friends in school and with the other FESs, and with host families.

We discussed reverse culture shock at our final student meeting.  Husband and I could just see it on their faces as our words hit home.  The arc went from ‘Not me’ to ‘Holy shit!’  We explained to the students it’s the same every year.  A former exchange student in her late 20’s was at the meeting, and she confirmed it’s true, and it’s difficult to go through. 

Reverse Culture shock may be worse than culture shock last August.  That surprised the students.   We said that when they left home, they knew everything and everyone would still be there, pretty much unchanged.  In the meantime, they’ve changed.  They think differently.  When they go home, they may never return to the states.  If they DO return, it won’t be the same.   They won’t all be together as a group ever again, and they won’t be part of a high school group either.  This IS a ‘Once in a lifetime experience.’

People won’t understand why FESs are sad to be home. They won’t understand they’ve left a piece of their heart here.  People don’t understand why they’re mourning the loss of people they’ve known only 9-12 months, because the foreigners are not your “REAL friends and family.” 

We told the students “You are no longer a citizen of your native country, you’re now a citizen of the world. You see the world differently.  You mind has expanded. You’ll always want to travel. Your thoughts about your country might be different than when you left it.  You’ll see there are different ways to do everything.”


Please read the rest of my reverse culture shock series, part 1, part 3, and part 4.


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