There has never been a more important time to increase understanding of reverse culture shock endured by academic returnees during repatriation into their home culture. With globalization causing millions of business personnel, volunteers and academics to acculturate into foreign cultures, the predisposition of social, emotional, psychological and vocational problems faced upon repatriation calls for greater understanding and anticipation of the challenges awaiting those returning from overseas. While much research on various types of cross cultural adjustment has been conducted, very few studies investigate what an academic experience abroad means for the sojourner during and after the return home. Insufficient knowledge and preparation on the part of researchers, study abroad professionals and participating individuals can, and often does, prevent the academic sojourn abroad from reaching its fullest developmental potential.
This thesis analyzes three aspects of 5 Americans during and after their return from an academic sojourn abroad to examine the following elements: 1. psychological difficulties experienced during repatriation, 2. changes of the self, and 3. own-culture awareness gained. This thesis identifies the specific challenges they faced upon reentry, the inner changes they see in themselves and what they come to learn about America from the perspective of their host countries; Italy, Spain, France, Argentina and South Korea. Qualitative methods, including in-depth interviews and grounded theory analysis, were used to produce conclusions from data. The results of this study draw four main conclusions 1. The period of reverse culture shock may stimulate schizophrenic symptoms for returnees, 2. Such strong personal growth and identity transformation take place during a sojourn abroad that individuals return with greater confidence and independence, a higher tolerance for diversity, an increased interest in international events, and a new way of considering reality which contains a world perspective opposed to one that is parochial and 3. Educational experiences abroad increase civic engagement in social and political issues as well as reinforce and renew patriotism towards America.
The final conclusion drawn from this research is that sojourners, their families and study abroad officials alike, merit the opportunity to be educated on the psychological and identity-transforming outcomes that arise from crossing cultures.