‘The art of coming home’ convocation opens eyes to reverse culture shock


BY BECKY FULTON – STAFF WRITER

Becky Fulton  The Art of Coming Home Convo

Centre College is known for sending its students abroad. These students travel on wonderful journeys that allow them to learn about life outside the United States; however, many of the students face the jarring effects of reverse culture shock when returning home.

The Center for Global Citizenship and counselors from Parsons Student Heath Center decided to hold a convocation for these students returning from abroad to present an opportunity for them to hear from other Centre students who have also been abroad.

“This is the first time we’ve done a convo like this,” Assistant Director of the Center for Global Citizenship Leigh Cocanaugher said.

The convo consisted of a panel of five students who have studied abroad during the fall of 2015 including: sophomore Jack Miller, who studied in Strasbourg, France; junior Grace Anastasio, who studied in Reading, England; and junior Jillian Riseman, who studied in Merida, Mexico. The other two students on the panel studied abroad during the fall 2014—junior Peyton Goodman, who studied abroad in Yamaguchi, Japan, and senior “Joy Joy” Yang, who studied abroad in Shanghai, China.

Led by NEH Associate Professor of French Allison Connolly, who has also lived abroad for extended periods of time, the panel answered questions about their study abroad experiences and what they faced coming home.

Photographer: Judi Zhang

Photographer: Judi Zhang

One aspect of studying abroad that was difficult for students was missing out on what was happening at Centre, especially with recruitment for Greek life that takes place during the beginning of the spring semester.

“I wish someone would have told me about everything that was going on in the fall,” Yang, who is a member of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, said.

Goodman also had a similar experience after returning from Japan.

“For a few weeks it was overwhelming,” she said. “Then I had to go through recruitment.”

Another aspect of coming home that was difficult for Goodman was overcoming the vast differences in culture.

“I had to get used to the social cues again,” she said.

During the convo, Goodman went on to explain the differences in meaning of the nodding of the head while listening to a conversation. For the Japanese, this means that the listener is paying attention to what the speaker is saying, and not necessarily that the listener agrees with what the speaker has to say.

Towards the latter half of the convo, the focus of conversation turned more towards the experience itself instead of the returning home portion as the floor was opened for students to ask questions.

One question to the group dealt with the reception of the American students abroad.

Miller stayed with a German family while in Strasbourg, which led him to learn even more about the culture of the region.

“I learned a few nuances you didn’t learn in class,” he said.

Anastasio discussed what it meant to be an American in another English speaking country.

“A lot [of British students] were really interested in talking to Americans.”

The language aspect of studying abroad was much different for Riseman, who went to Merida without much previous knowledge of the Spanish language, which made living with a host family difficult at times.

“I still felt the whole semester I was living with strangers,” she said.

Although the language barrier can be hard at times, in other places like Strasbourg, students can get around fairly easily.

“You can get around with just English,” Miller said.

Perhaps these offices will hold a similar convo in the future for other students who have returned to talk about their study abroad experiences and what it means to come home after spending a semester abroad.

“Everything shifted for [these students] when they went abroad,” counselor Ann Goodwin said.

Students were also encouraged to see the counselors at Parsons if they need to talk to someone about going through the effects of reverse culture shock and the readjusting to life back in the states. Anyone can email the counselors to set up an appointment in Parsons at counseling@centre.edu.


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