This post was written by David Besnainou, who was studying abroad in Surfers Paradise, Australia.
One of my professors at Bond University taught me that when study abroad students return home, they absolutely and unequivocally experience reverse culture shock. This consists of four phases: the honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and mastery stages. To me, this was a bizarre concept. How could one experience culture shock in one’s own country?
When I landed at Dulles ten days ago, I was exhilarated to be back home. I was besieged by hugs and kisses and I was relieved because I had spent the previous 25 hours with my butt glued to a bumpy, 17-inch seat. So here I was, back in my home in Maryland, surrounded by the people I love most – this was definitely the honeymoon stage.
I then proceeded to do all the things I had missed so much while abroad. I drove my grandfather in my bug-like car to Ray’s Hell Burger, where we savored juicy, oversized hamburgers (which are endorsed by President Barack Obama). Then, I went with my family to our Pennsylvanian townhouse and hit the slopes. Surprisingly, the transition back to snowboarding after a semester on the surf was seamless.
Despite this warm embrace, I started to feel a nervous ting. The typically American spirit of competition hit me like a brick. Unlike Australia, America presents its citizens with a peculiar sense of forced ambition – a realization that made me anxious.
As a result, I fervently tried to inculcate Australian values in my everyday life and became increasingly critical of my native culture. This mini crisis was the negotiation stage in which cultural differences between Australia and America made me anxious.
As I move into GW housing this weekend, I have finally overcome jetlag – the leech that was sucking every ounce of energy out of me. I think I am entering the adjustment stage and making a new year’s resolution to show the world the best of both cultures. I plan to be “chilled” (easygoing in Australian) but driven and unaffected by external pressures in my pursuit of excellence.
With this tough goal in mind, I can become an expert world traveler and reach the mastery stage. I have stowed away my sleeveless shirt, now ready to endure harsh winter temperatures. This Australian top will forever be a token of my appreciation for my mates down under. They have given me immense courage and determination to achieve my curious and eccentric dreams with a smile on my face.