Center for Global Education Logo
The Center for Global Education promotes international education to foster cross-cultural awareness, cooperation and understanding. Living and working effectively in a global society requires learning with an international perspective.

We promote this type of learning by collaborating with colleges, universities and other organizations around the world.
SAFETI Clearinghouse
SAFETI Online Newsletter

Volume 1, Number 1, Fall 1999 - Winter 2000

The Missing Linkage: The Process of Integrating Orientation and Reentry

by Bruce La Brack

(Chapter 9, fromEducation for the Intercultural Experience, Edited by R. Michael Paige)

TheIntercultural Presshas generously allowed limited dissemination of this article through the SAFETI Clearinghouse. Do not copy or distribute this article as theIntercultural Pressretains the copyright and have published the book:Education for the Intercultural Experience, 2nd Edition, Edited by R. Michael Paige. The article is available here to assist in understanding how Bruce La Brack developed his predeparture orientation and re-entry courses at the University of the Pacific to 1985. His SAFETI Newsletter article details how the courses have progressed since 1985. The book:Education for the Intercultural Experience, 2nd Edition, is available through theIntercultural Press. To purchase a copy, you can either go to theIntercultural PressWebsite at:www.interculturalpress.comor contact theIntercultural Pressat Phone: (207) 846-5168 or (800) 370-2665 in the USA.


Human beings have been wandering around the globe and going back home again for millennia. Until recently their preparation for either leaving or returning was usually anecdotal, based on stereotypes, factually incorrect, or notable by its absence. As a consequence, intercultural encounters involving people from different backgrounds have historically been too often marked by mutual suspicion or varying degrees of hostility and misunderstanding. The resulting ethnocentric attitudes and perceptions did little to advance cultural understanding, encourage respect for difference, or prepare people to interact productively with others whose lifestyles were significantly at variance with their own. At least it could be argued that until modern times most people lived in relatively constricted social worlds and could afford the luxury of prejudice and ignorance. Today such complacency in the presence of cultural difference can neither be justified nor tolerated. One antidote to insular thinking which has proven remarkably effective is study abroad. Moreover, it is important for those involved in promoting study abroad




to realize just how much more effective and relevant the overseas experience can be made by providing participants a well-designed orientation prior to immersion. Further, it will be argued here that upon their return these same students should be offered an equally thoughtful and structured setting within which they can analyze both their foreign experience and the impact of reentry into their own society.

We have only recently emerged from a period which future practitioners will undoubtedly look back upon as the Dark Ages of training, marked by ethnocentric and Eurocentric assumptions. This bleak period, before orientations were taken seriously, would seem to be behind us. Truly massive efforts have been made since World War If to gather data and generate orientation techniques which make predeparture intercultural training relevant, effective, pragmatic, and interesting. Further, research continues to both substantiate the value of such training and improve the process in at least two ways. First, it has been proven that properly designed and conducted orientation programs do assist participants to achieve positive intercultural adjustments as well as to attain personal goals (which in turn reflects well upon the sponsoring agency). Second, research itself has played a key role in generating theory and evaluating training techniques (see chapters by Grove and Torbiorn and by Martin, this volume). Although the application of these research findings seems to be lagging behind their publication, it should no longer be continually necessary to justify either the value of cross-cultural training programs or the need for them.

There is a relatively substantial body of literature on the subject of orientation, and there are many examples of programs which have worked for both general and highly specialized target populations. In spite of all this, and while acknowledging that conditions and support of intercultural training have seldom seemed better, there remain some fundamental, underlying assumptions regarding orientation that are impeding what seems to me to be the next logical and necessary step, i.e., linking predeparture orientation and training with postexperience analysis and integration.

What follows is an account of a specific undergraduate program as it developed within the University of the Pacific (UOP) over a sixteen-year period. Specifically, we will show how it evolved from a voluntary, single-country, noncredit, orientation-only course for one college in the university into a multicourse-linked set of variable-credit orientation and reentry offerings serving the entire university community, inducing foreign students. In recounting the genesis of specific programmatic



aspects of what we call the Cross-Cultural Orientation and Analysis of Overseas Experience courses, the original rationales and techniques used to encourage students to view their time abroad as an ongoing process of change and growth will be examined. Although designed for U.S. undergraduates, Theoretical basis and overall structure which links orientation and reentry may be easily generalized for application in a variety of contexts.

The key term above is "process," which will be discussed shortly. First we must consider why offering predeparture orientation alone, even though it is important and necessary, is insufficient if we wish to develop a holistic understanding of what study abroad is about and to provide our students with an integrated intercultural experience.

Failure of Orientation in Isolation

Among study-abroad professionals, there is a fundamental failure to provide a linkage between orientation and reentry. The majority of orientation programs are currently conducted as though they existed in a vacuum, separate from the rest of participants’ lives, be they students in the midst of their academic careers or businesspeople on the way to overseas assignments. For students, the year abroad is seen, probably unconsciously, as a stage of development, an activity which has a life span of its own, beginning when the individual enters the foreign milieu and ending with the return home. Understandably, advisors and intercultural trainers are concerned with promoting a successful time overseas and therefore work hard to prepare the students for the impending immersion into a new social setting. For their part, few students possess an accurate view of what to expect, although many believe they do. Our students often have some prior exposure to travel abroad and arrive at orientation with what we see as a superficial sophistication about things cross-cultural. Further, they are eager to get on with the trip, often treating orientation as an imposition or, at best, a preview of coming attractions. Both perspectives miss what I feel is the main point not only of the imminent intercultural experience, but of the entire educational process that they (students and faculty alike) are involved in.

Orientation should ideally be part of a much larger undertaking which involves inculcating values and transmitting knowledge. More importantly, it should be constructed so as to encourage students to think laterally, synthesize, and make educated, intuitive leaps of imagination which serve to draw together and integrate diverse types of experience.



To conduct orientation as though the process it is part of will end when they have a good year abroad and return home is no longer adequate. To do so is to miss a major opportunity to advance the students’ understanding of themselves and their personal experiences by placing them intellectually into a much larger philosophical and academic framework.

Another problem lies in the home-culture-as-familiar/foreign-culture- as-new-and-exciting dichotomy. Going to a new environment needs preparation; returning home is simply returning to the familiar. Yet, the fact is that a growing body of research on the subject of reentry and readjustment upon returning home suggests that the problems encountered in returning can be as substantial and disorienting as the culture shock experienced in leaving. The reverse culture-shock data clearly show that for some, home can be—at least for a while—as different and strange as another country (Martin, this volume).

Culture Learning vs. Tourism

The current situation did not arise out of design. It is a modern-day survival of earlier attitudes toward the purpose, meaning, and goals of foreign travel. It reflects, at least at a psychological level, a fundamental sojourner pattern which dates back to post-Renaissance Western Europe and is typified by the walking tour or Grand Tour. The Grand Tour arose as a pleasurable finale to a liberal education of British gentlemen and had little to do with cross-cultural contact and much to do with social credentialization. Unfortunately, many of our overseas programs still appear to be imprisoned by this mindset.

There are four major and important differences between a traditional walking tour of the Continent by nineteenth-century British upper-class undergraduates and contemporary American study-abroad programs and participants. First, the sojourn came at the end of British students’ education, not in the middle. Second, no predeparture preparation whatsoever was given the British students, as their neoclassical education (including Greek and Latin) was considered completely adequate. Third, seldom was any genuine effort made by the British student to participate in the local culture, whereas there is strong pressure on the modern study-abroad student to adapt to and participate in the life of the host country. Fourth, the continental tour was intended as a capstone to a liberal education and represented a conclusion. After the tour was over, the student expected to enter adult public life and settle down.1

This scenario is in vivid contrast to the one that has been played out





by typical returning American undergraduates who, as a result of their experience, may change majors, departments, and friends. At the very least, they have a period of from one semester to two years on campus to attempt to put their time abroad into a larger educational context. Where the overseas experience for the British generally marked an end of cross-cultural interaction (barring colonial service or commercial interest abroad), for contemporary American students, one hopes, it marks only a beginning of interest in and knowledge about international affairs.

Centrality of "Process"

What we greatly need today is to construct bridges between the orientation and reentry experiences, between the pre- and post-sojourn ruminations, which use the actual overseas experience as a behavioral/ social text to be deciphered, analyzed, and finally melded with the student’s ongoing academic pursuits and personal development. The entire notion of orientation as a one-time, rather static set of prescriptions, simulations, and do-don’t lists needs to be revised, using the more dynamic and inclusive idea of orientation and reentry as twin reflections of the intercultural process.

Those of us who teach these courses conceive of "process" in a number of ways. First, it is a flow of experience which, although divisible intellectually, is actually a continuum of experiential learning that needs to be understood in its entirety, though particularly at points or stages of transition. Second, the process includes fostering personal growth and self-understanding as a part of the students’ academic training. Finally, process is understood to include the interaction between the student’s role as learner/informant and the faculty/trainer’s role as facilitator. In other words, a reentry course should both guide and reflect. It should present students with alternative adaptive strategies while at the same time promoting an open-ended exploration of current roles in society. It should promote examination of past reactions to culture contact and change. This is surprisingly easy to do if built into a linked orientation/ reentry program, because the concepts and exercises which turn out to be extremely useful in orientation as preparation for going abroad are the same ones which can assist in smoothing the return. As will be seen, the preparation for reentry can and should begin during orientation, where the groundwork can be laid for integrating the students’ intercultural learning upon their return. Before-leaving exercises, which are in some degree created by the students themselves, are highly individualized and



relevant and retain their saliency regardless of when the student returns.

Historical Origins of the UOP Program

In 1975 the author arrived at Callison College of the University of the Pacific to act as the resident anthropologist, teaching cultural anthropology classes and preparing students to participate in the college’s ongoing overseas programs. Although not specifically designated to be a training ground for Asian specialists, Callison had, since its inception in 1965, been one of three internationally oriented "cluster colleges" within the university: Raymond College stressed Euro-American studies, Covell was a bilingual unit concentrating on Latin America, while Callison focused upon non-Western/Asian studies. From the beginning the Callison faculty felt that a year of participant observation in an Asian atmosphere would facilitate cross-cultural learning, increase global awareness, and provide opportunity for intercultural exchange. In order to allow maximum time to reflect upon the experience and to encourage spontaneity and openness, it was decided that the entire sophomore class would go as a unit to Asia. The original destination was India (1965-1974), later shifting to Japan (1974-1980).

The freshman year became, in a literal sense, a continuous preparation for a mass exit the following fall. The sense of community and common destiny which arose among classes each year was remarkable. As the sophomore class went abroad, the junior class returned (as many as seventy per class) and served as resources of information and role models for the freshmen preparing to go. The discontinuity of having one entire class year abroad was balanced by the camaraderie which would eventually bind the freshmen, the veteran juniors, and the worldly seniors.

All students were required to participate in an orientation for the year abroad and to pass a standard course in cultural anthropology. The anthropology requirement allowed the person conducting the orientation to assume that the entire class would have been exposed to a basic sociocultural conceptual framework. Since everyone was going to the same destination, the orientation tended to be culture-specific. It met for less than eight hours (sometimes for as little as two three-hour sessions), though two years later it was upgraded to a required twenty-one-hour, two-unit credit course.

As the freshmen who had just gone through orientation entered their overseas year, the juniors came home. Almost immediately there was a succession of students with serious looks on their faces coming in "to talk



about their experiences." It became evident that despite all the planning and preparation in orientation, the reintegration of returning students was going to be neither automatic nor free of tension. What I came face-to-face with were varying degrees of reentry shock, something I myself had experienced when I returned to the United States from India in 1970. Unfortunately, I was not familiar with either Theoretical underpinnings or the behavioral dynamics of reentry, and the research literature available in 1976 was not much help. Within one year, the student interest and demand were strong enough to begin bringing returnees together informally, meetings which evolved quickly into a permanent course on reentry.

Like orientation, the reentry course was at first an informal, non-credit, voluntary seminar, but within two years was upgraded to a two-unit credit course. By 1977. the sequence for every class was set, every member was required to take orientation, cultural anthropology (which only I taught at that time), and the reentry seminar. Thus, I had a built-in population with which I would have recurrent contact over at least three years. Although this fortuitous circumstance was initially unplanned, it is clear in retrospect that the twin factors of recurrent contact over a long period (pre- and post-experience) and the intense, year-long student experience abroad combined to provide a nearly perfect laboratory within which to experiment with training techniques, linkages between phases, and the application of theory to practice. It was during this early period that l decided to begin a longitudinal study of the effects of overseas living and study. Simultaneously, I decided to make a concerted effort to link the two components, orientation and reentry, and to use the experience abroad as the raw data for students to research and study such topics as paralinguistics, language acquisition, identity formation, culture shock (and reentry shock), and an analysis of their own reactions and value shifts.

In the curriculum design, I had to begin to think of orientation and reentry as one package, not separate entities stacked on at the beginning and end. What was dealt with in orientation would undoubtedly come up again in reentry. The important difference is that what was abstract theory in orientation would have been transformed by the overseas stay into direct (and even painful) experience in reentry. For example, there would be continued interest by students in exploring and defining "Who am I?" During the orientation these questions were being asked by freshmen who were often confused, anxious, and naive. Their ideas about "the other" were often stereotypical, while their awareness of their own "Americanness" ranged from nonexistent to active denial. In reentry, the



"Who am I?" was pursued by junior-year returnees who had become much more reflective, even introspective, self-reliant, and questioning about what it had meant to be an "American"—or more specifically what it meant to be a Nisei from Hawaii studying in Taiwan, a Catholic living in a Buddhist/Shinto community in Hokkaido, a woman in a male-dominated Iberian homestay, or an American among South Asians.

In other words, questions about identity were a constant; what changed after the experience abroad was the sophistication and complexity of the elements which were going into the equation. This was paralleled by increased linguistic competency and sensitivity to nuance, understanding and appreciation of the arts, awareness of mutual cultural boundaries, recognition of value conflicts and ethical dilemmas, ability to "read" proxemic/kinesic gestures, and a myriad of additional insights which form the substance of intercultural knowledge. All of these topics are normally dealt with in orientation, but arise again in much more powerful and informed incarnations upon a student’s return. The questions are: what do these changes represent; how can trainers maximize their positive, long-term effects; and how can reentry contribute to orientation (and, of course, orientation to reentry)?

Developmental Theory and Training

That student is often undergo significant changes while abroad comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the types of transformations which may occur as a result of intercultural experience, even if the students themselves may not recognize the extent of such changes until weeks or months after return. Until recently, there have been few comprehensive conceptual frameworks which have accurately described these states and their characteristic behavior and psychology. For years the success of programs was often measured by the number of participants. The success for students seems to have been based on an "enjoyment quotient" Teachers looked for some evidence that the student had attained a "more international" attitude. There was little serious examination of how he or she arrived at a particular point and even less of where they may have started from, developmentally speaking.

Although a variety of developmental theories are currently being applied to intercultural learning stages, one in particular has had an influence on our program design and is noted here both as a powerful theoretical tool for evaluation of student attitudes and as an influence upon curricular design. While first reading Milton J. Bennett’s chapter



"Towards Ethnorelativism A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity" (this volume), I was struck by how closely the description of the seven ethnocentric stages (organized under "denial, defense, and minimization") paralleled typical student responses in cross-cultural orientation, while the six ethnorelative stages (organized under "acceptance, adaptation, and integration") were frequently echoed in the responses of students in the reentry classes. Building on the work of William Perry in the areas of intellectual and ethical growth, Bennett has applied a developmental schema to the intercultural arena in ways that clarify how a person "thinks about the world" and "the other" at various stages. But it is more than a classificatory system because it recognizes that the process itself is dynamic and people can move forward toward relativistic thinking or revert to ethnocentric postures. Which direction a person moves toward is influenced by a large number of internal and external factors, but the important point is that by understanding a person’s current attitudes toward intercultural interaction a trainer can assist individuals to reflect upon their presuppositions, attitudes, and behaviors. If indicated, the trainer can suggest alternatives for consideration which are likely to prove more practical and personally satisfying. Critically, this model implicitly acknowledges that the entire process is an ongoing one which has potential applications over a lifetime.

By not theoretically limiting growth potential to a period of orientation or focusing excessively on the actual overseas experience. the model provides points of evaluation and encourages the possibility of enhancing one’s understanding as part of a reentry process. In other words, it can be applied at any point in the intercultural process as both a diagnostic tool and a point of departure for program design. By serendipity, the UOP model of linking orientation and reentry evolved over the years into a channel through which individuals could experience many of these cognitive transformations; however, the path could have been shorter and the results somewhat more quantifiable had such a developmental model been available in 1975. Developmental models are now available, and these theoretical orientations can be directly and immediately incorporated into training designs and used to anticipate student reactions, overcome resistance, and prepare a range of appropriate exercises according to the stage the audience has reached. Any model based on categories must be used with care lest it be applied too rigidly. Nevertheless, they are useful conceptual and diagnostic tools. This is one wheel we can stop reinventing, now we can concentrate on refining and applying it to training programs.



Of course, it is not always clear which techniques will be most effective in assisting specific individuals to achieve higher stages. How to translate developmental theory into practical applications is the job of the training designer. Further, intercultural sensitivity and competence have been achieved by individuals for centuries without the benefit of formal education or training programs; yet, even in such self-enlightened cases these people often report that a great deal of their understanding about their own culture as well as any contrast cultures came after the fact, that is, postexperience--and without the benefit of prior orientation. It is clear that although relativistic thinking can be derived from experience alone, it can be more effectively and predictably fostered within intercultural programs, particularly if it is consciously built in to linked orientation and reentry exercises. From the data I began compiling in 1977 on our returning study-abroad students, the striking and inescapable conclusion was that the overseas experience, preceded by orientation, was only the beginning of an ongoing learning process. In recognition of this fact we have since 1988 retitled the orientation and reentry courses. They are now Cross-Cultural Training I and Cross-Cultural Training II, symbolizing our belief that they are two halves of a single process. For the sake of clarity, in this account we continue to differentiate them by using their earlier titles, Orientation and Reentry.

Left to their own resources and devices, the majority of students are perfectly able to reintegrate themselves upon return to school in some functional manner. Most of them probably perform the necessary academic tasks and conduct their personal lives adequately without a reentry seminar. A few of the most highly motivated and thoughtful are certainly able to combine their experiences with current course work in genuine, creative ways. But most, I suspect, don’t do so efficiently in isolation and in the absence of any applicable frame of reference. This point is crucial. Rather than deal directly with temporary problems related to homecoming and seek ways to integrate their academic and overseas experiences, many, if not most, I’m sure, simply compartmentalize the year abroad. In this "shoebox effect" the time abroad is mentally put away to be taken out and examined occasionally. I felt it important to prevent that. I also wanted to prevent the development of a "what I did in my year/semester overseas" syndrome. What is for many students the most personal and intense experience of their lives can devolve into a kind of exotic vacation or, worse, a nostalgic topic for cocktail party conversation. One manifestation of student awareness of these mindsets is the fear many students express over the possibility that



they might "lose" the experience because they either are having trouble fitting it into subsequent academic and personal contexts or fail to see the relevance of experiential learning to textbook theories. Therefore, another clear function for a reentry program should be to expand the students’ understanding of their international experience and to show them how to connect it with both their ongoing coursework and their personal lives. In short, orientation, the overseas experience, and reentry should be developmentally linked. To this end, we have found that the deliberate and systematic coupling of orientation and reentry is not only logical but enormously productive.

Linking Orientation and Reentry the Program to 1985

The most direct and productive way we found to link orientation and reentry was to arrange the presentation of topical areas in both courses in such a manner that the same general subject matter was dealt with twice. Of course, in Orientation such materials were given at an introductory level and, more often than not, were presented in a lecture format with stages, definitions, or critical incidents dominating over more experiential modes. It is necessary in initial meetings to present the material in this more cognitive, abstract manner "concepts" because there is rarely an experiential base to refer to. By the time the students reach the reentry course these same topics, which were once largely conceptual, are now quite real. The returnees have lots of experience to process and feelings to explore. Since both courses run roughly the same length of time (seven weeks/one three-hour meeting per week), it is possible to devote roughly equal time to a particular topic, once as "theory" in Orientation and again as "personal experience" in Reentry. For example, take the concept of culture shock.

Culture Shock/Orientation

Just as you can’t really describe the taste of a hot fudge sundae to someone who has never experienced one, it is difficult to actually convey just how disorienting entering another culture can be to a student without any cross-cultural experience. What you can do is place culture shock in the much larger referent of cultural adjustment and change. This can be approached in a number of ways. The culture-shock session at our university begins with a lecture giving the definition of culture shock, listing causes, noting the range of possible reactions, discussing how to



recognize them, and offering ways to minimize stress. The students then view a half-hour film from the Going International series2which looks at culture shock as experienced by businesspeople and their families. In addition, the students are assigned two articles on the subject to be studied, not just read.

Prior to this session the students have been asked to prepare a short (four-page) paper on either "Problems I anticipate abroad and what I can do to prepare myself to meet them" or "What I will miss most about America and what I am most looking forward to about being overseas." During the session in which these papers are handed in, a rough tabulation and item analysis is done on them and then common elements or themes put on a blackboard and discussed. In addition to building rapport, this exercise helps lower apprehension for the individual student who may have been feeling alone in his or her concerns. It also gives the instructor data to refer back to later when the culture-shock issue comes up for discussion.

Another source of data for the culture-shock session—as well as serving to help the students become aware of their unconscious patterns in daily life—is a log each student is asked to keep of a typical day in his or her life. They are expected to record in minute detail everything that happened (when, where, what time, with whom, in what, etc.) from waking up to going to sleep. This log does not need to be handed in, but is kept by the students for their own reference. The list of things they did is discussed in some detail, however, to show how maintaining that same routine might be difficult, culturally unacceptable, or simply impossible in another country. For example, the person who started the day off with no breakfast and a twenty-minute shower which "they couldn’t wake up without" might be informed that if Japan is his or her destination, this will cause problems on a number of fronts. First, there may well be no shower; and, in any event, most families take their bath (ofuro) in the evening before retiring (often in a predetermined order of family members), and the water is usually heated then for bathing only. Furthermore, while you might skip breakfast in the US. out of habit or laziness, it is likely that the wife of your homestay family will be up before everyone else preparing breakfast for the entire family (now including you) because it may be the only meal which the family regularly eats together. There are further concerns about nutrition and the energy needed for a typically long commute or to perform well in school. To not eat, or at least not sit with the family at breakfast, may be a serious breach of etiquette. As such examples are multiplied, the students begin to see how their



normal routines are culturally specific and idiosyncratic constructs which may conflict with the normal routines of their French, Japanese, Brazilian, German, etc.. hosts.

All of this leads naturally into the discussion of culture shock and is brought up again when we raise the question of what happens when cultural difference and behavioral ambiguity replace habit and certainty. This Includes how people felt when they participated in the cultural simulation classic, Bafa Bafa3(again, played two weeks before discussing culture shock). The combination of lecture, videotape, personal activity log, the list of fears and goals, and cultural simulation activities eventually gives substance and reality to the abstract idea of culture shock.

Giving these kinds of concrete and easily understandable cross-cultural contrasts in behavior and values creates a matrix in which students can place themselves, encouraging them to gauge for themselves how well they are prepared to enter a new cultural environment. More important, they can use their reactions as a reflection of the degree to which they are really ready to confront that new experience. It can motivate them to take seriously the training we offer, including culture-specific tips on ways they can further prepare themselves for study and living abroad. Of course, at this juncture it is primarily an intellectual exercise in empathy, sensitivity, data acquisition, and anticipation.

Reverse Culture Shock/Reentry

Reentry is another matter altogether. Reentry shock or reverse culture shock occurs, but the problem is that the return home is usually characterized by two unique elements: (1) an idealized view of "home" and (2) a taken-for-granted familiarity with the home culture which fosters the illusion that neither home nor the sojourner will have changed since she/he went away. This combination of mistaken attitudes frequently results in frustrated expectations, various degrees of alienation, and mutual misunderstanding between returnees and their friends and family. In this context, both initial culture shock and return culture shock can be discussed and compared in some depth and at great length. It is fascinating how materials gathered six to twelve months earlier during orientation can be used to get at not only the causes and results of overseas adjustment difficulties but to illuminate sources of ongoing readjustment problems upon the return home. The lists of problems they might encounter, which they chew up and discussed academically during orientation, can be compared to therealsources of frustration and



conflict while overseas. Similarly, the daily logs of life at home which they are asked to keep can be compared to the reality of an actual overseas routine, discussing in detail the salient cultural similarities and differences. It is sometimes uncomfortable or even embarrassing for some students to realize just how naive or unrealistic some of their preconceptions were, and how baseless some of their fears. Nevertheless, such exercises usually lead to revelations about serious problems they experienced abroad in areas they had not foreseen (i.e.. male/female relationships or concepts of friendship overseas). By using their own orientation papers (which were copied and kept by the instructor for Reentry), they can truly compare their postexperience self to what some have called their "former existence." Doing so in a supportive atmosphere with others who have their own failures and triumphs to report is an important step in dealing with any unresolved conflicts about the overseas experience as well as coping with current adjustments. In this way the relationship of before and after is made much more explicit.

Additionally, it creates what can be considered baseline data of a most personal kind. Eventually the students are able to place their highly idiosyncratic sojourns into larger analytical frameworks which incorporate the feelings and experiences of others. For the minority who experience particular difficulties in reentry, it gives solace that this too is another stage of development or a phase that will pass. This stance neither caters to a victim mentality nor discounts the validity of their condition. They can be shown through their own experiences that struggle is part of the process of growth, of an adjustment to life. As one student noted, "There is life after a year abroad, it’s just different." By emphasizing the linkage between their orientation attitudes and their more sophisticated and realistic postexperience worldview, even those with doubts about how well they performed abroad can see real personal progress and take an honest pride in their new knowledge, skills, and understanding. Without the "before and after" comparative material, it would be much more difficult to construct the necessary timeframe and invoke the prior mindset, which allows the student to view the overseas experience as a continuum of events and an accumulation of ideas and behaviors. It makes being in the midst of a readjustment much more bearable as well as academically productive. It gets to the heart of the matter quickly, does it on an individual, specific basis, yet allows for the discussion of sophisticated and complex issues and concepts about the nature of culture, the results of international experience, alterations of value systems, and a host of related issues.



Topics of culture shock and reentry adjustment are thus psychologically, theoretically, and pragmatically interrelated through an examination of the students’ own earlier work, an analysis of present feelings and behaviors, and a discussion of relevant conceptual research on these topics. We feel this reflects the reality and holism of the situation and creates the continuity necessary to discuss cultural adjustment objectively while not losing sight of the unique elements of every individual student’s experience. Best of all, students told us it worked on all these levels.

Identity and Stereotyping

Another example of linkage between orientation and reentry is in the area of identity and stereotyping. During Orientation we discuss how human beings form their basic sense of self through enculturation to a set of values which are historically derived and expressed in all aspects of the culture, particularly language. As part of this section the students are asked to list ten major values which they feel typify Americans and then to rate to what extent those values apply to themselves. The major ones are then listed on the blackboard and discussed in terms of ethnic variability, regional differences, socioeconomic class, educational levels, etc. This discussion is aided by reading assignments and handouts on American values which range from turn-of-the-century compilations through the 1920s and into the 1950s. They are also encouraged to use Stewart and Bennett’sAmerican Cultural Patternsas a resource.4In this way, concepts about both the persistence of core values and accommodation to change are investigated. The aim is to show how, regardless of the individualism stressed by so many, all humans are deeply and permanently influenced and molded by their childhood milieu. Simultaneously, it illustrates how simplistic and reductionistic most stereotypes really are. There is always someone in the class who resists being labeled an American, but who is quite willing to ascribe uninformed stereotypes to others.

In Reentry this theme is raised again, only this time students are asked to provide examples of stereotypes of the people with whom they had lived and studied overseas. While they readily acknowledge the existence of such stereotypes and can discuss their content, they are much more personally reluctant to make facile judgments of people they now know firsthand. "You cannot make that kind of statement about everyone" is a typical stance. They are also asked once again to provide a composite picture of the typical American. It is interesting that generally the American portrayal comes off much less idealistic and positive



than profiles done in Orientation, in part because of the behavior of Americans they witnessed while abroad. These types of discussions lead to clearer perceptions about the negative nature of most stereotypes, particularly about people one does not actually know or interact with.

A curious twist on stereotypes sometimes arises in Reentry. I call them "acculturation stereotypes," which refer to secondary attitudes and conceptions students pick up as part of identifying and interacting with their host culture. Examples include both anti-Arab and anti-Jewish sentiments from non-Jewish American students returning from studying in Israel, anti-English sentiments from American students returning from the Republic of Ireland, anti-Turk sentiments from study in Germany, anti-Algerian and Muslim sentiments from France, etc. In all such cases the students appear to have derived these attitudes as a kind of secondhand culture learning, picking them up from the social sentiments expressed among their overseas contacts rather than developing them as a result of actual interaction with the rejected culture group. This only proves that one can learn some negative things while abroad. When these surface in the reentry class, they can be discussed as another kind of stereotyping—which confirms two points related to reentry: first, without a reentry program you wouldn’t know that your students have arrived home with some unintended and potentially unproductive attitudes; second, knowing that these secondary stereotypes can occur enables you to begin dealing with the possibility of orientation as part of the general discussion of stereotyping.

Further, students are asked to provide examples of how they were stereotyped by others while abroad, what the content and expectations of these images were, and how they felt about being lumped into some, usually negative, archetypical cultural category. Of course, everyone hated it. It is interesting to hear returnees’ reactions to being stereotyped and categorized as "one of those Americans," particularly because so many of them were resistant in the orientation to the idea that Americans shared a coherent and deeply embedded set of assumptions and values. Although they still resist being labeled in stereotypical ways by others, they are much more willing to concede that the idea that certain behaviors and values manifested by Americans are cultural rather than individual has more than a grain of truth in it. Even those who had initially seen themselves in Orientation as rugged individualists realized in Reentry that they did take a full load of American cultural baggage abroad with them. Yet, in almost inverse proportion to the extent of their efforts to fit in and be sensitive to local customs, they resented being



stigmatized as Americans. Being stereotyped abroad was a new and unpleasant experience. To reduce it, some would avoid tourist areas, even pretending not to understand English so as not to be identified as an "ugly American." Some even claimed on rare occasions to be Canadian or British to avoid unpleasant confrontations over political or social issues with locals they did not know.

I have written elsewhere about another, related phenomenon I identify as "dual ethnocentrism,"5which often characterizes the immediate postexperience period. The major manifestation of this is the willingness of the students to rise to the defense of their "adopted" culture and the behavior of its people (because they now really want to empathize with and understand it at a much deeper level) along with a countertendency to lump Americans more readily into categories than before they left, including making more negative judgments about them. This diminishes over time as they feel less threatened or as the need to justify why they went to Poland, or Nepal, or Japan is reduced. In any case, the linking of predeparture images they previously held with the more real experiences gained by actual residence in the country is a useful tool to reduce their reliance on gross cultural generalizations or characterizations encompassing entire national personalities. There may be composite national personality and culture profiles which are valid, but such academic abstractions are a far cry from the more subjective and uninformed blanket assertions which one hears from ethnocentrics. The students become significantly less willing to accept such stereotyping from others and much more reluctant to engage in it themselves, while still recognizing that "American" can constitute a valid, generalizable category. Without the linkage it would be considerably more difficult to compare the before and after. As it is, some students try to minimize their earlier views by laughingly noting, "What did I know?" Indeed, that is the point!

Almost all our students readily admit they sometimes now feel "more American" than they ever did before the overseas sojourn. although not in a jingoistic or ultranationalist sense. They report simply realizing the extent to which their ideas, values, and emotional reactions were preconditioned by being raised in a specific nation (class, religion, etc.) with English as their primary language. Culture is eventually recognized neither as a prison nor a form of behavioral predestination, but as an underlying guide to morals and behavior which is subject to modification. Culture is then used as a concept in Reentry to extend discussions on what "American" really means and how to compare and



contrast other societies and cultural varieties in a nonjudgmental way. Culture has become much more real and tangible, less of a straitjacket and more of a useful, definable heritage.

There are other similar and related linkages between orientation and reentry, such as the role of language and paralinguistics in culture learning and communication, the importance of knowing the history and general background of the chosen country (particularly politics, religion, and economics), the multiple roles of the student overseas (foreigner, student, American, homestay/family member), value shifts and substitutions, dealing with different academic systems and teaching styles, and how to be a well-informed informant. Each of these is discussed in Orientation in such a way that they can be taken up again in Reentry and reviewed in the light of actual observation and interaction. It is a most fruitful joining of Theory of orientation with actual overseas experience and the current concerns during readjustment back home.

In addition to the exercises and discussions, each member of the reentry class must write a twenty-page (minimum) paper analyzing his or her own reentry. Over fifteen years we have gathered over four hundred of these papers, and they represent an invaluable source of information on shifting attitudes, ranges of experience, and personal reactions to study abroad by young college students. As one might imagine, the resistance to this particular requirement is terrific, but once finished the students are honestly grateful that they were made to reflect at length. Further, they now have another very personal benchmark which documents this stage of their intercultural development. Students have written back to us years later requesting copies because they had lost theirs, and it was a valuable record for them. Of course, where we have their permission to do so, we can use excerpts as appropriate in the orientation. These written records provide a permanent, archival record of our students’ experiences and tell us what has and has not worked along the way of the entire process from orientation through reentry.

Early Attempts to Utilize Foreign Students

Once the orientation and reentry class patterns were established we sought ways to add a foreign flavor to these gatherings. Initially we turned, as many programs do, to international students on our campus. We were aware of the potential dangers of free-form intercultural discussion without adequate preparation and safeguards. Therefore, the first international student participants we approached were well known



to the instructors and were selected for being outspoken, articulate, and friendly (although not uncritical of things American). They were briefed on the goals of the exercises and a range of likely responses from the American students. To be honest, they were often primed as devil’s advocates, particularly when we felt they could carry it off with grace and good humor. We stressed that their responses should be their own and reflect their personal cultural backgrounds. They were encouraged to discuss honestly their perceptions and conflicts with what they saw as the "American Way."

There are several techniques which proved useful in provoking American student response in the orientation, some of which used American returnees and international students together, while others employed only the international students. One example of the latter type involved a panel of four to six international students for about an hour of discussion during the American values session. First, we set the scene for the interaction through a half-hour of exploration of "What is American about American culture." Because the international students were chosen for their outspokenness and ability to articulate their ideas, their characterizations often did not agree with the self-perceptions of the class. However, the class was not allowed to interrupt or challenge at this stage. After the international students and American returnees had finished (around five minutes apiece), they were then asked to tell what American practice, belief, or custom had been most strange to them when they first arrived and how they viewed it now after more experience in the US. This exercise was often quite enlightening to the Americans, who usually found it difficult to understand the framework from which a Saudi Arabian, for instance, evaluates American family life, or how the Japanese view labor relations, or the nature of the Indonesian Muslim’s concern for religion. When the international students were finished, they left the classroom for about fifteen minutes while the Americans discussed what they had just heard. The range was predictable. A few empathized, but most were at least mildly offended and felt that the foreigners really didn’t understand the U.S., or if they did—and didn’t like it—wondered why they came to the U.S. to study. One or two would suggest they could leave anytime. At this point the Americans were reminded that in a very short time they would be in exactly the same situation as these students. They would be foreigners themselves. Did they really feel they knew their prospective country any better? Did they have any fewer preconceptions? Were they not likely to misinterpret behavior? Of course, it was further pointed out that most of them



probably did not speak any foreign language as well as these international students spoke English (many of them had had only a year or two of the language of the country they were going to, some none at all).6

The international students were then brought back in, and the Americans were invited to question them about their country, their perceptions of Americans, or anything else. The international students had been warned in advance that there might be some hostility, and most enjoyed engaging in a bit of mild provocation. More to the point, they often had much of value to say about what it meant to be an international student in America and what kinds of barriers and prejudices they may have faced. For several years this exercise was quite successful in opening up broad areas for discussion and making the American students more sharply aware of a number of issues, not the least of which was the whole complex process of being a stranger in a strange land. While we recognized the value of having foreign peers model some of the attitudes and behaviors the Americans would soon be facing abroad, we did not at this time use them as fully as we could have, certainly not to the extent we eventually found so synergistic and mutually beneficial.

Up to 1986, international students had been used only sporadically in the reentry seminar, but there had been some indication that it would be appropriate to use them at certain junctures in the course. For example, several weeks into the seminar we began discussing the students’ individual experiences overseas, concentrating on what they had learned and how they had learned it. That is, they first discussed mistakes and cultural faux pas, then reconsidered under what circumstances they found it necessary or advantageous to change their ideas or behavior. I always ended the first hour or so of such discussions with a question: "Can you think of a situation, circumstance, or event which still puzzles you? Something which doesn’t make sense in any cultural framework you are familiar with?" The students were usually able to recollect some unusual or downright strange event which happened to them, which they had witnessed, or which was related to them. Occasionally, I would invite some international students from the more popular study abroad sites (France, Britain, Germany, and Japan among others) both to respond to the event which occurred in their country and to try to explain it to the American students. In some cases, a reasonable, culturally based explanation was possible. Where this was the case, we all learned from the example, and the message—that we needed to understand an alternative frame of reference—was reinforced. In others, the international students have been equally puzzled, considered the



behavior rude, or attributed it to foreign influences on the society. In this case, a number of points which were equally true could be made: that variation within culture is great, that individual personality has to be taken into account, simply that the bizarre is not limited to any one cultural group. In turn, the international students could ask questions about the U.S. which still bothered them, and the Americans. now veterans themselves of overseas experience, could try to give answers or join the international students in attempting to figure them out.

This exercise led to interesting discussions of American and foreign cultural mores and customs without anyone getting defensive and with most marveling at the myriad ways human beings can respond to or interpret common events. Of course, it also allowed the various groups (French speakers, Japan-program veterans, returnees from Latin America, etc.) to reminisce about aspects of life abroad which they missed, as well as the difficulty of translating some phrases, ideas, or idiomatic expressions to outsiders. Each cultural interest group did likewise, creating a nice interchange, putting the students in a focused situation which was nonthreatening, and allowing a little indulgence in. one-upmanship. The greater lessons were still there, however, to be revealed in the attempt to decipher singular, personal cultural happenings.

Although not intended as a therapy group, the reentry class does provide a supportive forum to explore common conflicts students may be having in the areas of family/friend relationships, attitudes toward schoolwork, general boredom with resumption of old roles and responsibilities, etc. Moreover, their evaluation of their own performance while abroad can be enhanced by giving them samples of how other travelers tried (and often failed), both in their endeavors abroad and in their own readjustment back home. This process can be furthered by providing materials for reading outside class in which anthropologists, sociologists, colonial officials, and travelers detail their own shortcomings and more humbling cross-cultural adventures.

For example, I have the students read Jean Briggs’s autobiographical account of living with the Polar Eskimo,Never in Anger7This text alone serves an important role in lowering students’ negative self-evaluations, if they exist, by showing them that a trained and sensitive female graduate student conducting research for her Ph.D. made the same kind of cultural errors of judgment and experienced the same frustrations as the students. Briggs’s book is a manual of common problems in living in another culture, including language difficulties, personality conflicts, tensions over diet and food sharing, violations of personal space, and the



other trials and tribulations one experiences when trying to fit into a social setting one enters as if a child. She expresses all relevant emotions including anger, fear, loneliness, petulance, and frustration as well as the joy of discovery and the satisfaction of learning another cultural repertoire. Since none of the students is even vaguely familiar with the specific cultural setting, no one is able to raise the facade of pseudo-expert on the society. This allows them to empathize with Briggs and to see the parallels they share with her experience. It has never failed to trigger a flood of interesting and revealing anecdotes through which the class can relate common problems and even comical events in an atmosphere of mutual amusement or commiseration. At the end of the session in which Briggs is discussed, I sometimes distribute Laura Bohannon’s delightful "Shakespeare in the Bush,"8her account of how the Tiv in Nigeria reinterpret "the Bard" to conform to local standards and beliefs.

Finally, the bookSurvival Kit for Overseas Living9formed the last link in this earlier version of the orientation/reentry pairing. In the first class of Orientation, Kohls’s book was assigned and read throughout the course, chapter by chapter, in a sequence designed to fit with each week’s topic. Since Survival Kit is a concise and relatively comprehensive overview of the sojourn to come, it has proven a popular handbook over the years, most students carrying it abroad with them where they report referring to it often. For the last session of reentry they are assigned to write a five-page critical analysis ofSurvival Kit, suggesting what they would add to it, how they might rearrange it, etc. In other words, they arrive at a point where the same book which seemed so wise and well-organized (and, of course, it is), a book from which they sought wisdom and ways to cope, becomes the subject of a dissection. They have gained the confidence, knowledge, and ability to critique the manual they had depended on, and feel confident doing so. Moreover, their suggestions are of ten sophisticated and reveal a good understanding of cross-cultural dynamics and the entire process of intercultural learning. It was gratifying to see them come so far in a two-year period. Perhaps best of all, the criticism is not based on some need to find fault with the text, but rather from their desire to share some of their hard-earned experience with others so their sojourns might contain fewer hassles and more rewards. Indeed, some of the ideas from these sessions have been incorporated in Orientation; for example, the suggestion that the session on paralinguistics and general body language be expanded. Interestingly, many students proposed adding a section on reentry toSurvival Kitseveral years before Kohls did so in his second edition. At that stage of the program’s



evolution, the Kohls’s exercise completed the feedback loop which began with the first anxious session of Orientation and ended with the celebratory last session of Reentry. Each reentry class has the potential to provide excellent, timely, culture-specific, student-focused data which can be almost instantly applied in both courses. Thus, every orientation course initiates a sequence which is brought to closure only when the same students return and suggest ideas for refining future orientation courses.

To reiterate our earlier ideas about process, the product of our cross-cultural training is in large part the quality of our students’ experiences. We are not ultimately responsible for their success or failure, but we should be held accountable for preparing the best set of orientation and reentry courses we can. These must take into account the level of intercultural development of the students at each step in the cross-cultural process and offer them both challenges and support. It seems most successful to us and them when they are not only able to analyze their personal experiences, but are also able to apply those lessons in much wider contexts, including offering substantial and valid advice to their peers. At this point they are able to draw out universal implications from individual experiences and are able to integrate study-abroad experiences with what they learn in other courses and activities. In other words, the university integrates the programs in order to allow the students to integrate their experiences into their academic work and into their lives. In doing so they also almost automatically arrive at the realization that the concept of process lies at the heart of all experience. They become less likely to compartmentalize events in the future and more likely to think in broader frameworks, particularly when conflicting values and viewpoints are involved.

It is a fine irony for those of us who had been involved in the design and teaching of the program for many years, and had stressed so much the dynamic nature of process, that external circumstances in the late 1980s contributed to extensive and fundamental alterations in both Orientation and Reentry. More about that later.

Enter the International Students as Experts and Novices

In 1986, significant and far-reaching changes in the orientation programs were proposed by several members of the supervising team. Orientation remained a credit-bearing course required for all UOP students participating in overseas programs. What they proposed was to go much further in involving international students in the orientation, so



that they became not simply informants or examples of contrast cultures, but integral members of the class. The reasoning was impeccable. The University of the Pacific, like most other universities, holds a number of "international student orientation events" at various times throughout the school year, including the following: the initial intake interviews; campus familiarizations; class registration with its emphasis on academic survival and logistics; periodic issue-oriented briefings (e.g., immigration regulations); and cultural lectures (for instance, American culture as reflected in its holidays).

Didn’t it make sense to combine American and at least some of the international students into a single orientation? Were they not both undergoing an orientation to a foreign culture? Would not both groups bring interesting, diverse cultural backgrounds and quite different personalities to the classroom and make it truly multicultural? Was there not the potential for meaningful cultural dialogue and at least the opportunity for cross-cultural friendships to develop? I must admit that my first reaction was the flashing before my eyes of at least an equal number of disastrous scenarios including: great potential for mutual stereotyping, irreparable misunderstandings; problems in course design and content; differences in learning styles and expectations; loss of reentry continuity (as international students would not, of course, take the reentry class); and many other equally unattractive possibilities. I projected that not only might such outcomes be undesirable for the international students, but could have an impact upon the entire program.

These concerns proved groundless. Happily, the international students have been fully incorporated into the UOP orientation for over five years. While there were some tricky technical and cultural difficulties that had to be worked out over time, the transition progressed relatively well with the added benefits proving more important than the inevitable difficulties. It was a slow evolution as we worked out the details of curriculum, timing, and staffing, but the results were very satisfactory.

Although the main focus of this chapter is on the linkage between orientation and reentry for American students, the addition of international students to the orientation experience altered the very nature of the course. It is necessary to give the reader some idea of the various changes which were instituted and an idea of the impact they had upon the scope and content of the course—if only in the way the class atmosphere changed for American and international students alike. Moreover, some of our lessons might prove useful to others contemplating such a step. We will start with those elements which worked well and move on to those



which were not so successful.

First, the work load to handle a projected forty-five to sixty American students and another ten to twenty international students each semester in terms of logistics alone (duplicating and distributing papers, counseling individual students, etc.) was such that we felt that an additional teaching assistant (T.A.) would be useful. As class size grew over the years, we had begun to employ as a teaching assistant an American student who had overseas experience and was a veteran of orientation. We now felt that we needed not only to regularize that position but to add an international student T.A. mentor as well. This has proven quite useful, particularly in semesters when the student was rather obviously "foreign," such as when one of our most delightful and perceptive Malaysian students agreed to be a T.A. and just happened to be a strict Muslim female who maintained the traditional dress, including long skirt and head covering. When we came to sections of the course dealing with value orientations and contrasts of traditional vs. modem lifestyles, she was able to explain her religious commitment and perspective in a charming and articulate way. For many Americans it was a most enlightening encounter, perhaps the first time they had heard firsthand a reasonable explanation for and defense of practices they heretofore found incomprehensible. Americans could ask questions directly and continue the discussion on breaks or after class, which they often did. The international T.A. thus played a role in class participation and modeled the behavior we wished to elicit from international students. Also, from the moment the international students entered the class, there was someone they could approach for advice who would understand their situation and position on campus.

If the international T.A.s perform well they become much more than helpers in logistical matters because they serve as "culture brokers" and act in such various roles as translator, intermediary, counselor, tutor, and "representative’ for the international student group. Naturally, an international student T.A. will have a sensitivity to the issues facing the international students which comes from their own direct experience, but they must also be able to empathize with the American perspective and respond appropriately.

Pedagogical changes were also necessary. For example, the exercises had to be rethought so that they took into account everyone’s viewpoint and allowed the greater variation in perspective now represented in the class to emerge. Even language style and vocabulary had to be considered. For example, a number of the instructors tended to speak rather



quickly and to use slang expressions. Both of these tendencies quickly became potential liabilities, although we were able to turn them into at least tolerable assets. Speaking more slowly and enunciating more clearly, and announcing to the class why this was being done, was appreciated by the international students and taught American students that they had to do the same when they asked international students questions in class or made general statements to the group—a skill the students would find useful overseas. The use of slang was handled more formally. One of the T.A.s or a faculty member would undertake to keep a record of any slang, obscure references, or technical terms which were used in lectures. At an appropriate time the entire class would be asked if they knew what these meant. While most of the Americans did (though some did not), often none of the international students understood. In either case it gave the Americans a chance to explain the word or phrase in question. It also frequently resulted in Americans realizing just how nonstandard some of their language is and how hard some idioms and phrases are to translate. Moreover, to some of the American students the slang used by the professors would be unfamiliar, illustrating how different generations, social and educational classes, ethnic groups, etc. can influence language use and how it can vary within a single culture. The class was not designed to focus much on sociolinguistics, yet the presence of nonnative English speakers in the class often acted as a natural language laboratory, giving all students a glimpse of the complexity, flexibility, and levels of ordinary speech. And it occurred in ways which would not have happened naturally in a monolingual, English-only setting.

One big change for instructors teaching such a mixed class is the necessity of speaking simultaneously to two groups whose interests are quite divergent. It is a constant challenge to keep the interest levels of both groups high while dealing with materials which on the surface apply to only one of them. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as having the international students discuss culture shock when introducing the subject to Americans. Conversely, when discussing cultural aspects of college life, which international students may have a hard time understanding, the values embodied in them can be drawn out by asking the American students to comment on and explain them. But make no mistake, it is a very fine line to walk for three hours at a time, and the stress instructors feel is very different from that in a normal class session. The rewards for a teacher who does it well are commensurate. in some situations where the integration of the subject matter cannot logically



or reasonably be accomplished, the class can be divided for a brief period. although it is wise to keep this to a minimum for obvious reasons.

In spite of such added complications, the addition of international students worked well at so many levels and in so many instances that it is impossible within this space to outline all the specifics. So let the following instances give some feeling for the whole. Once while watching the class from the back of the room during a discussion of body language, I was struck by how evident the small but important differences were between the general classroom deportment, dress, and posture of the international students and that of the Americans. For my own anthropological amusement I made a list of the differences I saw and put it away. A week or so later the discussion turned to academic behavior, ranging over such things as classroom etiquette in other countries, written and unwritten rules of academic culture, and the problems international students have with American informality, etc. It occurred to me that the list of behaviors which I had made the week before might serve some purpose, so I got it out. Here are a few things I had jotted down:

  • 1.Feet propped on tables, soles of shoes showing to instructor

    2.Feet placed upon books

    3.Gum being chewed, drinks being slurped, even some food being eaten

    4.Students talking among themselves in apparent disregard of the instructor

    5.Waving hand or calling instructor’s name when wanting to answer a question or make a comment.

  • The list included twenty more items, but for this illustration the first two are sufficient. I asked a Saudi male if he had noticed the behavior of the Americans. He said he had and it bothered him a lot at first. I asked what would happen in his university if that were done. He replied to a shocked group of Americans that he would be permanently expelled from school; such a serious show of disrespect was unforgivable. He continued to explain that feet on books also had religious connotations as writing was a gift from God, and to show such contempt for knowledge and sacred symbols was the mark of a barbarian. Needless to say there is no question that the student overstated the Middle Eastern cultural norms in question here, but his response provoked a spirited discussion, allowing several important points to be made. Views were



    exchanged on a wide range of topics including what certain behaviors mean cross-culturally, why they came to have that connotation, and how easy it is to inadvertently transgress different cultural boundaries without suspecting anything is amiss. Some international students then told of things they had done recently on campus that Americans thought exceptionally strange, and we discussed why Americans reacted so strongly and what values informed their actions. Thus the Americans gained a better understanding of foreign perceptions and values while international students learned that certain behaviors are likely to be misunderstood by Americans.

    This type of impromptu analysis brought a number of intercultural truths home to everyone and allowed both groups to discuss actual or potential cultural gaffes in an atmosphere which consisted more of laughter than criticism. It mattered not that examples were drawn from world areas where no one was intending to study. It was much more important that the principles of the process were being interestingly illustrated with concrete behaviors than that the single specific "ethnofactoid" (as our students called the tidbits of cultural information that sometimes bounced meaninglessly around the room when a discussion began to meander) was under discussion. Certainly, the half-dozen students who were going to France that year might be forgiven for wondering about the utility of a discussion about Middle Eastern customs. The delayed-utility (or "who knows when this stuff will come in handy’) aspect of cross-cultural training became apparent a year later when, in the reentry class, an American woman returning from France talked about how the discussion about Muslim attitudes that day in Orientation (and a subsequent one on the meaning of Ramadan), helped her better understand the perspective of Algerians and other Francophone African Muslims living near her in Paris. Naturally, one invites this type of returnee into some subsequent orientation class to express exactly that to students about to go abroad. Once again, making this type of linkage is impossible if you never find out what has happened to your study-abroad students and why it might be important for you, and others, to know about it.

    Many additional examples could be cited such as the visceral impact upon American students when, during a discussion of culture shock, a woman and a man from Southeast Asia both described the emotional roller coaster they experienced in the first weeks on the UOP campus and the tremendous changes they confronted in everything from food to friendship. They became for a moment peer teachers of our students, whose direct experience was both a foreshadowing of what was to come



    for the Americans and a story from which valuable lessons could be learned. We found, over and over, that when we allowed the international students to make the main point from their actual experience, the impact was considerably more than when we talked theory or gave them our own "war stories."

    Such activities helped make the international students more accessible to the American students and promoted more interesting dialogue than a teacher-led discussion alone. This type of synergy was possible throughout the course, but it was not always forthcoming. As in any classroom situation there were off nights, when there was a reluctance to discuss certain topics (sex, politics, etc.), a tendency for some students to monopolize the conversation, some incipient male chauvinism escaping from certain individuals, and the usual panoply of difficult situations which all teachers have to deal with regardless of the culture or composition of the class. In fact, having some problems and misunderstandings arise is an excellent way to demonstrate how to deal with conflict creatively in a cross-cultural context It also provides opportunity to practice separating personal traits from cultural patterns. Some stereotyping did occur, such as the reticent Japanese, the fundamentalist Arab, the shy Filipino, the strident German, the stolid Swede, but the addition of international students was a great antidote to easy generalizations, and it humanized "the other" for everyone involved. Close friendships between Americans and international students were formed, and the entire tenor of the course was altered largely for the better.

    However, before we paint too rosy a picture, there are some problems which must be mentioned. The integration of the class is never total, and mini-ghettoization can occur, particularly when one or two groups have a numerical preponderance in a particular class, which may be international students or perhaps a group of Americans who are members of the same fraternity or sorority. On the international-student side, the differences in length of time in the U.S. and language/academic backgrounds affected the ability of the instructor to pace the class and provide a balance between basic information and more advanced considerations. Of course, the experience level of Americans also varies enormously, from those who have not been outside the state of California to Americans who were essentially raised abroad and find more in common with international students than with their American peers. The so-called "global nomads" and "third-culture kids" who have grown up abroad may find the idea of an orientation insulting. Some international students find some Americans narrow-minded, geographically illiter-



    ate, spoiled, immature, and all too willing to give an opinion in an area of marginal competence. I guess we feel, more than we would like to admit, that such a situation reflects an accurate microcosm of the real world. We are better off talking to one another with a modicum of respect in a controlled situation than keeping to ourselves and nursing our separate perceptions. like anything else, it is not ideal, but the bringing together of different realities has created a stimulating pedagogical setting. The drawbacks are minimal compared to the gains we get—in the intensity of student interaction, in the presentation of multiple viewpoints, in the provision of opportunities to question cultural values and practices directly with those holding them; in being able to provide a forum for intercultural analysis, and in linking the presentation of theory with the confirmation of individual experiential history. Furthermore, for those instructors who participate in the orientation, the experience of dealing with a range of culturally different students from diverse backgrounds is a useful and continual reminder that flexibility is required not only of the students but of the faculty as well.

    Overall, we think that the addition of international students to what was once an exclusively American overseas orientation has yielded a number of benefits which would not have emerged otherwise, particularly in the validation by international students of the usefulness of a thoughtful, specific preparation for study abroad. Seldom have any of our students from abroad had any predeparture preparation whatsoever. Therefore, taking the orientation course with American students provides a unique academic and social setting which can promote a type of learning and sharing not provided before they arrived on our campus and which is unavailable anywhere else in the university. We have always believed that every American student should study abroad as a part of his or her undergraduate experience and have an appropriate orientation prior to going. We now feel that, whenever possible, the integration of international students into that process is beneficial to everyone involved. We were, and remain, concerned that the bringing together of the international and American students benefit both groups equally. From the comments on the course evaluations by the international students, which are mandatory, we believe they see themselves in positive roles as students, culture brokers, cultural interpreters, and representatives of their respective ethnic, national, religious, and political backgrounds, and as individuals—in other words, in the same kind of roles we hope our American students will occupy when they are abroad.



    Another innovative activity we have developed is to designate one period "An American Social Event," a dinner for international and American students at a faculty home. This occasion is used as a mirror to reflect American written and unwritten rules of hospitality. These are discussed and debriefed for a couple of hours after the dinner. It has been most successful (and enjoyable) in raising consciousness of basic cultural differences in everyday behavior: Who is a guest? How does one respond to an invitation, if at all? What time does one arrive and leave? Is a gift brought? If so, what kind? How does one act? What does one do about food restrictions or attitudes toward liquor? What is correct dress? How does one reciprocate? How are differences in status among the guests handled? This exchange of ideas and beliefs about common human hospitality illustrates to the students the variability as well as the similarities of customs in a friendly setting and gives the international students valuable insights into American culture without their having to worry too much about social faux pas. Further, they share their traditions with each other, learning a number of new approaches to living and entertaining in addition to the American way. Again, the faculty also learn a great deal about the international students, and this information can be used to further enhance the orientation course. The dinner party thus both transmits and generates information which is useful in a variety of training contexts.

    Institutional Impact

    Like everything else in the world, the orientation and reentry classes do not take place in a vacuum. They were and are firmly embedded in an institutional matrix and subject to all the vicissitudes which affect such organizations. Two major elements which directly involve any such internationally oriented programs are the composition of the student population itself and the administrative structure of the university. Changes within both the university and the orientation and reentry courses themselves accelerated greatly after 1986, resulting in greater complexity in terms of acquiring additional staff, course sequencing and credit changes, recruitment, curriculum revisions, administrative accountability and structure, study-abroad advising, interunit coordination, and the incorporation of international students into the orientation. Considerably more change within UOP cross-cultural programs took place between 1985-1990 than in the prior decade. We now turn to an overview of these changes.



    By the 1980s the exploratory ethos of the sixties had been replaced by a more preprofessional and career-oriented mentality among college populations generally. UOP’s student demographics reflected this and resulted in a dismantling of Callison College. Our Asia-based overseas programs, which had been administered by an on-site director and had stressed homestays and a combination of language study, academic courses, and internships, were replaced by more standard year-abroad or semester-abroad programs. Under a newly formed Office of International Programs (OIP), the university eventually expanded the number and diversity of overseas study opportunities, offering some one hundred overseas study sites in over forty programs. The impact on Orientation and Reentry was immediate, beginning with the obvious changes that a greater range of student destinations, motivations, and academic backgrounds would entail. In both courses this situation resulted in a consideration of a much greater number of cultures and behaviors, most noticeably in Reentry where the range of student experiences was delightfully staggering in its diversity and complexity.

    It was through the OIP, with quasi-departmental status, that the orientation and reentry courses were offered for several years. However, in 1987 the administration decided to constitute a new, autonomous, degree-granting undergraduate School of International Studies (SIS) under whose administrative control the OIP would operate. The destinations of the students changed radically, shifting away from the single country programs of Callison in India and Japan. The tendency after 1980 was toward more traditional, primarily Western European, destinations as the demand for intense, year-long programs in Asia decreased. However, we retained diversity in our offerings by maintaining or generating study-abroad links with less developed world areas including sites throughout Asia, Africa, and Central and South America as well as a variety of internships, parliamentary fellowships, and work-study options. These changes required minimal structural alterations to the basic, linked framework. Dealing with a larger variety of cultures and overseas centers caused some additional burden on the instructors, but the goals and techniques remained largely intact. The loss of the three-year contact sequence, common during the pre-1980 Callison program, lessened to some degree the close personal contact and overall continuity. Nevertheless, the institution of the requirement that all School of International Studies students take both the orientation and reentry courses provided a core group which would continue to benefit from the two-course linkage and give it some stability. While all UOP students



    going abroad are required to take Orientation, Reentry is optional (for reasons of campus politics) for all but 515 students. Yet about one-third of any reentry class is normally composed of students taking it voluntarily. This results in less disjuncture and more effective carryover than seemed probable at one time, given the demands of both courses.

    Because of the above factors there has arisen some endemic, if predictable, friction between some academic departments and even administrative units of the university. Because the impact of these somewhat unusual schedules and requirements has not fallen equally upon all units, there have been bureaucratic difficulties. To be honest, the entire process of establishing the orientation and reentry courses as legitimate, academically sound curricular offerings has been fraught with logistical compromises and philosophical differences of opinion. These will probably arise in any institution which attempts to link the orientation and reentry sequences, particularly if they are (1) required of all students, (2) offered for credit, or (3) perceived as infringing on other units’ territory or historical sphere of influence.

    To faculty and administrators who support international travel and study for their students (and themselves), the litany of concerns about the merits and liabilities of intercultural study abroad is a familiar one. It does not appear to vary substantially from one campus or program to another. Dr. Donald Green compiled a survey paper10based on a sample of over one thousand students, faculty, and administrators of Pennsylvania universities, and the top ten criticisms he found expressed were:

    1. 1.Lack of apparent academic credibility
    2. 2.Lack of prerequisites, especially of language capability, for participation in the program
    3. 3.The awarding of nearly all A’s and B’s to participants
    4. 4.Favoritism in selecting faculty and student participants
    5. 5.Programs benefiting only a select few
    6. 6.Fear that international education pirates away much-needed funding from more traditional, already established programs
    7. 7.Alleged air of secrecy surrounding international education and study-abroad programs
    8. 8.Complaints of faculty having little input into the development of international educational exchanges and study-abroad programs
    1. Fear that international education poses a threat to faculty and to academic departments



  • 10.Fair-haired faculty and administrators use international education programs and their coordination as excuses for paid foreign vacations.11

  • Suffice it to say that most of these specters have been raised at the University of the Pacific and probably elsewhere. How directors respond and faculty counter such assertions will vary. There is no reliable guide on how to avoid such charges, and perhaps they should be seen as opportunities to educate and inform skeptics and critics alike about the nature, benefits, and integrity of orientation and reentry. They are academically valid pursuits. Most importantly, it is necessary for internationalists in these discussions to demonstrate the same qualities which we insist upon from our students headed overseas: patience, sensitivity, the ability to respond thoughtfully and nonargumentatively to hostile questions, flexibility, and the ability to compromise.

    It is incumbent upon all concerned with offering such preparatory and postexperience programs that these programs be academically defensible and current with the latest theoretical and practical training advances. After a couple of years the results should become self-evident, both in student response and more objective measures of achievement and adjustment. The intimate linking of orientation with reentry is the best way of ensuring that students maximize their overseas sojourn as well as accomplish a reentry which utilizes and integrates the experiential learning with their ongoing, postexperience, academic and personal life. Students are our products. It only makes sense to offer them the greatest chance possible, not only to go abroad but to return and subsequently contribute to the furtherance of their, and our, international programs.

    The constant necessity to justify and validate our overseas programs is somewhat analogous to the students’ attitudes as they progress over the path of pre- and postexperience courses. Initially, there is often a passive (or not so passive) resistance to Orientation on the part of American students because: (1) they are forced to take a course in order to go overseas, (2) they already know all that stuff because they have been overseas, or (3) it’s too much work. This attitude of hostility changes early on for some while others continue to resist. In general, we deal with this by acknowledging the hostility in the first session and further explain that, at one level, we really don’t care how they feel because it is: (1) a requirement, (2) they need it whether they think they do or not, and (3) how they adjust to the regimen of the class is often a good indication of



    how they will react to the demands of another culture—and we will be observing them behaviorally as well as academically. This doesn’t totally alleviate the hostility but does mute it. For most, our position eventually makes sense and they cooperate. I suppose that is all one can ask. When programs must be defended it is not unusual for a similar pattern to develop. That is, initial resistance on the part of some members of the faculty and administration who see the enterprise as either intellectually weak or indulgent can eventually be turned around, not by provocation but by persuasion. The strongest case can be made by the students, many of whom willingly testify to their own conversion from resister to advocate as they moved from orientation through the overseas phase to reentry and beyond. Such students are not only the product of the linked programs but the best arguments for both having and linking the programs.


    The foregoing has been a review of the overall genesis of orientation and reentry at the University of the Pacific, which has stressed the rationale for their almost symbiotic linkage and the importance of viewing the entire pre and postexperience preparations as one relatively unbroken learning process. As of fall 1991, over one thousand American students have completed orientation at UOP, of whom about two-thirds have subsequently taken the reentry course. To date, over one hundred international students have participated in the combined orientation course.

    The courses have been taught by five faculty members12who have used similar, but not identical, methods and materials.13We value flexibility as an important element in the entire program and have often modified the model. We will continue to do so in the belief that no process as complex as intercultural adjustment can ever be adequately summarized in one theory or taught using only one type of training technique. Variety and experimentation are the twin engines which drive the intercultural vehicle. One thing we won’t change is the belief, based on experience, that orientation linked to reentry has a synergistic effect, the sum being greater than the parts. We recommend it highly.

    Finally, if the reader has not been able to intuit it from the text, those of us who are engaged in the process find it challenging, interesting, enjoyable, and frustrating. Kind of like going overseas—or coming home.


  • An elaboration of this comparison is available in the author’s commentary, "Something More Than a Grand Tour," Pacific Review 68, no.2 (October, 1980): 5.
  • This four-part series of half-hour videotapes from Griggs Productions of San Francisco is designed to acquaint overseas-bound executives and their families with the problems and delights of "Going International." With appropriate audience preparation and postviewing discussion, these films can be used quite effectively with a college student population in both orientation and reentry situations.
  • Bafa Bafa is a culture-general learning simulation in which two cultures are created (Alpha and Beta). Participants belong to one or the other culture and learn the appropriate language, gestures, rules of etiquette, and social values of it. Each group visits the other for a period of time trying to discover the other’s rules and motivations. A very popular simulation, Bafa Bafa provides a mini-experience in intercultural communication and cross-cultural interaction and serves as a vehicle for stimulating discussions of culture learning, culture and personality, relative values, and emotional reactions to difference and stress. Available from its creator, Carry Shirts, through Simulation Training Systems, Delmar, CA.
  • Students have been given a range of readings in the past including the section "American Values" by Clyde Kluckhohn in Mirror for Man(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949) and are given a handout of a list of values compiled by Robert Lynde in the 1920s. Students also have read Edward C. Stewart’s article, "American Assumptions and Values: Orientation to Action" in Toward Internationalism, Elise C. Smith and Louise Fiber Luce, eds. (Cambridge, MA: Newbury House, 1979). They are strongly encouraged to read Stewart’s short summary, "American Cultural Patterns: A Cross-Cultural Perspective" (SIETAR, Georgetown University, 1979), which is extensively elaborated upon in the book American Cultural Patterns: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, by Edward C. Stewart and Milton J. Bennett, revised edition (Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1991).
  • Another handout which has been used in the past includes Cultural Assumptions and Values Affecting Interpersonal Relationships, adapted from Stephen H. Rhinesmith’s Bring Home the



  • World (New York: AMACOM 1975): 43-45, which is a type of "contrast-American" approach which contrasts American cultural behaviors with those at the opposite end of a behavioral spectrum to highlight the importance of cultural differences in a cross-cultural interaction.
  • Finally, there are a number of articles which can be assigned depending on class size, interest, and destination. The most useful to date include Seymour Martin Upset, "A Changing American Character?" in Culture and Shock! Character, S. M. Upset, ed. (New York: Free Press, 1961); Robin M. Williams, Jr., "Values and Beliefs in American Society" (particularly the subsection "Major Value Orientations in America"), chapter 11 ofAmerican Society, 2d ed. (New York Alfred A. Knopf, 1960); and, of course, selected portions of Alexis deTocqueville’sDemocracy in America(New York: Vintage Books, 1959).
  • See Bruce La Brack, "What Is the Result of International Experience for US. Students: Bi-Culturalism or Dual Ethnocentrism?," paper delivered to the International Society for Educational, Scientific and Cultural Interchanges, Los Angeles, March 19,1981; and "The Rediscovery of America: Cultural and Psychological Factors in US. College Students’ Reentry" paper delivered at the International Congress of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Istanbul, Turkey, July 6-10,1986.
  • Before the integration of UOP international students into the orientation program, this exercise was used primarily to discuss the generalized role of being an international student in an unfamiliar cultural setting; however, it also stressed the need for American students to become knowledgeable about not only the country in which they were intending to study, but their own as well. With this dual goal in mind, we have in the past assigned chariest. Vetter, Jr.’s Citizen Ambassadors: Guidelines to Responding to Questions Asked about America, Brigham Young University, 1983, and then assigned a five page paper on "Questions about America I Would Most Likely Be Asked in the Country I Am Going to and How I Would Answer Them." This requires the students to search out cultural information about the U.S. and Americans and about their selected country and to use the information in constructing diplomatic and thoughtful responses. The exercise has been very successful in focusing on areas where the students’ cultural knowledge is weak as well as making them aware that it is not just the content of their answers that is

  • 278


  • important but also the form and tone the answers take. Although now somewhat dated, Vetter can be used with appropriate adaptation.
  • Jean L. Briggs,Never in Anger: Portrait of an Eskimo Family, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1970.
  • This classic tale has found its way into numerous anthropological and cross-cultural communication collections under various titles but is best known as ‘Shakespeare in the Bush," a delightful and insightful venture into parallel and divergent realities where a familiar story is given new, powerful meanings and symbolism. The article is read within a week or so of the session in which we do a value clarification exercise called Alligator River. The latter is a simple story with five characters; the students are asked to rank the characters from most to least admirable and give their reasons why. The point is to show how even within the same culture there will be a wide range of reactions and interpretations. What then can be expected in a foreign setting?
  • L. Robert Kohls, Survival Kit for Overseas Living: For Americans Planning to Live and Work Abroad, 2d. ed.(Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press. 1984).
  • Donald E. Green, "Student and Program Evaluation: A Neglected Dimension of Study Abroad Programs," paper delivered at the International Studies Association meeting, Washington, D.C., March 5-9. 1985.
  • Ibid., 11.
  • Over the years a number of people have been involved in the teaching of Orientation and Reentry, and the author would like to acknowledge them here. Dr. Cortlandt Smith, professor of Political Science, was present from the Callison College days and has greatly assisted and supported the evolution of the UOP cross-cultural training curriculum, both as an instructor in Orientation and Reentry (even taking Reentry for personal reasons after a particularly difficult return from a sabbatical of his own in England) and in his past capacities as director of the Office of International Programs and acting dean of the School of International Studies. Barbara St. Urbain, director of the Office of International Services since 1985, has been an active supporter of the orientation program, acting as liaison between the international students and the academic staff and participating regularly in the classroom. It was at her and Dr. Smith’s



  • suggestion that international students were mainstreamed into the American student orientation. Anthropologists Longina Jakubowska (Europe and Middle East) and Deborah Rubin (Africa) have contributed their own international perspectives and extensive overseas experience to the courses since 1987 and 1990, respectively. Jo Ann Martin (Mexico and Latin America), currently at Earlham College, taught both beginning and advanced cross-cultural courses for us in 1987-88. For three years (1987-90) Helena Behrens, as director of the Office of International Programs, participated actively (from recruiting to participating in both cross-cultural training courses) in all phases of preparing our students to go abroad. Helena is now living permanently in Germany and we wish her well. The author extends his sincerest thanks to all of these individuals for their ideas and hard work and offers congratulations for a difficult job well done.
    1. Different approaches by different instructors have resulted in a collection of course syllabi for both Orientation and Reentry which vary somewhat in assigned readings, exercises, and sequencing. We would be happy to supply, within reason, samples of such syllabi to interested individuals and institutions. Please send a self-addressed manila envelope (standard letter size or larger) to Dr. Bruce La Brack, School of International Studies, University of the Pacific, Stockton, California 95211 U.S.A.

    TheIntercultural Presshas generously allowed limited dissemination of this article through the SAFETI Clearinghouse. Do not copy or distribute this article as theIntercultural Pressretains the copyright and have published the book:Education for the Intercultural Experience, 2nd Edition, Edited by R. Michael Paige. The article is available here to assist in understanding how Bruce La Brack developed his predeparture orientation and re-entry courses at the University of the Pacific to 1985. His SAFETI Newsletter article details how the courses have progressed since 1985. The book:Education for the Intercultural Experience, 2nd Edition, is available through theIntercultural Press. To purchase a copy, you can either go to theIntercultural PressWebsite at:www.interculturalpress.comor contact theIntercultural Pressat Phone: (207) 846-5168 or (800) 370-2665 in the USA.

    Bruce La Brack is Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. He holds a joint appointment in the Sociology/Anthropology Department and the School of International Studies where he is Coordinator of Cross-Cultural Training. For over 20 years, he has been teaching a course for students prior to participating in study abroad (INTL 151: Cross-Cultural Training 1) and another course to support the re-entry process after students return from study abroad (INTL 161: Cross-Cultural Training 2).