From the W-curve model to N-curve model: toward a new understanding of the re-entry experiences of returning international students after studying abroad. A case study of Saudi Arabia

Dr Naif Daifullah Z Alsulami1

1Umm Al-Qura University, Mecca, SAUDI ARABIA

The purpose of this qualitative case study is to gain an in-depth understanding of Saudis returning to Saudi Arabia from studying abroad, their experience of the re-entry and why they have such experiences. By focusing on a sample of Saudi returnees, I generated the data from semi-structured individual interviews with the participants. The overall findings of this study reveal that the re-entry experiences are not always negative, as conceptualised by the findings of most studies focusing on the re-entry experiences. In other words, there are positive sides to the re-entry experiences that need to be expanded in order to examine closely and look fairly at the re-entry experiences. Nevertheless, there are some challenges of the re-entry requiring profound understanding by both returnees and their surrounding nationals. However, these challenges did not reach the level to be appropriately described as reverse culture shock, the term used in much of the literature, rather it is socio-cultural challenges that dissipate over time through using coping strategies.

Based on the overall findings of the study, this study suggests a new model of cross-cultural re-entry called N-curve – Naif’s model of cross cultural re-entry. This newly proposed model is based on an understanding that the notion of reverse culture shock should be revisited, considering the provision of powerful connections between international students and their home culture facilitated by social media. Moreover, it is based on the idea that re-entry experiences are not always negative, rather there are positive sides to the re-entry that need to be maximised.  Therefore, I propose amendments to the ‘W-curve’ model (Gullahorn &Gullahorn, 1963), particularly the second U curve that is related to the re-entry experiences. These amendments suggest four stages of the re-entry experiences. These stages are honeymoon, socio-cultural challenges, recovery and enjoying the positive sides of the re-entry.


Biography: 

Dr. Naif  Daifullah Z Alsulami has a PhD specialising in international education from Monash University in 2018. He is currently an assistant professor at Umm Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia. Naif is an experienced teacher and researcher. He has experience as a qualitative researcher

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ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education. For more information, please visit the ISANA website.

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