We're Not in Kansai Anymore: Designing for Reverse Culture Shock
I developed a resource to aid people going through reentry and reverse culture shock after returning from long stays abroad. Based on my experience with the JET Programme, I used North American JET alumni as my case study, but aimed to develop a solution that would be scalable and useful for people in other programs and situations.
While JET and other similar programs assist and support participants in the initial journey abroad and during their stay, they tend to not provide much support when the participants return. This is a real issue because culture shock upon returning from an extended trip is stronger and generally unexpected than what’s experienced at the initial departure. Because of the increasing number of people going abroad for extended stays, this highlights a very real need for support, either from the organizing groups or from alumni of those groups and programs.
I began my exploratory research with an extensive survey, where I gathered information on people’s situations prior to joining JET, various qualitative and quantative aspects of their time in Japan, and their experiences upon their return. I continued to conduct exploratory research to gather people’s personal experiences, and I worked closely with JET alumni during my generative and evaluative research phases as well.
From the beginning, I leaned towards an online solution that would connect JET alumni regardless of distance or location. Though I considered other options, this approach was vindicated by the strong needs for “community” and “shared experiences” voiced by JET alumni throughout all my research.
Ultimately I developed a plan for an online platform that enables people to share their experiences through writing and other media, as well as to communicate and connect easily with others. The name of this platform is okaeri, which means both “return” (verb) and “welcome” (greeting) in Japanese. Beyond the site’s structure and function, the key element is the visual-verbal rhetorical strategy throughout the content and layout, which will set an empathetic tone and perpetuate the sense of community that already exists among JET alumni.