Re-entry Reality: Exploring the Other You

RR-Interview

 

It’s Re-Entry Reality Monday! I’ve gotten such a great response to this series (thank you!) that I’m going to continue it. Would you like to share your Re-Entry Reality? Contact me – I’d love to talk with you!

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Lisa Zenno is a TCK (third culture kid) intercultural education enthusiast, a Melibee intern, and a mentor. She loves to explore art through social media and have one of a kind dialogues during happy hours. She enjoys sharing stories but is also an avid listener and observer. She’s @tckwsucoug on Twitter.

Lisa, where did you go abroad and what did you do there?

Though I have never “studied abroad’ through a school setting, I have been through many re-entries as a Third Culture Kid (I moved 9 times in 28 years). My toughest ‘reentry’ experience is when I mevisit/return to Japan, my “home” country. I have a Japanese citizenship, yet to call Japan my home is still quite difficult. Until recently, I only had my extended family to visit in Japan, but now, I have friends from college to visit as well.

When did the idea of re-entry get on your radar?

I learned the term ‘reentry’ in English back in my undergrad years as an Intercultural Communication major, but, interesting enough, I have always been labeled as”kikokushijo” in Japan, which translates to “repatriate children” or “returnees” if you will. Since I was a small child, I could not grasp why I was being called “kikokushijo” if I wasn’t there to return, if not simply to visit. “Kikoku” in Kanji is literally spelled out “returning to country.” I remember joking/arguing with my family that I am a “kikokushijo” who hasn’t returned yet.

What was your re-entry experience like? 

Every experience of me visiting Japan is a different re-entry experience simply because I do not get to go back to Japan that often. I think I visit Mexico a lot more frequently than going back to Japan. (Whether that is for monetary reasons or comfort level is another topic).

Through grade school all the way to high school, I only got to visit Japan during my school breaks (Winter and/or Summer). It was always interesting to me to compare my life as opposed to my cousins during these visits. For example, in Japan, the educational year runs from April to March, which means that kids typically have homework over the Summer break. I never had that going to a bilingual Mexican-American school.

After High School, I only got to visit Japan once during college to celebrate my coming of age ceremony, and this past year to experience visiting Japan for the first time during the Spring season.

For the sake of keeping this short, I will explore my re-entry experience I had back when I was a sophomore in college. To celebrate my 20th birthday, I visited Japan alone to go visit my family. Though I had traveled abroad solo, that was my first time going back to Japan alone.

I got to ‘be’ my natural self, not having to worry about being in the presence of my very Japanese mother. I still dealt with having to go through cultural norms of saving face and/or trying to decipher the difference between “honne” and “tatemae.” I was lucky though, to be able to ‘experience’ my “seijinshiki” or “coming of age ceremony” in Japan.

I thought nothing of it at first, simply “experiencing” something for the first time. Trying out something new. It wasn’t until I was going through the experience and coming back to college that I noticed the differences of identity. This ceremony in an essence opened up my fascination about self, society, and identity-leading it to my senior thesis, “The Meaning of Coming of Age Ceremonies for Japanese people living abroad.”

When I go back to Japan, I fit right in appearance wise, but I don’t fit in any other way. I’m taller and bigger than the average girl, I do not speak the language as fluently (I think in English, so code switching takes time) and I often feel relieved to hear English background music and/or tourists speaking in any other language than Japanese. (Hearing Spanish gets me very excited in Japan!).

As I learn about reentry exercises and meet people that have gone through the same experiences, I try to incorporate it into my ‘self-reflection’ on the plane ride back each time.

What do you know *now* about re-entry that you wish you’d known earlier?

That a lot of TCKs go through this struggle with identity, and that there really isn’t a solution for it-just coping mechanisms. I think a lot of times, I try really hard to find a solution, but it’s a lot easier now knowing that I have to go through this every time, and I am capable of learning and growing stronger as an individual.

What tips do you have for others who are about to go through re-entry?

Don’t be afraid, and simply explore, reflect, then share. Who knows-it might inspire you to base your college research off of it 😉

And… just for fun: if re-entry were a food what would it be? Why?

I’d have to say it’s a tuna because right off the bat, tuna is known to be the fish, but once you explore and go into deeper dialogue, you get to find out that it is indeed a sweet prickly pear found in Mexico. If you take reentry as it is or how you’ve heard it to be, you’ll never get to explore the deeper and often times sweeter product of finding out more about yourself.

 Thanks, Lisa! 
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You can now order the Re-Entry Reality: Your Guide to Re-Launching Yourself After Being Abroad workbook and support group! Half of the proceeds of every purchase will go to help a high school student study abroad! Click here to check it out.

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About the Author: Dr. Cate Brubaker

Dr. Cate Brubaker is on a mission to make re-entry after living abroad a positive, transformational force (even when it’s not easy…especially when it’s not easy)! Cate is the author of the Re-Entry Roadmap workbook and the Study Abroad Re-entry Toolkit. Cate has lived in Germany, worked and traveled in 37 countries on four continents, and has helped all kinds of globetrotters successfully navigate global transitions for over 20 years.

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