Re-Entry Reality: 11 Months, 11 Countries
It’s Re-Entry Reality Monday! Would you like to share your Re-Entry Reality? Contact me – I’d love to talk with you!
Betsy Ramser earned a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Florida and writes about travel and living a greater story on her blog. She lives in Florida and is planning a trip to Europe this summer for her honeymoon.
Betsy, where did you go abroad? What did you do there?
My very first experience abroad was with a girl scout trip to Manchester, England for two weeks when I was in the 7th grade. The first week we stayed at a camp and the second week was spent with a host family. I suppose that validified my love for travel.
After that, I did a summer abroad my junior year of college in France and Italy. Then, I did a study abroad trip to Ireland while I was in graduate school where we studied business in Dublin.
However, my most recent experience abroad was an 11 month 11 country mission trip to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, China, and the Philippines…with brief stops in Bari Italy and Budapest, Hungary.
Throughout the 11 months I did a variety of work including: teaching English at schools and universities, manual labor, working with kids and young adults with disabilities, speaking and preaching, sorting drugs for HIV patients, preparing and serving feeding programs at schools and in the community, visiting with local widows, leading devotions at a sewing school for women, and putting together programs for schools.
When did the idea of re-entry get on your radar?
During my first two trips abroad, I didn’t really think much about re-entry until I was back in the U.S. However, my most recent trip was the longest that I had been outside the U.S. so I started thinking about re-entry a month or two before coming home.
What was your re-entry experience like?
The first couple of times re-entry was pretty easy for me. I had the typical responses of being amazed by how large everything in the U.S. is and I was overwhelmed by the choices when I went to the store. I was also excited to eat all of my favorite foods again. My first 3 times abroad were all to Europe so the changes in culture were not quite as drastic as my fourth time abroad.
Most recently, re-entry was a lot more difficult for me than I had anticipated. I had adjusted without any real problems to each country that I visited so I didn’t imagine that re-entry would be hard for me. I also assumed that because I had been abroad before I knew what to expect. I think that having spent so much time in third-world countries made for a transition unlike the other times I had traveled.
What do you know *now* about re-entry that you wish you’d known earlier?
I wish that I had been more patient with myself. I often felt guilty because I was back in the U.S. after living in extremely poverty-stricken countries.
Any feelings that you have are valid, however, it’s important to process what you’re feeling and think about how you can use the emotion and self-knowledge going forward.
What tips do you have for others who are about to go through re-entry?
Make sure that you have a solid community supporting you and if you can, try to connect with others who have been abroad. Whether that’s in your town, state, or over the internet. Find like-minded people that can relate to your experiences and know what you are feeling.
I also found journaling and writing to be really helpful as well. Write down how you’re feeling and the things you are experiencing. Not only is it helpful, but I also found it to be really fun to read through my past experiences a year or two later. Otherwise you probably won’t remember everything.
And…just for fun: If re-entry were a food what would it be? Why?
I would say that re-entry is like the fruit durian. It looks really interesting but you don’t know what to expect. Also, most people don’t know what durian is until they travel and someone offers it to them or asks if they have ever tasted it.
Many of us have a similar perspective on re-entry where we don’t think much of it until it is right before us. Some people really like durian and others hate it. The re-entry process is similar in that people have different reactions to re-entry and experience it differently.
Thanks for sharing your Re-Entry Reality, Betsy!