It’s Re-Entry Reality Monday! Would you like to share your Re-Entry Reality? Contact me – I’d love to talk with you!
Ana Elisa worked as an English teacher in Brazil and as an Au Pair in the USA and in Belgium. Since moving back to Belgium she has been focused on professional development and restarting her career in Education. You can find Ana on her blog and Twitter.
Ana, where did you go abroad and what did you do there?
My first experience abroad was very intense. It was the very first time I ever set foot on a plane and I ended up living in New Jersey for a year and a half working as an Au Pair and taking classes. After that, I knew I didn’t belong in my small Brazilian town anymore and a few months later I flew off again. This time I was an Au Pair in Belgium, I learned some French and Dutch and it’s where I live today.
When did the idea of re-entry get on your radar?
A few months before I had to leave the USA, I started thinking about what would come next – I had a lot of “What am I going to do with my life?” moments. When I left Brazil, I wanted to learn as much as I could and use that to “start a real grown-up life”. Whatever that means. In addition, I was a mess of conflicting feelings – I was happy to see my family again but I was sad because I would miss my new friends and had no idea when we would meet again. I was scared.
The second time around, I thought I would be prepared and immune. However, I felt the same – if not worse – leaving friends and boyfriend behind.
What was your re-entry experience like?
I am from a small town in Northern Minas Gerais, Brazil. It was August and we don’t get much rain. I remember my thoughts as I was driving home in a taxi with my dad: “It’s so dry and ugly!”, “What’s this taste in my mouth, dirt?”, “What the hell am I doing here?” Fortunately, that was only the first moment and I felt much better when I hugged my mom, sister, brother, cousins and enjoyed delicious homemade food and a big homecoming barbecue.
Everything and everyone was the same, but I was different. It felt like I was in a dream and had woken up. It was familiar and comfortable, but I couldn’t relate to many things anymore, like some opinions and behaviors. I felt like a stranger.
I went straight back to my old job as an English teacher. On one hand, it was great to keep me busy, meet new people and share what I’ve learned abroad. On the other hand, I felt like it was wrong to just go back to where I was before leaving. At the end of the semester I quit and started searching for my next adventure!
A little over a year later, re-entry felt lighter. After coming home from Belgium, I was focused on one thing: going back. The idea of actually living abroad for an undetermined period of time helped me enjoy every moment I had with my family.
What do you know *now* about re-entry that you wish you’d known earlier?
It’s not the end of the world. It might have been the end of life as I knew at the time and things would never be the same again, but that can turn out to be a good thing. I grew stronger and more independent and the possibilities are endless.
What tips do you have for others who are about to go through re-entry?
Everyone deals with reality in a different way, but here is what worked for me: Be patient. It is a phase and it will pass. Keep busy – work, study, do sports. Being nostalgic all the time will prevent you from enjoying your time at home and it will annoy the people around you. Reconnect with family and friends, they were and will always be my safe harbor. Talk to people who are going through the same situation, they understand what you miss. Make plans! Focus on your next trip, job, relationship, studies, etc. Life goes on!
And…just for fun: If re-entry were a food what would it be? Why?
In my case it would be cassava. At first it looks hard and uninviting, but it’s versatile and you can prepare it the way you want. It’s typical Brazilian food and I love it!
The Re-Entry Reality: Your Guide to Re-Launching Yourself After Being Abroad workbook and support is available! Half of each workbook purchase goes to help a high school student study abroad. Click here to check it out.