#MyReentryStory

Re-Entry Reality: Ramblings from the Re-Entry Periphery

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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Today’s Re-Entry Reality is a little different. I’m delighted to share this guest post by Jaimie Farel, who writes about her experience helping her best friend through re-entry. Jaimie is a marketing professional in Minneapolis, MN and alumna of Gustavus Adolphus College. She hopes to travel to England, Sweden, and one day, Spain with her friend Katie.

I never thought I’d contribute on the re-entry topic, let alone try my hand at guest blogging on a study abroad website having never truly lived outside of my home country.

However, after reading my good friend and travelista Ashley Houston’s blog post on re-entry a few weeks back, I suddenly realized that I have a few thoughts to share with the Study Abroad universe. Hopefully I can help someone out there that was once in my position.

In January 2010, my best friend Katie set off for a semester in Granada, Spain. Even though we went to college only few hours away from each other, we probably stayed in better touch with an ocean between us. We video chatted and emailed often, and she told me all about her adventures, new friends, and adapting to another culture.

Jaimie (R) with her good friend Katie (L)

Jaimie (R) with her good friend Katie (L)

Suddenly, everything changed. A few weeks before her flight back to the United States, her mood turned from bright and cheerful to negative and sour.

I was aware of the re-entry process and knew she’d have a hard time saying goodbye to a place she had grown to love over the past several months, but I had no idea it would be this hard.

One night, I noticed a new post on her travel blog. She openly described her mostly negative feelings toward coming home, which weren’t what I expected.

I was confused (why wouldn’t she want to come home?), angry (hey, the Midwest isn’t that bad!), and sad (does this mean she doesn’t want to see me?).

I kept wondering if our friendship would be the same.

I immediately turned to my other best friend, the Internet, for answers. I found plenty of resources for individuals personally experiencing the re-entry rollercoaster, but nothing for friends or family who are sometimes just as confused over a changed relationship with their loved one. I ran to a professor teaching intercultural communication and asked her what to do, and she just told me to listen and assured me my friend would be just fine.

When she got home, I told her that I wanted to listen to her stories and see pictures, even when she thought everyone was sick of hearing about Spain. We even tried to remake a favorite meal her host mom would make. Sometimes there was joy and delight in her voice when sharing a story, but sometimes there wasn’t.

The hardest thing for me to realize was that I couldn’t make everything magically better, so I had to take a breath and let her process it in her own way, on her own terms.

Everyone will process their own abroad and re-entry experience differently, so there is no clear-cut answer or cure-all for supporting our loved ones.

Here is my take on three key pieces that helped me, and our friendship, the most:

Be Aware: Re-entry is a big deal, and someone who has never returned home from living abroad probably won’t know just how emotionally-packed it can be.

Be Open: I openly asked Katie how I can be a resource for her after she got back. Neither of us had all the answers, but we talked about it often even months after her bags were unpacked.

Be Patient: Relax! Know they won’t wake up one day suddenly re-adjusted to American culture. Take the good days with the bad days, and soon you’ll learn to appreciate a new and even stronger relationship.

Lastly, to those personally experiencing re-entry, you’re not alone! While family and friends might appear overwhelmingly excited to see you or completely oblivious to how you are feeling, they still love you and would love to know how they can help.

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Pre-order the Re-Entry Reality: Your Guide to Re-Launching Yourself After Being Abroad  workbook and support group by April 2, 2013 and I will donate all proceeds to help a high school student study abroad! Click here to check it out.

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About Author

Hello, I'm Dr. Cate Brubaker! Are you a returnee who has been surprised to find your return "home" harder than going abroad? I created the Re-entry Roadmap workbook just for you. If you work with returnees, I'm here to help you with innovative resources and training that will make it easier to provide meaningful support for your returnees.