Ellen Freij loves to travel and experience new things. As an international student, intern and teacher she has lived in multiple countries including Malta, England and the United States. She currently lives in the Netherlands, her home country, where she’s pursuing a global career in intercultural education and expat consultancy. Her website is www.roadmapjourney.com and you can get in touch with Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi, Ellen! Where were you abroad and what did you do there?
When I was seventeen I went abroad by myself for the first time. For nine months I was improving my English at a language school in Malta. This experience shaped my life as it was the beginning of my interest in travel and cultures, which led to more long-term adventures abroad.
Back home in the Netherlands I started my 4-year study in International Communication. In my third year I did an internship in Bath, England, for five months at a company specializing in intercultural training and English language training.
After England, I spent the rest of my third year in Louisiana, USA where I studied as part of a student exchange program. When I came home to finish my last year I couldn’t wait to go abroad again.
Unfortunately, it took over three years to go on another adventure, when I decided to pursue my Masters in Intercultural Communication at a university in England.
When did the idea of re-entry get on your radar? Did you have any re-entry preparation training or debriefing?
During my studies in Malta and the Netherlands I’d heard about reverse culture shock, which I also experienced after my adventures in Malta, England and the United States. I never heard of re-entry before Small Planet Studio came on my radar. This was an important moment for me. It was the year after I finished my Bachelor studies and I was having difficulties finding a job and focusing on my next step.
There were so many different options but at the same time I had no idea where I was going with my life. Going through the SPS workbook really helped to figure out my next step. I took notes, reflected on my past experiences, answered questions and step by step became more aware of what I wanted to do next.
I’m so glad you’ve found SPS helpful, Ellen! What was your re-entry experience like?
Even though I’d never heard about re-entry before SPS, I went through multiple experiences of re-entry without realizing it. After coming home from Malta it was difficult to get used to ‘normal’ daily life in the Netherlands. Everyone back home was so focused and worried about time, while I was still living a ‘slow’ Maltese lifestyle.
My most intense experience of re-entry was after I came home from Louisiana. Living and studying in the United States had made a huge impact on me and I missed my life in Louisiana and the positive feelings I had when I was there. It took a long time to feel at home in the Netherlands again.
These in-between periods of re-entry were very confusing and sometimes frustrating. I had the same feelings when I finished my Bachelor studies and had no idea what to do next. Going through the SPS workbook helped me figure out my next step: Going back to school and pursuing my Masters in Intercultural Communication in England.
I’m currently still in a process of transition and re-entry after coming home from a year and half in England. I’m now working on building a business helping others in their journey of moving abroad so they can make the most of their experience abroad.
What do you know now about re-entry that you wish you’d known earlier?
I realized re-entry is a normal process after an experience abroad. I learned that it’s important to reflect on the moments and feelings I experienced when I was abroad, and use that information to figure out what’s important to me. When I know what’s important to me I can figure out my next step and create the Global Life that suits me. Being aware of my re-entry process helps me to turn my frustrations into something positive.
What tips do you have for others who are about to go through re-entry?
Feeling confused or frustrated during re-entry is a normal experience. It’s important to let yourself feel these emotions, but not to drown in them. Be aware of your feelings and use them to figure out what’s important to you. Reflecting on your experiences can lead to amazing things!
Thanks for sharing your re-entry story, Ellen!