3 tips for returning home from abroad

When you go abroad you expect things to be different.

You expect to be misunderstood, to experience confusion, homesickness, and ups and downs.

But coming home? That should be the easy part, right?

photo credit: elana's pantry via photopin c
photo credit: elana’s pantry via photopin c


Going abroad is often the easy part.

Coming home can be MUCH more challenging.

Since we don’t expect that being back on our old stomping grounds would be difficult we’re often surprised when the natural challenges of re-entry smack us in the face.

Why am I so bored?

Why do I feel out of synch with friends and family?

Why do I feel so homesick for “abroad”?

Most people think of re-entry as those first few days after returning home from abroad. You know, jet lag, unpacking, seeing people you haven’t seen in weeks, months or even years.

But after you’ve had coffee from your favorite local cafe, marveled at the ginormous cereal aisle at the grocery store (and maybe walked out empty handed because you just can’t decide which one to buy), and hugged your family and friends, re-entry isn’t over…it’s just beginning.


Re-entry isn’t a time or a place. It’s a state of mind.

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Here are 3 tips to help you with re-entry:

1. Feel. You’re likely to experience a wide range of feelings as you journey home mentally and physically. It’s perfectly normal to vacillate between feeling sad, proud, anxious, relieved, elated, bored, and angry…all in the span of 5 minutes.

You’re going through a huge transition that’s unlike anything else you’ve experienced. Allow yourself to feel how you feel. Rest assured that there’s no wrong way to feel during re-entry.

2. Accept. Everyone reacts to transition differently, and your re-entry experience is no better or worse than anyone else’s. If you find re-entry much more difficult than you expected, that doesn’t make you a weak or bad person.

If your re-entry is easier than you thought, that’s ok, too. Don’t compare your re-entry experience with others’. Your experience is your experience.

3. Face. It’s surprisingly easy to avoid re-entry. Some people busy themselves by jumping back into their old routines, while others simply ignore how they feel. Don’t avoid or ignore re-entry. Instead, use it as an opportunity for personal reflection and growth.

Before diving back into work, classes or your next experience abroad, take some time to reflect on how your experiences abroad have shaped you. Give yourself time to grieve the end of an amazing experience. Allow space to think deeply about what you want the rest of your life to look like.