Re-Entry Reality: Two very different experiences



It’s Re-Entry Reality Monday! Would you like to share your Re-Entry Reality? Contact me – I’d love to talk with you!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..Kristin Garland……..

Kristin recently graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Masters Degree in Sport Management. Her passion for sports and love of travel led her to Norway on a Fulbright grant. Since returning to the U.S., she hopes to focus her efforts on developing health and wellness programs for members of her community. Catch her one Twitter here.

Kristin, where did you go abroad and what did you do there?

Most recently, I was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct research with the Norwegian Olympic Committee and lived in Trondheim, Norway during the 2011 – 2012 academic. I worked with Norwegian athletes and sport leaders to ensure that high school athletes were given the resources they needed to be successful both in their sport and in their studies.

I also studied abroad in London, England for one semester while completing my undergraduate program. While in London, I worked at a PR firm, took two classes at the University of Westminster, and enjoyed traveling around both England and Europe.

When did the idea of re-entry get on your radar? 

The idea of re-entry first came into my radar during my first experience abroad while in London. I attended a seminar put on by IFSA- Butler and they discussed with us the idea that returning home was not always an easy experience and that many of us would experience a reverse form of culture shock. When I heard this, it all made perfect sense to me.

I remember asking myself, why wouldn’t there be a transition period and/or adjustment to my return home. This was the first time that I really thought about re-entry and the notion that at some point, I’ll have to return home and ease back into my, so called, normal American way of life. However, I didn’t truly understand what re-entry meant until later that semester.

What was your re-entry experience like?

Each time that I left my foreign home and waited to board my plane to the US – I was flooded with emotions. I was incredibly grateful for my experiences while abroad, but was also afraid of the unknown, as I didn’t know how I would feel when I stepped on American soil and was home.

The first time, re-entry was relatively easy for me. I was just finishing my junior year in college, and when I returned it was summer break. I had plenty of time to adjust to being home, and was able to ease back into my life slowly. I was lucky that a handful of my friends had also studied abroad and so we could reminisce together about our experiences.

However, when I returned home a year ago from my time in Norway, it was a completely different experience. I had to find a full-time job immediately, and was thrust back into “real life” much more quickly then I was prepared for. I became overwhelmed with having to adjust to being physically back home, but also felt both emotionally and psychologically connected to my foreign home and my American home.

As time has passed, the adjustment has gotten easier, but it took a lot more time than I had expected and over time I have learned to appreciate the experiences that I had, and understand that the adjustment to living in a new environment takes time and re-entry is a normal process to go through.

What do you know *now* about re-entry that you wish you’d known earlier?

What I know now about my re-entry experience is that the shock of returning to your homeland doesn’t dissipate after one month, or even after one year from your return home. You obviously adjust back to certain cultural norms, such as speaking English, but you’ll never quite view yourself, your home, or community through the same lens again.

There have been so many times since I have returned home that I am reminded of an experience or person that I met while abroad, that either makes me miss being abroad or challenges my opinion about my life. In addition, your decisions and opinions about various things will always be partially guided by your previous experiences and you’ll have numerous re-entry experiences, although they most likely will not be as shocking as when you first arrive home.

I wish that I had been aware of this before, so that I could have better prepared myself for the changes that would occur, and I would have given myself more time to properly reflect on my experiences, which would have allowed me to process my experiences better.

What tips do you have for others who are about to go through re-entry?

The first thing that I would tell someone who is about to experience re-entry is to enjoy the last few weeks that you have abroad. Once you return home, you will miss so many things about your time abroad. Enjoy it while you are there!

Also, remember that you are not the only person that experiences re-entry, and that it is good to know that you can share your experiences with other people who have been abroad, who will understand what you are going through and can help you get through this time.

Finally, regardless of how many times you have traveled or lived abroad, you will experience re-entry in a different manner. Be open to the possibility that you may feel differently than a previous time abroad and that this is normal.

And just for fun…if re-entry were a food what would it be? Why?

If re-entry were a type of food, it would be a pomegranate. Just like the outside of a pomegranate, re-entry can be a hard and challenging experience. But if you have the passion and willingness to crack it open, and dig out those seeds, you’ll soon experience a sweet and very satisfying taste of those seeds!

The seeds represent the sweet and incredible experience that one has while studying abroad and the impact that it can have on an individual’s ability to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of another culture.

 Thanks, Kristin!


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.