Shaped by over a decade of living between the USA and Europe (and her travels to 29 countries), Pouneh Eftekhari loves nothing more than helping people incorporate a global dimension into their lives. As Founder at Longing To Travel, Pouneh helps millennials grow professionally while living and traveling abroad. Connect with Pouneh on Twitter (@longingtotravel), Facebook (/longingtotravel) or Instagram (/longingtotravel).
Hi Pouneh! So, where were you abroad and what did you do there?
For over a decade now, I’ve been spending time between the United States and Europe; including residency in Denmark, France, Spain (twice!), Turkey, the United States and my current country of residence, Sweden. I have done different things in each country, including working and studying. I share more details about how I managed to do this on my website Longing to Travel (www.longingtotravel.com).
When did the idea of re-entry get on your radar? Did you have any re-entry preparation, training or debriefing?
I’m not exactly sure when I first learned of it, but I will say that I have had no formal training in leveraging ‘re-entry’–as an international educator, international/exchange student or expat…which is really a shame.
Even after all these years, I have had more exposure to the term ‘reverse culture shock’ than ‘re-entry’ — which bring about different feelings. To me, ‘reverse culture shock’ sounds terrible and something that will naturally lessen in intensity as time passes. ‘Re-entry’, on the other hand, signals a transition from one thing (a global experience) to another (an experience in one’s home country).
What was your re-entry experience like?
I can’t comment on the first few global experiences I had (i.e., undergraduate study abroad experiences in France and Spain), but after nearly 4 years studying and then working in Denmark, I returned to the USA in 2010 which I guess is the start of my half a decade re-entry process. That’s right, HALF A DECADE! I was in re-entry for about 5 years before I found closure from that experience and became emotionally available to thrive in my global life.
What do you know *now* about re-entry that you wish you’d known earlier?
The most interesting thing I learned (from Cate!) is that re-entry is more about an experience ending than about returning home. I know this firsthand as I found closure from my 4yrs in Denmark after moving to Sweden — and I had lived in the USA and Turkey in between!
Now I see that this transition is simply that: a transition. It’s not the end of global adventures as we know it. It’s not something to fear. It’s just a thing that you can’t avoid…but something you can leverage to ensure what comes next is truly fulfilling.
What tips do you have for others who are about to go through re-entry?
The most comforting thing for me was knowing that how I felt when I returned home after all my experiences abroad was ‘normal’ and OK. Once I gave myself permission to feel how I felt, it became easy to find closure and move forward. If you can recognize that the end of one global experience is the beginning of the next — whether you’re at home or abroad — you will instantly feel better.
Adventure is all around us. And we have to create that adventure. So even going home doesn’t mean your global life is over. If you want to live a global life, you can do it anywhere.
And… just for fun: if re-entry were a food what would it be? Why?
For me, reentry is like dark chocolate. At first, it was terrible and I hated it. But in small doses and after trying it out multiple times, I grew to love it. Re-entry is the same. It’s difficult at first, but if you give yourself some time and keep an open mind, it could be the best thing to happen to you. With each re-entry experience I have, I feel like I stumble a bit less and thrive a bit more.
Thanks for sharing your re-entry story, Pouneh!