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Returning Home: Re-entry Experiences

Global Immersions - Friday, June 21, 2013

Traveling and/or living abroad is an exciting experience, however, those of us who have traveled abroad or hosted an international visitor understand that adjusting to a new culture can sometimes be a difficult process.  Helping people adjust to a new culture is something we discuss daily at Global Immersions. But... what about adjusting to your own culture after being abroad? Coming home can sometimes be just as difficult and the re-entry process after returning from being abroad is something we often neglect to discuss.  Here at Global Immersions two members of our staff have recently returned from studying abroad and have fun and helpful anecdotes on their re-entry experiences.


Our Homestay Recruiter, Liza, has just recently returned from a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. When asked about her experiences about her time abroad and returning to Boston here is some of what she had to share, “While I did feel a little out of sorts at the beginning, for the most part I was fine,” she said. “Dublin is so much like Boston that I felt right at home. I did, however, experience some annoyance with the school system and city life. All the stores closed down at 5 PM!”

Coming home we never expect to have any trouble falling back into old routines, but sometimes it can be harder than we think. Things like tipping at a restaurant or public transportation, once familiar, become foreign after so much time away. Even crossing the street can be a strange experience! “I’m so used to looking right to left for cars,” Liza said. “Not only do I have to remember we drive on the opposite side of the road, I have to stop myself from freaking out when the driver is sitting on the wrong side of the car. It looks like no one's driving it.”

Christina, our Homestay Coordinator, has also just returned from a semester abroad. While in Spain, she picked up many habits that have affected the way she interacts with people at home. “Barcelona is the pick pocketing capital of the world,” she said. “Now whenever someone bumps into me on the train, my hands shoot to my purse.” Having been the victim of pick pocketing herself while abroad, Christina is a little more attentive with her belongings than she was before she left. While theft can happen in Boston, it is less rampant than abroad; it is taking a bit of time for her to remember that. But when it comes to general awareness, perhaps a little paranoia is not such a bad thing.

Any resident of Boston would tell you that jaywalking is a common occurrence in the city streets. People are always swerving in and out of cars to reach the other side of the road. Although Christina still does her fair share of jaywalking now that she is home, this is something that people would not do in Spain. “I’d see people waiting for the walk signal to change even when there were no cars in the road at all,” she said. “And I would just cross anyway. People always gave me weird looks.” Being back in Boston and seeing all of her fellow jaywalkers is a sense of pleasant familiarity.

For helpful information on adjusting to being home check out an article in Transitions Abroad:  Coming Home, Relationships, Roots and Unpacking.

If you have any stories about your experience adjusting after returning from time abroad.  We want to know!

These stories and your own personal experiences are helpful to share to prepare your visitors when they are getting ready to return home. 

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