Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com
This is the first post in a series I will be exploring about keeping your “international” life thriving, when you are not “abroad”. I will be exploring this from various perspective and scenarios. First up are a few suggestions for recently returned students.
Returning from abroad can be a confusing, exciting, depressing, difficult, and/or easy transition. This emotionally complicated time of re-entry is experienced in a variety of ways for everyone and does not necessarily end after X amount of weeks, months, or even years back at home. Keeping an international life thriving after returning home, may seem impossible, but if you scratch just below the surface, you will soon see international-ness all around you!
What is most vital to keep your international life going, even after you return home, is to figure out what exactly you love about living abroad. For some it is the food and the architecture, for others it is practicing your language and recently acquired intercultural communication skills. Knowing this (and believe me, it is not all that easy to pinpoint) can only help you find your niche again in your home country.
Get involved on your home campus
If you are returning to your home university, join the multicultural societies, cultural organizations, or language groups on campus. This will not only let you share what you know and have experienced, but you will continue to grow and learn about cultures, customs, and languages.
Get involved with your study abroad office. This will enable you to share your experiences with future study abroad students, to continue talking about your time abroad, and to be in a setting with others with common interests.
Be an active member of your local community
If you do not have that campus community for support, seek out communities that share your interests, whether it be virtual or IRL (in real life). Meetups with those interested in travel and culture or language exchange groups are a great place to start. Enroll in an ethnic cooking, dance, or language class in your local community.
Another option for those of us who enjoy working with people of diverse cultural backgrounds would be to volunteer for community nonprofit organizations who work with recent immigrants and refugees. This could involve tutoring/ teaching ESL, mentoring youth, public health advocating, assisting with resettling, and other community projects.
These activities not only fulfill your multicultural side, are beneficial to your community, but also will force you to not wallow in your re-entry blues. You will be focused on supporting someone/thing else.
Seek out employment opportunities that align with your global interests. There are so many options for working in an international realm; including international exchange, cultural, educational, and international development organizations. Another great option to keep your international life thriving after abroad would be to consider applying to grad school abroad
Feed Your Inner Explorer
If exploring a new city every weekend is what you love about living abroad, there is no need that has to end just because you came back to your home country. Take a day trip to a nearby city you have never spent time in. Each town and city has a unique vibe that can only be understood once you are actually there.
Better yet, be a tourist in your own town! Explore the local cultural arts scene, take public transit, look for free events, festivals, markets, museums, or dine at a locally owned restaurant you have never been to before.
Much of living abroad requires us to step outside of our normal routine. Moving back home is no different. While you will have work and school obligations, that does not mean you have to fall back into that same routine again. My advice is just to continue to step outside of your comfort zone, you have got to be used to it by now!