Suffice to say, the reentry experience for both of us has been as expected (and not expected): exciting yet overwhelming at times, both easy and frustrating, and somethings have changed but a lot of things have stayed the same.
One of my partner’s colleagues has lent us a book called “The Art of Coming Home” by Craig Storti, and I must say, considering it takes me a while to get through a book, I’ve been burning through the pages in this one.
While engulfing myself in just the Introduction and first chapter, I found myself thinking outloud, “Yes, that’s how I feel”, “Yup, been there, experienced that”.
Storti compelling illustrates almost every scenario and feelings that myself and other colleagues have experienced after working abroad. Storti’s writing style definitely has a personable yet counselling approach, which in my mind is such a welcoming feeling as there were times where I felt alone and confused about some of my reentry issues and experiences.
Here is the closing excerpt from his introduction section (which can be found on page xxi on the Google Book link):
We close with a caveat: Readers of this book could be forgiven for concluding that an overseas experience doesn’t stack up very well against the apparent heartache of reentry, that unless one’s sojourn abroad is extraordinarily rich, it could never compensate for the problems of coming home. But this is not at all the message here. Reentry, for all its minor and a few major annoyances, can’t begin to diminish the lustre of an expatriate experience. Indeed, it is in some ways precisely because the overseas experience is so rich and stimulating that reentry becomes a problem. In other words if you are having trouble readjusting, it’s probably because you had such a terrific time abroad.
Moreover, simply because reentry can be frustrating, lonely, and generally unpleasant at times is not to say that it is a harmful experience or a negative one. After all, frustration, loneliness, and unpleasantness are very often the precursors of insight and personal growth. Maybe reentry doesn’t always feel good, but then feeling good isn’t much of a standard for measuring experience.
Make no mistake about it; reentry is an experience to be reckoned with, but when the reckoning is done and the accounts are cleared, you are likely to find that the price you paid for your overseas sojourn was the bargain of a lifetime.
Craig Storti – The Art of Coming Home (2003)
Overall, I really recommend this book for anyone, including for family and friends of people who have recently worked, studied, and/or volunteered overseas.