When Connecting Gets Complicated...!!!

So, you’ve been home for a while now. You have survived the challenges of “reverse culture shock.” Perhaps you’ve gotten stuck a few times, but you have managed to adjust and conquer your problems.

But now you discover another significant challenge. Although you no longer have to worry about language skills back at home, you discover that you have become “different.” You have a new concept of the world and life. This may impact your life and relationships back home in the following ways:

  • Your parent’s expectations - Your parents probably supported your opportunity to study abroad because they believed it would benefit your future job and career opportunities. As a result of their support, they may expect you to choose a certain path or career.  If their choice differs from yours, it may result in disagreements between you, and could cause significant conflict. If your parents did not support your decision to study abroad, perhaps they still carry some resentment. Or, perhaps they worry that the changes you have experienced while abroad will leave them not knowing how to relate to you anymore.

  • Your expectations - You want your parents to feel proud of your success.  You want them to understand and accept the person you have become. If you feel that you failed them in any way while studying abroad, you may struggle with embarrassment or shame. You may also fear their reaction to you, or even rejection of you. You might feel you have wasted time and/or money. This can feel like a heavy burden for you.
No matter what kind of relationship you have with your parents or grandparents, you will benefit by treating them with honor and respect for who they are. Try to avoid a critical attitude towards them. While this could certainly challenge you, it is not impossible. Your parents and family will not understand the changes in your thinking right away – in fact, they may never totally understand – but you can show them, by attitude and example that you have changed in positive ways.

Other connections back home might also prove difficult. Relatives and friends may be curious about your time abroad, but maybe not. Remember, they did not have the experience you did. As much as they may love and care for you, they may not have any interest in your stories about living overseas. Some will listen eagerly and ask a lot of questions. Some may want to spend long periods of time talking about your experience.  But do be careful. The people you expect to show an interest might not, and others you didn’t think would care might show a great deal of interest. Either way, you can communicate how your international experiences have impacted your life in positive ways. Show patience and respect toward each person. It might also help you to write your experiences down, both to help you remember and for further reflection.

You might also run into difficulties connecting with colleagues at work. Those who have never traveled overseas might feel jealous of your experience, or suspicious of any “foreign” ideas. Show patience and respect in dealing with each person. Remember, they do not know how to relate to you about your experiences abroad. If you can to find others who have had similar experiences, they could become part of a support network around you.

This leads to an important point. Connecting with other returnees can really help you survive. Many returnees make these connections through online networks within in your country, as well as face-to-face encounters whenever possible. See Connecting with Others for more on this.

Finally, if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, you may experience challenges connecting – or reconnecting – even within the church. You may not expect this, but it often occurs for two reasons.  First, if you became a Christian before going abroad, you have now experienced Christians and church in another culture. Although true Christ-followers experience a connection in the Spirit no matter where they are, the form and style of worship, sharing, and experiencing “church” may differ greatly, and re-adapting can prove challenging.

If you became a Christian while studying overseas, you did not experience the church in your home country before going abroad. This means having to adjust to a new church environment back home. The level of difficulty this presents can depend on the differences between the church in your home culture and the church where you studied abroad.

But another even more significant reason why connecting with other Christians at home may be difficult has to do with the problem of sin in each of our hearts. Christians are not perfect people, in any culture. They experience problems and challenges like everyone else, and sometimes they don’t choose the right response or attitude. Hopefully they recognize their need for help, and know that they can go to God, the Source of all help, to find it. See Connect with believers for more on this as well.

Remember, people may disappoint you, but God will not. Go to Him to find your strength and direction through the challenges of (re)connecting with others back home. Explore all the resources available – even through this website – to help you make the transition back home. Most importantly, trust God to help you find the encouragement and support you need to adjust and succeed.

Have questions? Contact us.