Are you an international educator returning to your home country this summer?
After all the moves you’ve done, it might seem like moving “home” should be the easiest…
But that might not be the case!
Returning “home” as an international educator is a complicated experience…
Three years ago, I returned to the United States originally planning to come home in the summer of 2020 after 9 years overseas. However, COVID accelerated my timeline a bit and complicated my initial plans for settling back into life in the US.
During the pandemic we saw a number of international school educators making decisions to return to their home countries temporarily and even permanently. I had heard many stories of the challenges in making those decisions, including pre-pandemic, about returning home and the uncertainties and opportunities that lay ahead.
These stories led to a conversation on the #coachbetter podcast (Episode 202), called “Returning “Home” as an International Educator” with three other amazing international school educators who have gone through similar experiences. On that episode we discussed our experiences of Returning “Home” after spending time abroad as international educators.
As a follow up to that conversation and conversations I’ve had with other expats returning home I’d like to share with you some questions to consider if you are in the process of or thinking about returning to your home country after living internationally. Today’s video is all about ways that you can think through a move like this.
In episode 202, Maggie, Emily, Kristen, and I all shared a variety of reasons for moving home after extended time living and working internationally and our experiences so far. Based on that conversation and my own recent experiences, I’m sharing 5 questions to consider in framing your approach for returning to your home country. Of course, these could be used when considering any type of change but let’s look at them through the lens of returning home from life abroad.
A 5-Step Checklist for Returning “Home” as an International Educator
1: What is your purpose in returning home?
Being clear about why you are moving home helps to keep focus on this sometimes very emotional decision. In some cases, I’ve known people who have not had much control over their decision, due to a regional conflict or a global pandemic. In other cases, it has been a decision based on personal or professional circumstances. No matter the situation, being clear about your purpose, as with anything, will help you prepare for and experience your transition home. For example, I made the decision to move back to the United States to be closer to my family. Keeping that in mind has helped make any follow up decisions easier.
2: What is your plan?
Just like with any move, what are your goals? What will need to happen to achieve those goals especially around securing a new job after your experience overseas? In my case, I know the work I had been doing abroad as an ed tech and innovation coach were not as common in public schools in the United States. So I knew it would take some time to find a suitable position.
A timeline is beneficial but be realistic about how long different parts of your plan might take and be ready to make adjustments.
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3: What logistics do you need to prepare for?
Learn as much as you can about what you need to get yourself, your family, and your belongings back home. Just because you are returning to your home country doesn’t mean there aren’t systems you’ll need to navigate in re-establishing your life there. The more you know, the less challenging things will be once you are home. For me, moving home to the United States meant, among other things, that I needed to take responsibility for my own health insurance. I did the research and was prepared with some options that met my needs.
4: How will you build community personally and professionally?
Working in international schools, many of us were involved with very close knit communities, personally and professionally, by the nature of working and living in a foreign country. Moving back home does not always provide those types of communities so you may need to make some extra effort in rebuilding your professional learning community. Additionally, finding ways to connect with others who’ve experienced international life can be beneficial. For me, personally, through social media, I was able to keep connected to my PLN and friends around the world. On a local level I made an effort to reconnect with friends here and use my networking skills to make professional connections.
5: How can you utilize your skills and experiences from living abroad to settling into life in your home country?
As an international educator, you have had the experience of moving to and living in a foreign country and having to adapt to new languages, cultures, environments, and systems. Your adaptablility and problem solving skills will benefit you in making a transition back to your home country. Although I had managed to spend winter and summer breaks in the United States, I found that setting back into life here, especially during COVID, was challenging but manageable. If anything, my life overseas gave me confidence in handling adapting to life back home balanced with my more global perspective. You will mostly like experience some reverse culture shock as part of your repatriation but you can approach it as you did when you lived abroad – with patience, understanding and humor.
Moving abroad in the first place was a huge decision for us all and moving back home is just as big. But if we are clear on our purpose and take into consideration what we are bringing home with us, we can start our return home on a positive footing.
My move home did bring challenges but I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had internationally and the experiences and perspectives I brought back with me that enhance my life here back in the States. The adventures continue!
Watch the Video!
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