The return is like a departure, but in the other direction!

You come home from a happy and healthy mission! However, be careful, because you may well have to undergo a second culture shock. Know it; the return can sometimes be as difficult as the departure. Stress, which occurs during the adjustment period after returning home, can be surprising because you take it for granted that the home is a familiar environment.

The return syndrome 

The Re-Entry Syndrome (RES), also referred to as “cultural counter-shock”, is a psychological response experienced by many returning home after living and working for some time in another culture. This situation results from the emotional stress felt when you have to readjust to your own culture. After a period of initial euphoria, many returning volunteers feel feelings of isolation, misguidance. You may think that no one really understands what you have been through. Maybe, worse, that people are losing interest. Having lived abroad for several months can also affect your opinion of your own culture, or even the values and lifestyle of those around you. You may also feel that the friends or the lifestyles you have left are missing. Finally, you may feel disconnected from your current place of residence, because the situation has evolved in your absence, you no longer feel part of this environment. If you recognize yourself in these few lines, do not panic. Know that one out of two expects that his return has been rather difficult (according to a study conducted by CLONG Volunteering with IPSOS in 2004).

Fight against the return syndrome

• First, the awareness

Do not think that this only happens to others: if this is not the case for all, many of you will hardly live their return, feeling isolated, sometimes a little lost.

• Accept that you have changed

Accept that your volunteer experience has changed. Try to find people who have had similar experiences. Contact us to know the addresses of our volunteers. Realize also that you have acquired new skills and new knowledge: know how to put them to good use.

• Renew with your world

Finding out what may have happened during your absence is important, you may find it helpful to flip through old newspapers or chat with your friends. Help the people around you to understand you: they will ask you to talk about your experience (sometimes too early); accept these invitations, they are an opportunity to promote the causes for which you worked. These are also times of exchange with a public often curious and interested in your experience, with which you can share a little of your experience, your ideas, your questions also sometimes.
Likewise, your local paper will often be pleased to have an article about a reader’s overseas experience – a good opportunity for you to revisit your missionary life to make it better understood around you.

• Avoid the excesses

Avoid going beyond the limits of self-comfort: alcohol, drugs or food. Also, avoid making cookie-cut decisions, such as starting on a new project without taking the time to think.
Also, do not jump too fast on a new job or new studies, if you can wait a bit. You have to recognize that you need time to recover and recover, mentally and physically. This time of rest, far from being superfluous, can help to choose better your choices and your decisions.