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Resources and Tips for Leaving MIT and Adjusting to "Home"

International Scholars > Leaving MIT and Adjusting to Home

Publications

The Art of Coming Home by Craig Storti (Intercultural Press, 1997)

Coming Home: Relationships, Roots, and Unpacking by Jim Citron and Vija Mendelson (Transitions Abroad Magazine, July/August 2005)

Homeward Bound: A Spouse’s Guide to Repatriation by Robin Pascoe (Expatriate Press, 2000)

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Getting Ready to Leave

  • Take time to say goodbyes. Make plans to see friends and colleagues before you go.
  • Take pictures to help remember favorite places.
  • Ask friends and colleagues for their mailing/e-mail address.
  • Give your children your mailing/e-mail address and phone number to share with friends. Do the same for your friends.
  • In addition to practical preparations, spend time with your family visualizing the next chapter of your lives.
  • Don't be too hard on yourselves. It's natural to feel ambivalent and moody at this time. In The Art of Coming Home, Craig Storti uses the term "pretransition jitters." Sometimes there can be stress between family members, and typically not everyone feels the same about leaving/ going home.

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Adjustment Issues

It is helpful to anticipate and prepare for some of the challenges you may have as you settle in back home.

"Those who have done it say that going home can be even harder than moving to the US in the first place. This ‘reverse culture shock’ surprises most people – it sounds so easy to go home. Most people expect a move to a new country to be stressful, but not the move home. Their adjustment is made harder because their friends and family at home don’t understand why they seem so upset."

-- Going 'Home,' p.1, Newcomer's Almanac (published by the Interchange Institute, June 2008)

This article suggests many reasons why this may be true:

  • People and places change over time. You may expect your life to be the same as it was, and others may expect you to be the same, too. This can lead to disappointment and a feeling of disorientation.
  • People at home may not be as interested in hearing about your experiences as you hoped.
  • Home may not be the comfortable, familiar place it used to be. Perhaps you even idealized home while you were away.
  • You have changed while you were away, and perhaps adopted some American habits and ways of thinking.
  • Just as you made adjustments when you first came to the U.S., there will be adjustments to make as you settle into life at home.
  • Children/teens may have issues feeling comfortable with their peers and up to date with clothing or music styles.
  • You may be criticized for "behaving like an American" and/or criticized personally for American ways, politics, or views.

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Adjustment Tips

The adjustment process will go more smoothly if you stay in touch with friends and colleagues and make certain efforts at home.

  • Think positively about the benefits of your experience in the U.S. and be patient about the time and energy it takes to feel truly settled at home.
  • Identify ways your outlook, views, and goals have changed. Some people use the term "hybrid" to define a person who blends elements of two or more cultures. This is a dynamic, gradual process.
  • Remember that you and your friends and colleagues have had different experiences during your time apart. Allow time to get reacquainted and feel comfortable again.
  • If you feel you are being criticized, try not to take it personally, and find ways to have constructive discussions.
  • Consider your ideas about what you would do back home and what it would be like. Re-evaluate them and make adjustments where needed. Consider new skills, interests, and values you may now have.
  • Stay in touch with neighbors, friends, and colleagues in the U.S. Especially for teens, ask for updates on school events, sports, and gatherings.

Sharing Your Journey

  • Think of ways to gradually share your experiences with friends and colleagues at home.
  • Remember to be a good listener, too.
  • Besides informal conversations, children often have a chance to write about their experiences for school projects and share them in class discussions.
  • Write an article for a local newspaper or newsletter.
  • Share your experiences with a local or professional group.

Meeting Americans and Others

It may be easier for you to relate to others who have lived in the U.S. or other countries, and you may enjoy meeting them once you are home. There are many ways to do this, including the following:

  • Get to know language schools that enroll American students in your area. Perhaps you could arrange a guest visit to a class or paid or volunteer employment.
  • Attend events sponsored by the U.S. Consulate.
  • Look up the names of American companies operating in your area to see if there are American expatriates there.
  • Offer to arrange a trip or tour of your city or town for American workers, students, or consular staff.
  • Look for American/international organizations in your area.
  • See if there is an American University campus nearby.
  • Explore opportunities to be a host mentor or family for foreign exchange students.

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Last Updated: June 2008

77 Massachusetts Ave, Room E38-219, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 | Telephone: (617) 253-2851 | Fax: (617) 253-6624 | E-mail: iso@mit.edu