What did you bring home from the Peace Corps? You brought home more than artifacts. You are now a citizen of the world with hundreds of cross-cultural experiences. You now have a new mindset that is global in nature.

Now, how are all those experiences going to change you? You have to realize that you are not the same person. It doesn’t matter if those cross culture experience were positive or negative — it has impacted the way you view the world and the way you view yourself in the world. How has it changed the way you are as a person, and how you perform professionally?

Now what are you going to do about it?

This blog is about helping you make the best of your new self. We are all going to learn together. I’m going to need you to tell me your stories, the funny, sad, and insightful stories that demonstrate how being overseas made you a better person.

Tell us your stories. I want to hear from you. Remember, everyone has a tale to tell.

Here are 5 ways to begin to understand the new “you.”

Look back
What have you learned? Pull out that old journal and re-read what you wrote. Make a list of the friends you made, the things you did for the first time. What do you take from that experience that is useful today?

Handling this thing called Reverse Culture Shock
They say coming home is harder to do than going overseas. True enough. For most of us it is intense, and if you had already been overseas, then you are well aware of the challenges of reverse culture shock. However, if this was your first adventure, then it is important to be aware of the often-unexpected reverse culture shock that many experience upon returning to their home country. Reverse culture shock results from being re-exposed to a familiar environment after being away from it for a period of time. For some, the experience is more intense than initial culture shock. Frequently, many experience feelings of frustration at re-adapting to the home environment.

  1. Practice your reply to “How was it?”
    Keep in mind that most people do not mean to be disinterested in your experience — in fact, many people are interested. However, they may not display the level of interest to satisfy your need to recount your experience to them. Many returned Peace Corps Volunteers refer to this as the “five-minute limit.” In other words, when someone asks “How was it?” share with them what you can in five minutes and then stop. If they want to know more, they will certainly ask. Being realistic about what to expect from other’s reactions to your experience will help you in managing expectations about others.
  2. Re-establish a social support network
    It is important for you to re-establish a social support network back at home. You may have maintained a network of friends while away, but you may also have noticed that some of your interests have changed and not all of those in your former social network can meet all of your current social interests. Consider, also, with whom you will be able to talk about your experience in depth. Who will listen and be supportive of your need to chat about what you learned, what you did, and what you miss? One of the best things you can do to help yourself with your repatriation is to seek out others who have gone through similar experiences. They may not be able to relate to your specific country experience, but they can relate to the nuances of re-adaptation to a home culture.
  3. Move on
    Your Peace Corps experience has more than likely added wonderful new dimensions to your personality and character. It will always be a part of who you are. It is now your turn to think about how it has impacted your life and what you want to do with the experience, personally. And remember, there is a great big world out there that you have yet to explore. If this experience made a difference, imagine what can happen during the next.

What was your experience?

— Laurette Bennhold-Samaan