Coming home

Re-entry refers to returning home from a sojourn abroad. For most people coming home requires an adjustment period just as living overseas does. Usually, however we don’t plan for re-entry the way we plan for our trip. But successful re-entry starts before you leave home! Your experience as a volunteer may very well change you. Anticipate and plan for that.

Expectations and Anxieties Exercise

This exercise should help with your understanding of how expectations, realistic and unrealistic, play a role in how well you adapt and how you feel about it in retrospect. Respond to the following questions and put your answers in a safe place; preferably a journal you will carry with you. Reflect back on your responses during and after your trip, as appropriate.
  • What are the five things that you are most looking forward to about volunteering abroad?  
  • What are the five things that currently worry you most about going overseas? 
  • What are the five things you believe you will miss most from home when you are abroad?  
  • What are the five things you believe you will miss least from home when you are abroad?  
  • Complete this sentence: My greatest single challenge overseas will be… 

Here are a few things you can do even before you leave home:

  • Plan your own welcome home events: make dates for lunches or dinners with friends, photo or video parties, special social events designed to include sharing about your trip.  
  • Plan some time to be on your own for quiet reflection, journaling and de-compressing from your trip.
  • Plan to get right back into things you enjoy doing and could not do while abroad; especially physical activities like jogging, hiking, swimming or participation in a team sport.  
  • Ask one person to e-mail your photos and updates from the field to others; and to keep you updated on events at home. 
  • Start a travel blog 

Once you are in country, it will be important to:

Decompress on a regular basis as a team. Medical Teams International strongly encourages teams to incorporate times of sharing and praying together (perhaps invite in-country staff if appropriate).

Once you return, participate in a post-trip team meeting with your team leader and team coordinator to:

  • Reflect on experiences 
  • Share stories 
  • Bring closure to the mission 
  • Examine lessons learned 
  • Integrate the experience into your life  
  • Evaluate team and/or individual need for crisis intervention services