June 28th, 2020
Leaving home to pursue a dream is a life changing experience and it’s no wonder we tend to get caught up in our journeys abroad. Rebecca Goes Rendezvous tells us how she dealt with the ups and downs of returning home to LA after four years in France.
The Joy and Struggles of Repatriation: An American’s Perspective
by Rebecca – Rebecca Goes Rendezvous
It’s been nearly a year since I left France to return to the United States, after four years of living and working abroad. It’s only been a year, but it’s been one of major ups and downs that I hadn’t experienced until I came home. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’d been reluctant to return, even dreading it. Never did I imagine I would repatriate, especially so soon— it goes to show how four years can fly by in one’s lifetime.
The primary reason why I dreaded returning home was the lack of job prospects. I’d spent all four years in France as a teacher, instructing both primary and secondary levels in the English language. Heck, I even got a Master’s to teach at the university level, and for a while, I thought I would pursue teaching long-term. However, I realized that I didn’t like it, and I wanted change. I no longer wanted to be a teacher, but the problem was, I’d limited myself in skills and experience while teaching abroad that I had little to show for other jobs out there—as a result, I would be back to square one during the job hunt.
Faced with the stress of figuring out what I wanted to do led to unhappiness. Besides applying for jobs, I was also struggling to reintegrate into American society. I’m not exaggerating when I say the reverse culture shock was unreal, as parts of U.S. culture that I grew up with now looked so strange to me. Aspects like lack of decent public transport, unhealthy-sized food portions, and the sheer prevalence of capitalism really startled me, as I’d spent so much time in France which had pretty much the opposite aspects listed. I’d been so acclimated to life abroad that it took a long time to rewire myself to be accustomed to those in the U.S. again.
I experienced a huge range of emotions during the first half-year upon repatriating. Mostly sadness, but also anger, bitterness, and resentment. I didn’t want to leave France, even if my teaching contract was up and I couldn’t find work there. I had nothing to prove when looking for a job back home (especially in a different career). I regretted my past choices of staying abroad, even if I knew since the end of my first year that I couldn’t envision myself living in France forever. What was even worse was that I missed traveling, which was one of the few things that made me happy.
At some point, I had to sit down and really look at myself. I could choose to remain bitter and angry about my current situation, or to acknowledge it and move on. Living in France, as well as visiting many countries in Europe, was nothing short of exciting: it was perfect for me, in my early twenties, to pursue adventure every day outside of the typical 9-to-5, away from the responsibilities of daily, routine life. However, that wasn’t reality, as I was merely postponing my entry into the adult world; I knew that I had to face it at some point, and that time had come.
While I fondly cherished the adventures and growth I experienced living and traveling abroad, I also knew that I couldn’t let my past self hold me back from the successes I would have now, and in the future. Things did get better in the months that followed: I got a job, then two jobs, and I took the opportunity to see more of my hometown during days off. I reconnected with old friends and spent time with my family, all whom I had neglected being there for since living overseas. I even got back into enjoying the wide variety of culture and food within my city, something I missed dearly in France. After all, no one can do Mexican food as well as Los Angeles!
I actually had plans to return to France this May, as a trip back to Europe months later. Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit, I lost my jobs, and now I’m back to where I was since repatriating. Yet, interestingly enough, I’m not too devastated by it. While I do have my good days and bad days, having gone through a similar experience just a year ago has strengthened me, in a way. Going through adversities like countless work and personal rejections certainly helped, and I know myself better to be able to handle any future rejections with grace and dignity.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about repatriating, it’s to be patient and kind with myself. Sure, I accomplished a lot in my time abroad (e.g. improving my French, traveling to many countries), but I also know that it came with a lot of discomfort and trial and errors to get there. That said, I shouldn’t beat myself up for leaving all that behind, but rather to know that I have my experiences, talents, and values that are assets to any job I’ll get later down the line. Admitting and accepting all hurdles, as well as having the ability to forgive yourself after failure, are truly the most-humbling qualities you can learn. I’m learning to be less harsh with myself, to slow down and be more appreciative of what I’ve got in the moment. In a way, I’m settling into the comforts of adulthood, and I know that I’ll treasure the travels I take all the more when the time comes once more.
Alors, la France…j’y reviendrai un jour.
I was lucky to discover Rebecca’s blog when I first started blogging and I’m so happy she agreed to participate in this series. Her blog reflects how vastly traveled, open-minded and adventurous she is. She’s also a brilliant writer! Head on over to Rebecca Goes Rendezvous to see for yourself 🙂
*All words and photo’s are Rebecca’s own