Last Fall, I lived in Northern Spain for 4 months…easily the best 4 months of my existence. So you can understand why it was so hard for me to leave. Every week and weekend was filled with a new colorful experience. Penny-pinching from Portugal to Italy, I was in pure bliss. And then it ended, almost suddenly. I was on a plane back to reality, leaving my heart in Spain. The culture shock was like a depressing fog that eased only with time. Of course I still day dream about my life in Spain and who I was while I was there. But knowing that I will make my way back one day is what keeps me going. As a returnee, I have done everything I can to commemorate my experience and integrate it into my current life.
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!
The return culture shock was brutal, but by involving myself with on-campus activities and reconnecting with my family and friends abroad, I was able to pull through. Because I had such a great time abroad I have been inspired to look into international careers.
Last weekend I attended the Northwest Returnee Conference (NWRC) which was chalk-full of inspirational and travel-minded people like myself (not saying I am inspirational- just travel-minded).The objective was to help abroad returnees transition back to reality and how to market their experiences with careers in mind. I attended a panel about international careers. A Peace Corps representative stressed how important it is to continue learning languages to diversify your background. An engineer that lived in the Middle East said that bringing his family along was the best decision of his life. Hearing their inspirational stories only made me want to buy the next plane ticket to anywhere outside of the country (almost anywhere).
One of the guest lecturers was a retired officer from the foreign service. He told us that prior to working in the foreign service, he had no idea what he wanted out of life. His path became clear when an old history professor encouraged him to take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). The test is composed of two parts, an oral and a written exam. Once you have passed the exam, you have a choice of five career paths. The speaker went on to say that taking that leap of faith and passing the exams lead him to a fulfilling career path.
Moral of the story: If you want to work internationally, take a leap of faith and make it happen! After attending the NWRC, and meeting successful professionals who have worked internationally, I have been highly encouraged to follow my dream of traveling the world.
If you are interested in taking the FSOT:
Good website for international career information