Returning to/visiting your host country

Joined: January 23rd, 2015, 3:05 am

February 6th, 2015, 4:23 am #1

I'm sure I'm not the only rebound who fantasizes about visiting their host country...So here's a thread to discuss everything related to visiting and going back to our host countries. Has anyone gone back to visit or live in their host country? What was the experience like?
- Dakar July 2013
- General Roca AFS Speedwell 2013-2014
- Chiang Rai YES Abroad 2015-2016
Oslo, Norge 2016 -
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Joined: January 19th, 2015, 2:50 am

February 6th, 2015, 4:14 pm #2

I've been back to Paraguay twice for sorta-extended (6-7 week) visits. Once was doing independent research, and once was for an internship.

Going back is awesome and weird. Going back to the country doesn't mean that your exchange picks up where you left off, which is what I know I was unrealistically hoping for the first time I did it. Staying with my old host family for about a month the first time I went back almost felt like being back, but I didn't have to deal with school which was really nice since I hated it on exchange. Staying in a different city for an internship was super interesting too, because it was SUCH a different experience. It's great being back, hearing the languages and accent, eating the food, seeing old friends, etc. but I think a lot of former exchangers really build up the idea of going back in a haze of reverse culture shock; I definitely did.

Going back also helped me get some closure. I've spent a lot of time mad at myself for only doing a semester program and not making the most of my time there, but for the first year or two afterwords I felt like if I could go back I could fix it, but I simultaneously felt like I might never be able to go back because it was so far and so expensive. Going back kinda hammered in the facts that I can't change what I already did, but that's ok because I can go back to visit and enjoy it with a bit of planning and saving. My college funded the two trips I already did, and less than a year post-college, I've already saved up enough to theoretically go back this summer, though I might opt to go elsewhere which would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

Traveling to more places after exchange definitely didn't cure my wanderlust but made it less focused on just going back to this one specific place. Paraguay will always be a place I feel at home, but Turkey and Mexico are pretty awesome too, China was just incredibly different, there are plenty of regions of the US that I know next to nothing about, etc.

I have a lot of thoughts about this and I'm rambling and might post more later, but feel free to ask if you have any questions!
[Wisconsin, USA]
-> [Paraguay - AFS semester]
<- [Japan - AFS host sister]
-> [Turkey - NSLI summer]
-> [Mexico - uni semester]
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Joined: January 19th, 2015, 7:28 pm

February 7th, 2015, 8:59 pm #3

I've returned to Denmark 3 times since exchange but I still wish to go back and visit. My friend (who I also lived with for 3 months) is having a big 30 years birthday party this summer and invited me and my husband. I wish I could go.

I wish to return to Se Asia. I miss the simplistic life. (oh and the free and how everything is cheap)

When I returned to Denmark it was a little strange but wonderful. It didn't take long for me to fall back into my old life. It was different but still similar because life continues and I had to find my place in my friends and families life again.
--> YFU Gap year 03/04
--> Volunteer Teacher 11/12

Traveled to:
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Joined: January 19th, 2015, 12:22 am

February 11th, 2015, 1:43 am #4

I'm dying to go back (I came back in June '08 and still haven't gone again). I dream about it both literally and figuratively. I want to live there for at least a year or two. There are loose ends to tie up and there's a part of myself that I really need to find again, because that person, even though she screwed up a lot, knew how to keep going.

Plus I have books and DVDs to buy and desserts to eat and while my Portuguese is pretty good (I mean, enough to speak it exclusively with my son) I want to perfect it and maybe lose the gringa accent.

Other than some CSers and my friends/family in Portugal, nobody seems to understand how important this is to me, how I'm falling apart a little bit more each day that I'm not there.

Well that got depressing. But anyway.
-> 2006-2007 (host sister to T)
-> 2007-2008
-> 2014-2015 (host mom to A)
-> 2015-2016 (host mom to L)
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Joined: January 26th, 2015, 3:17 am

February 11th, 2015, 6:27 am #5

I’ve returned to Brazil twice since my exchange year, both for extended stays. The first was for a semester in college. I found a program that united my area of study and Brazil in a really great way. I wanted to study abroad in a non-English-speaking country and felt the desire to go back and improve on my Portuguese. I was in a totally different part of the country than from my high school exchange, and overall was a very different experience. Like, if I did my high school exchange in Los Angeles, my uni exchange was in New York City. It was fun to get to know Brazil being a bit older and more mature.

I did go back to my host city for a few days at the end of the program before returning to the US. It was nice to see some old faces but really not as much of a homecoming as maybe I was expecting or wanted. It was kind of lackluster honestly. I keep in touch with one of my host families, and they’ve even visited me in the US. Beyond them there’s really nothing connecting me to my host city and I doubt I’ll be back to visit any time soon.

I returned a second time to do independent university research, which my university funded. Again I was in a totally different part of the country than my previous visits, and a totally different experience. I spent 9 weeks in a hard to reach but well known tourist location; I was studying the intersection of tourism and environmental conservation. I didn’t have the fund to really do outside travel. It was nice because I was living independently without a host family or program rules. It felt great to be on my own and fending for myself. My project ended up falling apart (I was able salvage it after I got back to the US) and although it sucked, I’m glad I had that experience.
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Joined: February 27th, 2015, 6:04 pm

February 28th, 2015, 3:41 pm #6

I dream of returning to Finland... it has not happened yet... I have been home since may 2005... my husband has not been back to Brasil and he returned in june 2004... i wish travelling didnt cost so much
--> 2003-2004 RYE (Husband)
--> 2004-2005 RYE (myself)
--> 2005-2006 AFS (Hosted sister)
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Joined: January 19th, 2015, 1:47 am

March 1st, 2015, 11:32 am #7

I returned from Japan in September 2008 and I was able to return again for the first time in August 2014 as part of the JET Program, teaching English.
I was very unhappy with how my exchange went, especially near the end, as I returned only about halfway through. It was something I really struggled with afterwards. One of the only ways I dealt with it was thinking of going in university somehow, but those plans were ended when I had my daughter. I was sure I'd never be able to return, and after a few years I was sort of okay with it. So when I took a chance on the JET Program, it really was a godsend for me. It has healed me so much. I have now been here for longer than I was on exchange, and that's really the one thing I wanted - a second chance. I've even signed on for another year! I'm not sure how things will go when we eventually decide to leave. I'm worried about it to be honest, but I'm hopeful since it should be on good terms this time!

As far as how being back has been, it took a little mental adjustment to move from high school exchange to living and working as an adult. The biggest challenge, actually, is remembering that I'm not here to learn Japanese, I'm here to teach English. I'm pretty used to it now, but in the beginning I would forget and speak to my students in Japanese too often. It has also been a bit rough having to figure out things for myself. For example, during my exchange I didn't even realize garbage was separated, but now I've had to learn how to separate my trash into 6 different groups. I'm also in an entirely different area this time, which has been interesting, but also difficult, because I really loved Osaka.

Overall I'm just so thankful I have this opportunity to get paid to live in Japan. Being here as an adult has been really helpful. I can understand and deal with the culture SO much better this time around. As a teenager, a lot of things made me irrationally angry and I dealt with some pretty severe culture shock. I also had issues with expectations. Now I can handle cultural differences and manage idealistic fantasies. So yeah, 10/10 would recommend returning, especially if you feel you have loose ends or unresolved issues.
Canada -> Japan, 2008 (ASSE)
Canada -> Japan, 2014-2016 (JET)
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Joined: January 19th, 2015, 12:22 am

March 5th, 2015, 3:22 am #8

I wish there were a program like that in Portugal!
-> 2006-2007 (host sister to T)
-> 2007-2008
-> 2014-2015 (host mom to A)
-> 2015-2016 (host mom to L)
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Joined: January 25th, 2015, 10:07 pm

March 8th, 2015, 3:09 am #9

I have no experience of my own to share, but I have two students who come back each year. One of them always takes a day or two to warm up, then she sighs and says, "it still feels like home here!" The other steps off of the plane, is quiet until we get outside, takes a deep breath and says, "oh, I'm home again!"

I'm sure experiences vary tremendously, and it probably helps that both of them were back for the first time within 9 months of their exchange years ending, but I love how it works out the same way even 8 years later (for our first student).
~Michelle

freelance copywriter
mom to two (boy 15 and girl 13)
host mom to ten since 2006 (France, Germany, Spain, Thailand, Japan)
Current student: S from Japan!
AFS liaison
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Joined: January 23rd, 2015, 3:05 am

November 10th, 2015, 9:53 am #10

I think I'm going to go back to Argentina right after my 18th birthday. Between the savings I already have, the money that will be leftover from my Thailand stipend, and what I earn next summer working, I think it'll be feasible. I think it's time: it's been long enough that I won't go back expecting everything to be the same and be disappointed, but it hasn't been TOO long. I'll probably try to go for a month. I want to go back to my host city and see my family, and definitely want to go see my friends in Buenos Aires and Cordoba. I think I want to go to a couple new places, too, so I'll have to do some research. I probably can't make it down to Ushuaia because of time constraints, but there are some places like San Juan and La Rioja and San Luis that I've always wanted to go to...I loved Rosario, so maybe I'll go back there...so many options. I think I will make it happen!!
- Dakar July 2013
- General Roca AFS Speedwell 2013-2014
- Chiang Rai YES Abroad 2015-2016
Oslo, Norge 2016 -
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