A Challenging Return

I completed a 2-year Master’s programme of Tropical Forestry and Management at the Technische Universität Dresden. Besides the academic merits of the programme, it also increased my cross-cultural understanding. Dresden is a beautiful city and like most of German cities, well organized.
Like the saying goes, East and West, home is the best. I missed my family, friends, tropical food and warm weather so much. I chose to relax and enjoy the moment. I immediately took a vacation to allow for self-rejuvenation.

Of course I knew it was going to be difficult facing the domestic challenges. But at the back of my mind, this was the very reason for the postgraduate programme with relevancy to developing countries, i.e. to come back and face these challenges and contribute to the development of our countries. I believed in myself, but I knew that I had to be a little patient with most of the things. The worst you can do is to keep complaining about everything. Due to a change in management, it was no longer a guarantee that my former place of employment would take me back. Fortunately I had a good profile with the organization and when I visited them and introduced myself to the new manager, she offered me a job in the junior ranks, the only position which was vacant. Much as this position did not suit my knowledge and skills I decided to work since she had offered me in principle a position in a new project on climate change that was set to begin in three month’s time. Unfortunately, the climate change project did not take off as anticipated due to a lack of funding. I felt it was time for me to move on once the right opportunity arose. I’m now working as a researcher at the National Agricultural Research Organization.

Reintegration too was not easy. I experienced a lot of pressure, which arose from the expectations of others. Everyone thought I had a lot of money, which was not the case. Sometimes people denounce you when you come back from Europe without money regardless of whether you went for studies or otherwise. But since I never owed any one an explanation, I disregarded much of the negative talk and concentrated on my next step – building and strengthening my career. For two years, I had integrated well in the Germany culture; I was very time-conscious and open-minded. I had to adjust a lot with people here. I still recall an organization where I was invited for a job interview at 10:00 am – it didn’t start until at 3:00 pm. By then I already knew that this was not my preferred destination.

My recommendation to other scholarship holders going back home is that the most important step is the decision to go back to their home countries. Once they have made such a decision and believe in it, they can proactively respond to the challenges of reintegration. Scholarship holders should overcome the four-letter word called FEAR. Some people never return to their countries due to fear of the ‘unknown’.

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