The right thing to do

I am often asked where life is easier at home or abroad? My answer is always “home is the best”. Living in a different culture fundamentally changes you, and perhaps you left in the first place to launch a new phase of your life. But sooner or later, you realise that part of you is waiting to re-evolve in full colour back in the country where it belongs. This brings me to the topic of reintegration. I have gone through this process and I can guarantee: It’s not easy.

Reintegration can be a nightmare on several fronts. My biggest challenge was managing both my expectations of others and their expectations of me. I thought I was prepared to handle this, but I was wrong. It is not easy to balance the expectations held by family members, friends, and society. I realised it was easier if I forgot about demands for which I had no control and instead, concentrated on the areas that I could actually influence. Sometimes, in trying to please everybody, we risk losing grip of our ambitions and becoming untrue to ourselves.

Looking back, there were a number of things that made for a smooth reintegration. The first and most fundamental step was deciding to go home after my studies. Forget the fact that the DAAD wanted me to go back and contribute to rebuilding my country. What mattered most was that deep inside, I was convinced that it was the right thing to do. So after a few months in Germany  I like to call this the “honeymoon” period  I seriously started thinking of my return home. I made sure that I kept in contact with my friends through e-mails and Facebook.

Knowing that returning home without a financial plan would be disastrous, I saved as much as possible. Aware of the sluggish job market at home, I wanted to be prepared for the worst-case scenario: up to 6 months without a job. I did not want to have to beg for help if things didn’t work out in the short term. On my return, I stuck to this financial plan until I secured a job.

Once I was home, I utilised part of my time to interact with potential employers and showcase my abilities. This is how I learned about the ambitions of my former employers. I volunteered to help them out on a few assignments. From then on, I was regularly updated with what was happening in the organisation. Luckily, only a few weeks after I had returned, one of the posts fell vacant and I was asked whether I was interested in taking a junior position. As long as you keep focused on your dreams, it doesn’t really matter at what level you start. I said yes, and now I am working with the National Agricultural Research Organisation in Uganda.

Unfortunately, the Returning Experts Programme is not very active in Uganda, and reintegrating into the home labour market and beyond remains a black box for many. While students should continue to creatively think of ways to ease reintegration, the DAAD is also called upon to take note of the difficulties faced by returning experts.

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