Students returning home after spending some years studying or working abroad may find the experience exciting or perhaps overwhelming.

Having spent a significant time in a foreign country, they may rise to the challenge of finding a place in their home country or struggle with the transitions.

What issues are apparent during this process and are there resources to support these students?

Let’s take a look at these issues.

Culture shock

The process works both ways, from the first time travelling abroad to returning home. The familiarity of home may be a little disorienting and it takes time to get used to the way of life again – traffic, food, weather and even politics.

Career related issues

It takes time to get used to the local job market, perhaps there may be gaps in understanding what is needed in the home market and that a student’s international experience may not be relevant at the time. Always research ahead before considering new job applications at home.

Friends and family

When students are away for a while, relationships with loved ones at home may change. Picking up where they left off may be smooth or difficult, students may experience a sense of disconnect.

How do we get over these hurdles?

Mental preparation

Students who have just graduated or are returning from working abroad will need to mentally prepare for the adjustment period. Reflect on the intentions and reasons behind returning home, remind yourself that it is perfectly acceptable to feel apprehensive or anxiety, but at the same time, take note of the perks of returning home. Allow ample time to adjust and make travel plans with plenty of time to smoothen the process, just as adjusting to a new foreign culture requires a period of acculturation. Make space to relax and reflect upon the current climate of your surroundings whilst allowing yourself to ease into the transition.

Stay connected

It is always helpful to stay connected with the international community because it supports a student’s reintegration process. These connections can range from the friendships developed during university or work. Being a part of these networks can help students to feel less isolated, and provide a sense of support during their return home.

Volunteering and alumni associations

Such resources like networking or events for students or alumni help with this process. Added to that students who maintain interest in voluntary work or activities in sports, music, arts or science provide a sense of purpose.
Organisations like International Association of Students in Economics and Commercial Sciences or AIESEC offer many programmes that engage in global and local networks. Alumni organisations from the various UK universities are always rolling out initiatives to keep students in touch, from their home country to the base in the UK.

Career opportunities

If students are fresh graduates looking for work in their home country, finding the right resources will set them up for a smooth journey to start their career in their field of choice.
A first tip could be to find a mentor or seeking out career resources can help navigate the unique challenges of entering the job market back home. Organisations like the university, business school’s career center or local networking groups may be able to provide helpful guidance and advice.

International experience

Having experienced the job market in the UK will go a long way when seeking opportunities back at home particularly if the home country offers platforms for returning citizens. In Malaysia, TalentCorp’s Returning Expert Programme offers the chance for Malaysian professionals abroad to bring home their invaluable experiences, skill sets, knowledge, and intercultural abilities they have gained from their time abroad to contribute towards developing a world-class workforce in Malaysia.

Under this programme, TalentCorp’s offerings include living and financial incentives to help returning Malaysian talents settle in seamlessly. Some of the benefits are:

  • Exercise an optional 15% flat tax rate on chargeable employment income for 5 years
  • Foreign spouse and children will be eligible for PR status, subject to approval and at the discretion of the Immigration Department of Malaysia
  • Be exempted from tax for all personal effects brought into Malaysia
  • Be exempted for duties/tax for up to a maximum of RM100,000 when purchasing one locally manufactured Complete Knocked Down (CKD) or bringing back a fully imported Complete Built Up (CBU) car per application

Malaysian professionals from abroad can apply one or two months before coming home, with a validity of two years to complete certain conditions to qualify for these benefits.