Thursday, October 29, 2009

reverse culture shock

When I first came back, I was not prepared for the "reverse culture shock" syndrome that I had to go through. IUJ friends who have left Japan right after graduation have mentioned about it before, but I did not understand the full brunt of it until I myself came back to Malaysia.

For some, going back to their homeland was something welcomed, as they knew that their time overseas was up, and there was no more reason to remain there. For some, they have always regarded Japan as a brief moment in transition, somewhat like a long holiday.

For me, it was the unexpected birthday gift that changed my life forever. Who would have expected the letter that arrived 3 years ago early March would have left so much impact on me, allowing me to fulfill my dreams and see the world.

Even more so, that dream continued when I was offered to work in Tokyo. It was definitely nothing like what I could have imagined, whatmore planned to do. The dream opened up limitless possibilities for me.

Living abroad have enabled me to see things differently, and that was exactly what I had wanted for myself as there was just so much that I could do, but not able to back here. The potential to be who I wanted to be, go wherever I wanted to, at anytime of the day or even season, was a luxury I took advantage of while in Japan. If I had remained in Malaysia, I would have continued to be dumbed down and restricted by circumstances and obligations.

It is impossible for anyone to really understand that unless they themselves have been overseas for a reasonable period of time. Thus, when I came back, it was difficult to relate to some people as obviously we've all grown and gone in different directions during the time when I was gone.

When Ee Wei shared about how she felt, I told her she was still better off than me since she was still in the UK. At least being there, you're expected to be different, because, well, you are different. However, coming back, people assume you are still the same, and expect you to continue to be the same, not considering that 3 years so many things could happen.

Charis, who has also just returned from her graduate studies in the US, shares the same struggles that I am going through. However, she has it better because she herself is a psychologist, and have access to counsellors who helped prepare her for the transition coming back.

The general respond that others give to people like us is to "adapt" because there's "no choice". How easy it is to say that, something which I personally equate to giving up and giving in. No wonder so many of our foreign graduates choose to remain overseas, coming back only for holidays. If our PM is serious and sincere about stopping the brain drain, merely building tangible infrastructure will not be enough. He should hire me to be his advisor!

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