7 Tips for Academics Returning to the UK after Working Overseas

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by Sarah Marten

1)  Be prepared for the emotional impact

Whether you have been away for many years or for a shorter time there will be an inevitable period of adjustment when you return to the UK.

Your experience of working abroad will have changed you as a person. You now have a greater awareness of international issues and may have developed some new language skills. Many academics also find that they were given much more independence abroad than they are in the UK.

A period of re-adjustment to life back home is normal after working abroad. “Re-Entry Shock” is something many people experience – a bit like culture shock in reverse.

You may find that:

  • you feel nostalgia for the country that you have left – in comparison the UK can seem rather dull and boring
  • The HE sector has changed more than you realised and some people have moved on 
  • Colleagues, friends and family have rather mixed feelings about your experiences

 Feelings of initial isolation and loneliness are not uncommon.

2)  Minimise the effects of re-entry shock

  • Talk to other academics who have experienced similar situations
  • Make use of any programmes offered by your employer to help academics returning to the UK, or talk to your HR manager
  • Focus on the positive aspects of your time spent working abroad and how this can benefit your new UK post
  • Give yourself time to adjust to your new life -  feelings of irritability or unease are normal

3)  Make sure that you are research active as soon as possible 

This involves having a clear plan for your future research back in the UK. You may be able to develop collaborative research projects with your overseas university

Dr Julie Whitfield, Senior Lecturer in Tourism at Bournemouth University explains:

“Despite leaving China several years ago, my links with the Institute for Tourism Studies in Macau remain strong through my two joint research projects on the Macau Grand Prix and the Greening the Conference Sector research. I’ve also returned to Macau to give a workshop and guest lecture and am developing wider research teams and links between the two schools.”

4)  Maximise opportunities from your overseas links

  • This might include generating income for your university by setting up articulation or franchise links
  •  Links also encourage applications from overseas students

5)  Utilise your overseas lecture and seminar materials 

This will add an exciting international dimension to the education you provide and will also enable you to start teaching right away

6)  Examine the UK student experience for the students from the country you were working in

  • You are now very knowledgeable about these students and their educational background
  • How can they best be supported in the light of your new knowledge and experience?

7)  Working out what you have gained from working abroad may take time 

  • You may not always realise how much you have gained until you have been back for a while
  • This will happen once you start using all the new ideas and information gained during your time spent working abroad, and continue to work with your new overseas contacts

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