#71 Shandy Bolton – Treating repatriation as another journey abroad leads to success
Shandy had the privilege of being an expat and supporting spouse for 6 1/2 years. She and her husband Todd, first started in Aschaffenburg, Germany for 3 1/2 years, then moved to Shanghai for 3 years. Their 3 kids have lived longer overseas than they have in the US. The Bolton family repatriated to Canton Michigan in 2013 and Shandy is a busy mama homeschooling her 3 kids again 11, 8, and 4, a new endeavor she embarked upon repatriation. In this episode Shandy walks us through the past two years of her journey, sharing wisdom and perspective that will benefit you no matter if you’re just beginning the repatriation process from China, or have been in the thick of it for years.
It’s OK to grieve repatriation. Living overseas is a part of your life and to walk away from that – it’s huge.
Check out this episode’s sponsors
How long into the repatriation journey
Two years – the kids are readjusting and relearning a culture that they really only knew from summer vacations. Shandy shares how it has, “been a rude awakening” in some ways, yet everyone is enjoying reconnecting with family and friends. Overall it has been a good experience, despite some of the natural ups and downs of the repatriation process.
What factors did she consider when deciding to repatriate
Shandy always told her husband that he would have to let her know when it was time to go home. She was really enjoying her time in Shanghai and loved the help and freedoms she had. For Todd, he had a rather stressful job and he was ready for a change. Also, they had finalized the adoption of their son, Michael, early that year and so it seemed to them that their time was wrapping up in Shanghai.
How her husband’s company prepared him for repatriation
They didn’t. There’s the assumption that you don’t need any help heading home.
What would she have liked to have looking back
An understanding of what reverse culture shock is what it might look like. Maybe even a list of resources in the home country would have been useful.
What did help?
The school her children attended had a farewell parent coffee for all the parents who were repatriating. In that one morning, Shandy learned more about repatriation than she could have ever imagined and it was incredibly helpful. The school counselors also talked about how parents could help their children adjust.
For the students who were going home, they had the opportunity to choose their best friend to have a special lunch together. At that lunch, the counselors talked to both the one who was leaving and the friend being left behind about what this transition was going to look like. Shandy says that these two things were tremendously helpful. Definitely ask your school if there’s something available like this!
Tips for leaving well
- Have a Chinese speaker at your home during the checkout process, just in case you need some backup.
- Get on the plane. Take a deep breath. Know that was an incredible experience and that there are many more to come if you’re willing to seek them out.
- It’s OK to grieve the loss of repatriation. Give yourself time. Surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through.