• Veronique Couttee

The Conservationist Island Girl returns home


Vero Couttee at the beach,
Reconnecting with the beach.

After spending four years living abroad in Seychelles, then the United States, the Conservationist Island Girl is back to Mauritius. My return home was shrouded in fear and uncertainty about my professional and my personal life. I poured several hours researching "reverse culture shock" and how to cope with it. A life-changing move combined with a global pandemic was enough to induce several sleepless nights.


So here I am now, back in Mauritius! Two months into my return, I feel compelled to share my story and my "reverse culture shock" journey. Reverse Culture Shock is a term used to describe the feelings (of surprise, disorientation, confusion, etc.) experienced when people return to their home country and find they do not fit in as they used to.


Everyone experiences it to varying degrees. Especially coming back to a country that is rapidly developing and expanding its physical and economic landscape. My intentionality in managing my return lies in some critical decisions that have allowed me to thrive in such unsettled times. So, here are four decisions that have helped me stay grounded during this transition.


1. Cultivating a safe space: home

Having my own place is a privilege. Not everyone can afford it when returning to their home country. However, creating a sense of home and putting boundaries even with loved ones is possible and recommended. Even the 14-days mandatory quarantine upon my entry was beneficial in finding my internal home and taking care of myself after a very long trip back. Living away from the family circle then returning to that space is challenging.


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Upon my return, my focus was to create a nest in my country with habits that reminded me of my previous life. Enjoying my independence here and still spending time reconnecting with family and friends has been a healthy decision. So taking the time to rest in your private, quiet space whenever you can is not neglecting your loved ones. If they waited several years to see you, they could wait a day or two.


2. Keeping my international connections

Yayyyy for technology! I love technology, and I use many platforms, from WhatsApp and telegram to slack, to stay in touch with my personal and professional life in the United States. I have been involved in conferences, happy hours, book clubs, and virtual birthdays to keep these international connections. My perspective, lifestyle, and personal views have changed.


Hostess for the Africa Happy Hour for Homecoming during ESRI UC 2020.
Hostess of the Africa Happy Hour for Homecoming 2020.

I am a new person in ways that are often hard to pinpoint or describe. So being able to explore what this new me looks like in this new environment while maintaining my international networks makes my life feel less fragmented. So do not feel that you have to give up all your network because you are on the other side of the world. However, you have to be intentional about maintaining it.





3. Recreating a new tribe

A difficult part of returning is accepting that you might have to weed some people out of your life because you do not align with who they are anymore. The chances are that you did not align with these people to begin with. Still, the cultural ties and memories that you shared allowed you to entertain a relationship with them.


However, in this new life of yours, you may realize that you cannot share much of your new person with these people. It would be best if you recognized that. Do not dim your light or passion, or experience to makes others feel comfortable. You should be able to shine and share what you've experience abroad. It's not bragging to tell your story; it's bragging if you believe that your life is better.


Finding new tribes through the Wamakers Hub Program. Vero Couttee participates in activities.
Finding new tribes through the Wavemakers Hub Program. Credit: Stephane Lafleur

4. Seeking Counseling

Counseling is not for everyone, and finding a therapist that aligns with your identities at its intersectionality can be a challenge. However, if you can afford to see a therapist, do not hesitate if you are in a situation where you can afford to. Have them accompany you through this transition. I continue to see my therapist from the United States, as they agreed to see me remotely. Self-care requires intentionality to set up positive plans to navigate this change in the new environment.

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On a personal note...

I am happy to be back in Mauritius. I do miss friends and loved ones in the US, but it never beats home. Returning home has helped me understand that it is less about the physical location but more about the internal sense of peace and happiness I cultivate. Every day I create safe spaces through dancing, family time, friend time, food, yoga, reading, and everything else I enjoy. I intentionally create a secure, homey space for my growth. Bottom line, The Conservationist Island Girl is back home. She is excited to rediscover her country while thinking about her next destination. If you are also a returning Mauritian/Islander, I would love to hear your journey and connect with you. Sending you all lots of light in these troubled times.


Creating new memories with old friends at the beach.
Creating new memories with old friends.

Some helpful resources:


Therapy & Wellbeing:

  1. Insight Timer - Free app for sleep, anxiety, and stress.

  2. Liberate - Daily meditation for black communities

  3. Inclusive Therapists - Care from a therapist who gets you

Conferences & Tribes:

  1. Wavemakers Hub Program - Program for Social Innovators

  2. Racial Equity & Social Justice at the Esri UC 2021



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