“You’ve got a job, you spend the weekend swimming in the Mediterranean and you are able to visit home a few times a year; why would you ever come back?” That’s what I heard time after time. And it was true, I was pretty content working in Spain. I had a beautiful 3-bed apartment for the price of a single room in Dublin, I had learned a new language, and there was no sign of work drying up.

But none of those make up for seeing the first of the gang get married, or holding your niece on the day of her birth or being able to do the odd-jobs your parents are no longer able to do – just being there. While everyone thought I was enjoying the fiesta in Spain, I was in fact on the outside looking in.

Coming home to a foreign country

The first two weeks back home were awkward and strange. I had to learn to just open my mouth and speak instead of translating every thought into Spanish first. My casual conversation was clumsy; I had missed the uniting euphoria of the referendum, I hadn’t been affected by the water charges. When I left Ireland four years prior, then destined for South Korea, pubs had five beers instead of 105 and the Luas only brought you to a red-bricked Grafton Street.

Once the confusing fog had settled, reality quickly hit home. CVs must be rewritten, jobs must be applied for, a driving licence must be obtained and, in the meantime, I must take my place on the dole queue. Forms, queues, applications, more forms, photocopies, originals, signatures, and waiting. It’s amazing how many things still require 10 working days for a response.

Jobs, driving lessons and crisp, white shirts

From going through numerous job sites, it became obvious that a full, clean driving licence was a prerequisite for the majority of jobs I was interested in. This made it all the more frustrating when I discovered that my out-of-date provisional licence was now considered void and I must begin from scratch – theory test, 12 compulsory lessons and what on Earth is an ‘N’ plate?

Perseverance, I’m told, is the key. My days are spent surfing a number a job sites continuously redefining the search criteria, tweaking and optimising my LinkedIn and subtly probing my friends for any potential positions in their workplaces. I feel like I’ve read every blog and listened to every expert advising how to find a job, how to write a CV and cover letter and how to conduct yourself in an interview. My mother brings up the importance of crisp, white shirts more often in dinnertime conversation.

Is my travel counted against me?

Each job you apply for brings with it an imagined future: where I’d live, who I’d work with, my commute, a potential new life. Each time, my CV is polished and groomed and set on its way on the World Wide Web with a shiny new cover letter in the hope of bringing back good news. As so many jobs don’t post a closing date for applications or send out rejection emails, most of those applications are sent with blind hope and optimism.

With each non-successful application, the feeling grows that those years spent abroad are counted against me. Do potential employers look at my CV and think that I was off lying on a beach while the country struggled through a recession? My time abroad was such an enriching, challenging experience it should be a bonus to potential employers – and I’m assured by those in the know that it makes me more employable. That doesn’t always soften the feeling of rejection. “They already had someone lined up,” I tell myself or “they must have received thousands of applications,” when I hear a silence that sounds a lot like “No!”

Making the right decisions

If you are noting some frustration, you are right. Feeling like a tourist in your own town is frustrating, as is starting from scratch. But with great frustration comes great relief. My time abroad and this time of unemployment have afforded me the time to dwell on what I enjoy and what I’m good at. Unlike in years past, I’m not panicking and applying for anything with a wage, I am calm and considered.

I’m home for good and I want a job for good. I have finally decided what I want to do and I am refocusing my career with a post-graduate course. I have chosen the correct path and that perfect job will come but, in the meantime, there are weddings to attend, nieces and nephews to babysit and hedges to be clipped – life to be lived.

Preparing to come home?

Read our guide