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FIGT Connections | In The Afterglow Of FIGT15




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Issue: 34
March 18, 2015
Families in Global Transition is a welcoming forum for globally mobile individuals, families, and those working with them. We promote cross-sector connections for sharing research and developing best practices that support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world. 

The 2015 FIGT Conference took place last week in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and the event was a huge success. Many of our members participated, including volunteers, scholars, presenters, and sponsors. 


Based on the theme "Finding 'Home' Amidst Global Change," the program had a high quality of presentations on a wide range of topics, including transition, identity, belonging, being 'seen' and understood, challenges our Third Culture/Cross-Cultural Kids face in their globally mobile lives, what constitutes home, and the importance of saying goodbye.

FIGT also used the conference as an opportunity to meet with our membership and make exciting plans for the future, including an exciting change to our conference location for 2016: we're headed to The Netherlands


You'll find FIGT President Kilian Kröll's welcoming remarks here


None of this would have been possible without our generous sponsors. Dwellworks provided Platinum sponsorship, ACS International Schools, CORT Business Services and Paxton were our Gold level sponsors, and GenuisXpat, Patterson Partners and Summertime Publishing were Bronze sponsors. 


We would also like to thank our many patron sponsors, as well as the exhibitors in attendance.

On behalf of our organization, we thank you all for your support, and for helping to make our 2015 conference such an exciting, rewarding and productive event.

We were especially thrilled to learn that Cecilia Neher and Oxana Holtmann of GeniusXpats enjoyed sponsoring and attending FIGT15 so much, they developed this short video about finding your tribe and your purpose! 

To learn more about our FIGT15 sponsors, please visit the conference sponsorship page.


With this issue of FIGT Connections, we are introducing a new feature called "FIGT in Action." FIGT members and conference attendees are welcome to share their own story -- personal or professional -- of learning or experiencing something from FIGT interactions, and how they have encountered or applied it in their own world. If you would like to submit an "FIGT in Action" entry or have questions, please email Janssenla@gmail.com. The inaugural story is from Becky Grappo.


I'm still basking in the afterglow of the Families in Global Transition conference held in the Washington, DC area last week. The theme of "Finding 'Home' Amidst Global Change" was clearly evident from start to finish. Every single moment and event of the conference was like a homecoming - warm, embracing, inspiring, moving, and insightful. As FIGT President Killian Kröll so eloquently and accurately stated in his opening remarks, "We will be challenged to think about 'home' in terms of ethnic identity, literary perspectives, business practices, intergenerational communication, non-Western approaches to building community, volunteer organizations, and the ritual act of saying goodbye and hello."

What always impresses me about FIGT every year is the incredible assembly of talented people gathered together from around the world. In many ways the conference is a "Who's Who" and "Hall of Fame" of cross-cultural change makers and thought leaders all rolled into one.

Teja Arboleda, president of Entertaining Diversity, Inc. which focuses on diversity and inclusion programming through entertainment, kicked off the conference with his fantastic autobiographical performance of "Ethnic Man!", which engaged and entertained the audience with his own story of multicultural diversity and search for identity. Though he had us in the palm of his hand, it was stunning to learn that he wanted to be with us as much as we were pleased to have him present. As he was performing, I was thinking of the many TCKs I work with who also have vastly multicultural backgrounds and how his story of cultural identity, moving, transitioning, trying to find a place where one can fit and belong is, in many ways, their story, too.

There were many published writers present, and the bookstore was perhaps the largest curated collection in one place of books about expat life, transitions, TCKs, cross-cultural anthologies and a few novels, counseling and more - most of which were authored by conference participants. It was especially exciting to see Eva Lazlo Herbert, co-editor of The Worlds Within: An anthology of TCK Art and Writing: Young, Global and Between Cultures, present to sign stacks of this recently published treasure. (The other editor, Jo Parfitt, was not able to attend this year.)

As the conference unfolded, each event seemed to outshine the previous one, and made me think, reflect, and re-examine what I thought I knew. As a few people noted, the sessions were a combination of content and heart; information and emotion. My biggest frustration was that I could not attend all the sessions offered! But those I did attend, remained with me for days afterward as I replayed them in my head.

In particular, the session by Chris O'Shaughnessy, "Changing Our Concept of Home to Find Hope", used stories and emotion to talk about creating a sense of home, belonging, and community wherever we go. I was inspired to get back into the game myself and work on creating that feeling of community again when I return to my own new adopted home. I know that I often get busy or distracted, and find a host of other reasons why I don't always do what I could be doing to build community and connections around me. His message was also relevant for the students I work with who are headed off to college or forging their way into the big wide world of work and young adulthood: "Don't just look for community - create it!"

The closing event was led by a psychologist and former international school counselor, Doug Ota, who has his own story of ethnic diversity and lifelong exploration of culture, belonging, and identity. His keynote, "Don't Leave Without Taking Your Vitamin 'G': Why Goodbyes are Good for You," was outstanding, leaving us all a bit stunned at the end by the emotional journey he had taken us on. His new book is Safe Passages, How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It, and I am already reading it with enthusiasm. I also bought multiple copies of the book to send to some friends of mine in the world of international schools as well as some therapists I know who work with teenage TCKs. His theories about attachment styles really resonated with me, and I was reminded of individual students by name who have struggled with the loss and grief that comes from having said too many goodbyes and not enough hellos.

In closing, Doug Ota said that this conference has to be the safest place in the world to explore these complex feelings of home, belonging, identity, our place in the world, our attachments, our losses, and our joys. He described telling his wife that he had to come back to this conference, for it was time for him to go "home" again to be with like-minded people.

And it was so true - this small, intimate gathering of about 150 people, inspired by Ruth Van Reken around her own kitchen table 18 years ago, is a homecoming. It's a place where you don't have to explain yourself, your background, or your differences - unless you want to. And since everyone in the room has a unique story to share, it's also the one place where everyone wants to hear it.

-- Rebecca (Becky) Grappo is a Member of FIGT and founder of RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC. You can contact her through her website at www.rnginternational.com.

In my immediate review of FIGT15, one thing that strikes me now is how quickly and intense connections with other attendees were made over the three-day span of the conference. This is interesting given that so many of us had never met before, or only had a web presence "introduction" to each other prior to the start of FIGT15.

Developing the FIGT15 Conference program was a very challenging yet rewarding task. One aspect I found particularly intense was sending emails informing people their proposals to speak had not been selected. I regretted that we were unable to find a place for more people in this year's program. 

I want to point out that this year there were more than 152 rich and varied submissions; only 24% of them could be accepted for our two Keynotes, four Panels, six Ignite Talks, 15 Concurrent Sessions and 12 Kitchen Table Talks. However, I am excited to know that many of you will be eager to try and find your place in #FIGT16NL, so watch this space for more news on that front -- dates, theme and deadline for proposals to speak -- as things develop.

As Grant Simens reminded us during the Saturday evening Panel of (Cross-Cultural) Dudes, "In order to bridge national boundaries, we need to have leaders that have cultural ties across them." I feel the conference was full of these leaders. We eagerly look forward to your proposals for #FIGT16NL.

Julia Simens -- Program Chair, FIGT15
FIGT Treasurer Norman Viss is looking for a few people to form a "Financial Planning Committee." The purpose of this group is to dream about FIGT's financial future, especially in light of the move of our conference to The Netherlands next year. Finances reflect the dreams and goals of an organization, and we want to be proactive about keeping our finances in line with our mission and vision.

If you have specific talents in the areas of finance, budgets and/or fundraising, or know someone who does, please contact Norman. We expect that this committee would meet virtually a couple of times a year, particularly around budget-making time (August-September). Norman can be reached at normviss@gmail.com or +1.215.586.1673. Thank you!
As the second year of Parfitt/Pascoe Writing Resident scholars for FIGT, Beth Hoban, Lauren Owen, Lauren Power, and Taylor Murray shared a common goal: a passion to improve the lives of expat families through writing. In this and subsequent issues of the FIGT Connections newsletter, each PPWR will share their reflections from FIGT15. Up first is Taylor Murray:

"Our purpose was to write about the ideas presented for this year's theme: Finding 'Home' Amidst Global Change. Prior to the conference, Jo Parfitt mentored us on how to write and place articles for publication. Once at FIGT15, 2014 PPWR scholar Dounia Bertuccelli guided us as we prepared to cover each session that took place over the three-day conference. The notes we took will be transformed into articles during the coming months.

Participating in the FIGT conference as writing scholars was rewarding, motivating, and inspiring. As we slipped into sessions, listening carefully and furiously taking notes, we were able to view the FIGT conference from an outside perspective. We saw passionate presenters relating with an eager audience. We observed and interacted in powerful discussions on transition, Third Culture Kids, and mobility. Our notebooks were soon brimming with the cutting-edge ideas of FIGT speakers on new ways to help expat families.

This conference is different than others, we acknowledged. Despite the fast-paced schedule, we felt a sense of belonging with the other conference attendees. We began to understand why FIGT is described as 'a reunion with people you've never met'. Attending the FIGT conference was the perfect opportunity to combine our desire to positively impact expat families and our passion for writing. We left FIGT15 prepared to write creatively and thoroughly about the ideas presented at the conference. Attending FIGT15 as writing scholars was a catalyst for personal growth, learning, and making connections."

-- Taylor Murray is an American TCK living in Hiroshima, Japan, and the author of Hidden in My Heart: A TCK's Journey Through Cultural Transition (BottomLine Media).


The David C. Pollock Scholarship is an integral part of the FIGT Conference and organization. It allows emerging interculturalists to attend the FIGT Conference for free, to share their research and experiences with others working with globalLY mobile individuals, and to make connections to help advance their research and careers. 

This year's six Pollock Scholars -- Tayo Rockson, Ginny Sampson, Britanni Sonnenberg, Jean Kim, Irena Tsoustas and Andrew Jernigan -- attended the FIGT Conference for the first time, bringing new insights, perspectives and questions to the FIGT community table. Three of our scholars presented at the conference on how to use a Third Culture background to make a difference in the world, on communicating globally with word and art, and transnational identity. Two of the scholars came as ambassadors for immigrant and refugee perspectives. One of our scholars brought tools, resources and principles for holistic care of globally mobile families.

Led by Scholarship Chair Michael Pollock and Scholarship Committee Member Emily McDermott, our 2015 Pollock Scholars sold raffle tickets for prizes awarded throughout the conference. Their hard work paid off as they earned $2100 toward next year's conference Pollock Scholarships. Our thanks for their efforts and the generosity of conference attendees. Well done all!



FIGT Netherlands Affiliate

The FIGT NL Affiliate was excited to learn that next year's conference will take place in The Netherlands. They are thrilled #FIGT16NL is heading their way! The next Affiliate meeting is scheduled for June 5th, 2015. Topic is not yet determined.  


For more information about the FIGT Netherlands Affiliate, check out their page on the FIGT website or contact Co-Creators Kate Berger, Kristine Racina or Vivian Chiona at netherlands@figt.org.

FIGT Boston Affiliate

The FIGT Boston Affiliate meets every 6-8 weeks in a member's home on a weekend afternoon for wine, cheese, networking, and a lively discussion around cross-cultural issues that impact our lives or work. If you are in the Boston area and would like to know when our next meeting is, you can email Tina Quick at tinaquick@comcast.net or Anne Copeland at copeland@interchangeinstitute.org.

Also, the FIGT Boston Affiliate has now created a LinkedIn group and welcomes you to join. The FIGT Boston Affiliate LinkedIn group is a place to share innovations, discuss ideas and develop collaborations amongst professionals in the Greater Boston area and beyond interested in the cross-cultural aspects of
global transitions.

FIGT Korea Affiliate

Throughout the year, the FIGT Korea Affiliate organizes monthly meetings to support TCKs and expat families in Korea. One of these groups is the TCK Network which kicked off its first meeting for the year on February 26th at an Indian restaurant at the heart of Seoul. The TCK Network engages various formats including watching TCK movies, panel discussions, and inviting speakers to promote intercultural exchange in a non-biased, safe and supportive environment. The next meeting will be held on March 26th at an Italian restaurant called Serafina from 7-9 p.m. For more information on the upcoming meeting visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/tcknetworkkorea/


For more information about the FIGT Korea Affiliate, check out their page on the FIGT website or contact Isabelle Min at minisabelle@tck.or.kr.

FIGT Switzerland Affiliate

For information about the FIGT Switzerland Affiliate, check out their page on the FIGT website or contact them at switzerland@figt.org.

FIGT UK Affiliate

For information about the FIGT UK Affiliate, check out their page on the FIGT website or contact them at ukaffiliate@figt.org.

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