By Beth Hoban
A Chinese proverb says, “A single conversation with a wise person is better than 10 years of study.” One of the largest draws of the Families in Global Transitions (FIGT) conference is the community and the conversations that take place, not only in the formal sessions but also in the hallways and across the table while sharing a good meal.
On Saturday morning, I overheard a participant in the breakfast line say, “Going to the FIGT conference is like going to a high school reunion, except without all the awkwardness.” At the 2015 FIGT conference each morning provided an opportunity to enjoy a fantastic breakfast buffet and participate in a wide range of conversations with other participants in a casual and informal manner without any awkwardness.
I credit Ruth Van Reken, co-founder of FIGT, for the success of these informal discussions. She has hardwired the casual, yet authentic, inspiring, and intimate communication style into the Kitchen Table Conversations and Early Bird sessions. This style of idea sharing and grassroots participation has a great richness to it. As I walked around the room each morning, I could feel the energy in the participants starting to build.
A board was available in the hallway for anyone to sign up with a topic they wanted to discuss. Sessions were then listed on small placards and posted in the center of each table. Some of this year’s topics included:
- What does Third Culture Kid (TCK) mean? What defines a TCK?
- Where does hope live? New beginnings after losses. Losses after new beginnings
- Young Adult TCK Transitions Needs and Opportunities
- Mindfulness and the International Student
- Expats and Retirement
- Online Marketing
- The Interchange Institute Overview
- What’s your favorite city street?
Each morning groups would gather at a table with a topic that suited them or participants could just sit and converse with others without a formal topic. I asked Lauren Owen, one of this year’s Parfitt/ Pascoe Writing scholars, to share her thoughts on the early bird session. “I chose to sit in on the TCK talk by Michael Pollock because I’ve found there is a fair amount of support for TCKs transitioning to college, but not very much for those transitioning from college to post-graduate life, and without the networks their mono-cultural counterparts have in their passport country, it’s hard for us to get the support we need. It was nice to know first, that I was not alone in this recognition, and second, that there are some people who are considering and discussing similar things.”
Personally, I found myself lingering at the On Line Marketing discussion as participants were generously sharing ideas and personal experiences. One of the participants at the table noted, “In this day and age of social media it is important to have ‘googleability’. People are going to research you and it is important to make sure that your on-line profile aligns with your messaging.”
I also recall dropping by the table where participants were discussing their favorite streets in cities where they have lived. One participant described in rich detail a cobblestone street, with small shops along both sides. They described the sensation of feeling the street under their feet, the sounds they could hear, and the smell of the air. At that moment in time, the speaker was deeply entrenched in a fond memory and magically transported the entire table along with her.
As I meandered around the room and listened to the conversation two things were clear – wisdom and ideas were being shared, and seeds were being planted and nurtured. I look forward to next year’s conference to see what those seeds will sprout.