By Katarina Holm-DiDio
As we are getting closer to FIGT 2016, for the first time held outside of the US, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we felt it would be of interest to share this interview with Christina Bertarelli, FIGT member and former Parfitt/Pascoe Writing Residency Scholarship winner.
Cristinagrew up in a beautiful small town in Italy on Lake Como, in a family that rarely traveled abroad and preferred to vacation close to home. Then she met her partner in adventure, an Italian born in the U.S. but raised in Italy. His career with the United Nations would take them from Switzerland to France and then to New York City, where they have lived for almost seven years. They are raising two TCKs, a daughter now in college in the U.K. and a 13-year-old son. Cristina has moved with her family into 15 different houses in 20 years, and for the first time she feels she has found her home. She has come to embrace the life of an expat and carries her home with her.
I met Cristina two years ago through the Local Expat Spouse Association of the United Nations in New York, at a meeting of coaches supporting expatriate U.N. spouses and partners. Her energy and passion about the work we do and the life and needs of a “U.N. Spouse/Partner” made a strong impression on me. That’s why I am so happy she was selected for the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency for FIGT2014 and returned to the 2015 Conference as a Kitchen Table presenter. I asked Cristina to describe her experience at her first conference last year.
“It was a step out of my comfort zone,” she replies. “Until I attended FIGT2014, I had lived my expat life not thinking out of the box, with self-limiting beliefs and gremlins that worked hard to convince me that I was not good enough to continue my exploration of the expat world. Luckily, I started to meet like-minded people, initially socializing with other U.N. expatriate families and beyond. Attending FIGT2014 was a big step out of my bubble into a broader expat world. It was enlightening and I felt an immediate, strong connection with the other attendees at the Conference, which is why I also became an FIGT member.”
Writing with Jo Parfitt’s support and guidance was a life-changing experience for Cristina. It gave her the confidence to continue developing her blog, and a group of like-minded expat writers to exchanges ideas with.
Why is she back at FIGT?
“Because you challenged me to it,” she answers jokingly, referring to my suggestion she submit a proposal as a presenter. The challenge did get her creative juices flowing and during a long walk the idea that became her proposal came to her – “Changing Home is More than a Theory” – where she explores moving with the help of our senses. “Change is an open door, sometimes we are not ready for it, and that is OK too, but we need to make the best of it.”
So why is she really back, and why should you attend?
“Because of all that I received last year was worth coming back for and to give back for. When you step out of your comfort zone, you find yourself. I also found a place where I felt understood, and with possibilities to share experiences with like-minded people.”
This interview appeared in the FIGT Newsletter 17 February 2015 immediately before the FIGT 2015 Annual Conference in Washington, DC.