By Meghali Pandey
I knew next to nothing about the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference before someone recommended applying for the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR). What an exciting experience it has been ever since.
As an ‘untraditional’ adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK), I didn’t attend many international schools during my childhood, and I live in a country where very few know of the term Third Culture Kid. It was refreshing to encounter people who not only understood my experiences, but had similar global stories to share. The best part was many of these were friends and familiar faces from my TCK community on Twitter, where I first discovered the power in connecting and sharing stories with expats and TCKs across the world. A fitting experience indeed for #FIGT16NL, the theme of which was Moving Across Cultures: Bringing Empathy and Expertise to the Evolving Global Family.
As a PPWR scholar, I found it particularly inspiring to meet a variety of writers at the conference this year, from bloggers and journalists to authors with multiple publications under their belt. I found great joy and relished even the little details in the making of myriad connections – like how not one person asked me that dreaded question, ‘Where are you from?’ And unlike previous international conferences I’ve attended, there was no country flag branded onto my name badge, giving me the opportunity to bring my true self to the conference and avoid yet another identity crisis.
There were several different types of organisations and individuals attending the conference, which took place outside the USA for the first time since its inception. This year the conference was held in Amsterdam. For many like me, this was their first experience of Amsterdam, yet everybody seemed happily at home and eager to be present. It was a family reunion even for those of us who were joining the FIGT family for the first time; a homecoming truly understood when sharing individual and family tales of global transition, spanning from humorous and joyous to challenging and tragic.
For most of us lucky ones, the journey continues. The researchers from the conference have gone back with fresh ideas for further study. All attendees have been given much food for thought through contemporary challenges and additions to old-school notions of gender and race in the evolving global family. As for us PPWR scholars, we are excitedly getting down to pooling together all the stories we told and heard about our new family.
Meghali Pandey is an adult third culture kid (ATCK) who works in youth development and cultural diplomacy. She has written for Youth to End Sexual Violence, Onpartu, and Use Your Difference magazine. She has worked with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK) on youth engagement with foreign policy, in international cultural exchange with the Cabinet Office of Japan, and on developing cross-cultural youth engagement during disaster and conflict. She is currently developing her writing as a means to explore identity and belonging as an ATCK.