By Ellen Beard
Honored at the opportunity to present in a Kitchen Table Conversation and thrilled with receiving the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR), I approached the conference with high hopes and positive expectations. Having never presented in a professional setting beyond peer undergraduate classmates, however, nerves began to build leading up to the conference. My excitement at meeting and learning from professionals in all fields of expat-related work was met with equal anxiety.
Among my People
Upon arriving in Amsterdam and first meeting with the PPWR team my anxiety quickly turned to eagerness. I was still nervous at being surrounded by so many great people, but meeting the wonderful faces behind the emails helped form a connection. My focus shifted from fear of failure to the joy of learning as the writing team became a group of mentors and the audience to whom I presented became an engaged and thoughtful voice. Though I still felt like a minnow among a “room full of legends,” as keynote speaker Chris O’Shaughnessy put it, I realized even my small voice has something to contribute to the larger conversation.
What I Never Knew I Never Knew
I learned far more than I had expected. With a strangely pleasant confidence, I learned the communication skills involved in networking and gained a genuine curiosity for others’ lives. I gained new insight, both practical and theoretical, from the various speakers, and made valuable connections over dinner conversations. Most importantly, I realized despite having read books, conducted qualitative research, and even grown up as a TCK, I still know very little. FIGT opened up a vast new world of knowledge and questions on a subject I thought I knew like my own hand. I even gained insight on new subjects within the expat community I did not know existed.
The Perfect Place to Start
The beautiful part of FIGT that really stood out to me is the family atmosphere in harmony with brilliant academics. I did not expect a conference attended by everyone from parents to researchers and professionals in all fields of work to be so warm and welcoming. Rather than the pursuit of merit and academic prestige, I saw a group of people who come together to engage and share ideas out of genuine passion for the international community. This reminded me of my own conviction that all work, learning, and success must be towards the benefit of fellow human beings. I cannot picture a more perfect experience to begin my career and post-undergraduate life.
Ellen Beard grew up in multifaceted Osh, Kyrgyzstan and flourishing Hanoi, Vietnam, and now studies psychology, interdisciplinary art, and humanities for her bachelor's degree at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. As an American-Asian artist, her diverse background, eclectic experiences and challenging education have developed in her a passion for learning, harmony, and all things international. Currently working in various research assistant positions and TCK student leadership roles, she aspires to use her growing skills in the areas of psychology and the arts to pursue harmony among people of all conditions of mental health, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.