A showcase of FIGT Members' written work, focusing on the issues we study, the best practices we share, and the strategies we provide to support expatriates and cross cultural individuals and their families. Contributions are a privilege for Small Business and Corporate membership levels only and you can submit up to 3 posts per year. Please use our online form below to submit a blog for consideration or contact blogeditor@figt.org.

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  • 27 May 2020 4:55 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As a therapist and digital nomad, Dr. Sonia Jaeger finds her lifestyle and identity challenged by the global pandemic. While acknowledging how hard these times can be, she still finds joy in life, especially in her online community of colleagues.

    By Dr. Sonia Jaeger

    Being a therapist in times of COVID-19 is hard. We might not work on the front lines, but we aren’t that far behind, really. 

    Being a digital nomad in times of COVID-19 is hard. Traveling freely and often is at the core of our lifestyle and identity. 

    Yes, these were my first thoughts when invited to write about “finding joy in challenging times.” While I spend a lot of my time these days finding joy and focusing on the good, I do want to start by acknowledging how hard these times are. 

    Challenging times are called challenging for a reason. I see it too often: people are so intent on finding the positive aspects of a challenge and on the growth opportunity that they forget to make space for all those negative feelings, for the uncertainty, the fear, and so so much grief. 

    Once we give ourselves that space, then we can, and should, focus on the things that bring us joy—and there are so many things, from the very small to the very big, that can bring us joy even in the most challenging of times. 

    But, again, it’s ok if you don’t use a worldwide pandemic to start a new side business, freelancing career, or hobby. It’s ok if you keep going through all the emotions, sometimes multiple times a day.

     

    ... people are so intent on finding the positive aspects of a challenge ... that they forget to make space for all those negative feelings ... and so so much grief.


    So, to get back to the initial question, where do I find joy in these challenging times? 

    I find joy in my work and in my online counseling clients who use their skills to survive and sometimes even thrive in these times. I find joy in the shared laughter and the moments where something just clicks and things start to change. I find joy in the fact that yes, we are all in this together. 

    I find joy in the fact that as a digital nomad and psychologist working online, the transition might have been a bit easier for my clients and for me. I have been providing online counseling for years now, so while everything else might have changed, I did not also have to reinvent or transition my professional life. 

    I find joy in nature. I was lucky enough to happen to visit the French countryside when things started to evolve very quickly with COVID-19, and I was lucky enough to be able to stay as long as needed. 

    I find joy in the coffee I hand grind every morning, I find joy in the birds and insects I watch and listen to while drinking my coffee.


    Sometimes, all it takes is a shared space to acknowledge how hard this is.


    But overall, my biggest joy and lifesaver in these challenging times has been my international community of Location Independent Therapists. Having these colleagues by my side every step of the way, catching up multiples times a week in our business meetups, virtual coworking sessions, book club, happy hours, and peer-supervision calls and in writing in between. 

    I find joy in seeing their faces and hearing their thoughts and feelings. I find joy in connecting across countries, continents, and time zones and hearing more about what it’s actually like right now in so many corners of the world. 

    I find joy in helping each other work through these challenging times, taking care of ourselves, our families and friends, taking care of each other and of our clients. Sometimes, all it takes is a shared space to acknowledge how hard this is. And to take a deep breath together. 

    Our location-independent therapist community has also been a great reminder that yes, while we are all in this together, each of our experiences is absolutely unique, and vastly influenced by the country and region we live in, who is stuck at home with us and how big of a disruption to our lives this is, how many plans we had to put on hold and how well equipped we are to handle uncertainty and restrictions of freedom.


    ... there are so many things, from the very small to the very big, that can bring us joy even in the most challenging of times


    I find joy in all those colleagues who got to experience how well counselling can work online and in all those people, who suddenly realized that their job may actually be done remotely after all. 

    I find joy in seeing and hearing from all those who see this as a great opportunity to finally start their own online business. I find joy in those colleagues who also know that they don’t have to do it alone.

    I find joy in all those friends and relatives who got a crash course in digital life and suddenly related a bit more to how I live. 

    Finally, I find joy in knowing that all feelings are welcome and that anxiety, sadness, and joy are never really far apart, especially in challenging times. 


    Photo of Sonia Jaeger by Zsanett Kovacs PhotographyA German-French psychologist, psychotherapist and PhD, Sonia has been living a location-independent life as a digital nomad for the past five years while providing online counselling to expats and other globally mobile clients in German, French and English. Sonia is the co-host of the podcast “Mit Psychologie und Laptop um die Welt” where she and her colleague Carolin Müller talk about the reality of digital nomad life and their work as digital nomad psychologists. 

    In early 2020 Sonia co-founded the Location Independent Therapists (LIT) Community with fellow FIGT member Melissa Parks, PhD, connecting mental health professionals across the globe, helping them grow their location independent business. LIT will be opening up their community 1-5 June 2020, so keep an eye on their space!

    (Photo credit for Sonia's portrait: Zsanett Kovacs Photography)

  • 23 Apr 2020 12:42 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Transitioning to become a stay-at-home spouse in a foreign country can be isolating. One expat shares her story of how volunteering helped her find a new community and settle in.

    By Ema Naito-Bhakdi


    You’re living in a foreign country because of your spouse’s job. You don’t speak enough of the local language, and your visa doesn’t allow you to work. And you’ve taken on a new role as a stay-at-home caregiver.

    The transition from “working” to “stay-at-home” (often used as a synonym for “unemployed”!) can be tough, even if you weren’t in a foreign country. But that foreignness can add another layer of isolation—linguistically, culturally, physically, and professionally.

    My days as a stay-at-home mom in Thailand revolved around nursing and feeding, potty training, sleep training, transporting the kids to/from kindergarten, and planning/supervising/joining play (I’m eternally thankful for our household help!). They were all worthy activities to grow a functional human being—but I was bored.

    Deprived of adult conversation and thought, I felt stagnant. Even when I had an adult to talk with, all I seemed capable of was to babble about baby poo and sleep. I bored myself.

    Breaking out of my comfort zone

    LESSON: You might have to go out of your comfort zone, but taking the plunge may lead you to unexpected places.

    Seasoned expats know that volunteering is one great way to get out there, make new friends, earn the satisfaction of doing something meaningful, and find one’s sense of belonging. 

    But sometimes, it’s not easy to take that first step. Inertia, shyness, the sheer exhaustion of parenting young children, fear...there are so many reasons that can keep you back. 

    My biggest mental block was fear—of having to meet so many strangers, of adjusting to yet another world, of not being good enough to do the job. 

    It took me until the post-birth high of baby no.3 to muster up the courage to volunteer for an English-language parenting support organization, as assistant editor for their monthly magazine. 

    A year later, I found myself editor in chief, responsible for producing a 60-page magazine every month for our over-500 member families.

    Once again, fear stopped me. Despite enjoying editing and knowing how to manage projects, I didn’t think I had the professional background to be the big EDITOR IN CHIEF. It took a bit of encouragement from my husband (who probably later regretted it) before I could go once again out of my comfort zone and give it a go.

    The payback was more than I could ever have imagined. I got to try out new skills and develop old ones, gain experience to add to my resume, and earn acknowledgment and respect from my peers.

    And seeing many of my fellow volunteers pursue their interests and passions through and after their experience with the organization in new, reinvented careers gave me the courage to strike out into a new career too.

    Digging in, finding my new community

    LESSON: Volunteering can give you a sense of belonging—the more so, the deeper you engage.

    Being the editor meant I had to attend monthly managing committee meetings, and the introvert in me recoiled at the prospect of meeting so many new people. 

    But then I discovered we were all in the same boat: we were professional women (men were also welcome, but it was usually women) who couldn’t work in Thailand and who were keeping our professional selves alive by running the organization. Volunteering gave us an outlet for our itch to make use of our skills and experiences, for the good our community of expat parents.

    I came to look forward to the committee meetings. To be in the room with women who were passionate about their work was stimulating and inspiring. And this energizing component was entirely missing from my first, lighter role as an assistant editor working remotely from home.

    Expat knowledge tells us how important it is to find a community to which we can belong. Full-on engagement with volunteering gave me my new community and the chance to reconnect with my professional identity. 

    Giving and receiving: A two-way street

    Volunteering isn’t all about altruism or pure self-fulfillment. There’s plenty of that, but we shouldn’t shy away from acknowledging what we “get” out of volunteering as well.

    In my case, in exchange for contributing my skills through many hours of labor, I got practical work experience to beef up my resume, created a portfolio of work, secured references for future jobs, and built my network. And made friends!

    (I also appreciated that the organization gave practical privileges to volunteers, such as free entry to their events and invitations to semi-annual appreciation luncheons.)

    A note: volunteering is great but like anything, “fit” is important. If you’ve given it a fair shot but you’re not enjoying your work or it’s not what you had in mind, then I think it’s perfectly ok to step away (but try not to burn your bridges in the process).

    I’ve now left Bangkok but I’m forever grateful to the organization and the wonderful volunteers I’ve got to work alongside there.


    ATCK Ema has found her new volunteering “home” as FIGT blog editor. Now based in Singapore, she is an independent scholarly editor who enjoys classical singing and blogging about raising three cross-cultural, multilingual kids.

  • 10 Apr 2020 11:46 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In these tumultuous times, the FIGT community virtually connected on 14 March 2020 while wishing we could have been together in Bangkok. FIGT President Dawn Bryan challenged us all to step out of our physical and mental confines to think: How do we help others flourish in this difficult time?


    In early February, faced with the growing severity of the COVID-19 crisis, the Board determined that it was neither safe nor logistically feasible to continue with the FIGT 2020 Conference as planned and made the difficult decision to cancel.

    As a way to connect as a community, FIGT convened an online meetup on 14 March 2020, a day when — under normal circumstances — we would have been together at the 2020 Conference in Bangkok.

    While nothing can match the joy of gathering in person, we were happy to be joined by more than 40 people located in at least 18 countries on four continents (a special kudos to those who were up at 4 AM in Southeast Asia and Australia, as well as those joining in at 5 AM from East Asia!).

    Among the participants were David C Pollock Scholars, FIGT Board members and volunteers, FIGT members, and those who had planned to attend or been scheduled to present at FIGT2020.

    A call to help others flourish

    In opening the hour-long video conference, FIGT President Dawn Bryan reflected how in our global lives we may be physically distant but we have figured out a number of ways to be together in life, work, and spirit. 

    Even though many of us are confined to our homes, Dawn reminded us of the late Caleb Meakins’s FIGT2019 call to ‘change the world’ and challenged us all to step out of our physical and mental confines to think outwards and forwards: How do we help others flourish in this time?

    The elicited responses are too many to be shared in their entirety, but here are some broad ideas:

    • Take responsibility, socially distance oneself and stay at home

    • Dispel myths circulating on social media and messaging app groups; instead, spread correct information

    • Help out those who are most vulnerable: Check in on the elderly, those who are immune-compromised, alone, or parenting alone; grocery shop for them; help out in other ways

    • Stay in touch: Regularly call and connect with family, friends, and colleagues, no matter their location; organize virtual meetups for people stuck at home (e.g., a book club for kids)

    • Share resources and expertise online, translate useful information into different languages

    • Share fun and positivity — a meme, a video, a joke

    • Be mindful, practice compassion, be grateful

    • Recognize and respect other people’s grief, even if it doesn’t seem like a ‘worst-case’ situation

    • Take the time to reassure one’s children and help them adjust to the new normal

    As for the FIGT team, we aim to continue providing our community with valuable resources and information for these times!

    Plans for the future

    FIGT Programs Director Valérie Besanceney and Vice President Jodi Harris both thanked the FIGT sponsors and community for their understanding and support following the decision to cancel FIGT2020.

    A virtual conference for 2020 was seriously considered as an alternative, but the FIGT board sadly concluded that there were no feasible, sustainable solutions that could reach our entire FIGT community in a cost-effective manner at this time. For the full announcement, please visit the 2020 conference page.

    FIGT is planning to hold its annual conference next year, however, and all FIGT2020 presenters who wish to present will be automatically accepted.

    We’ll be sharing the latest updates on all these and more through our enewsletter and media channels, so please sign up if you haven’t already.

    Building a RAFT and other resources

    The FIGT community has plenty of experience adapting to change, but transitions are never easy, especially when accompanied by uncertainty and fear.

    Linda Janssen, FIGT Sponsorship Director, explained how the RAFT model—originally introduced by David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken in Third Culture Kids—can help us through changes of all kinds, including transitions induced by the current pandemic. You can read her presentation and handout here.

    FIGT members are providing fantastic resources and sharing their insights, expertise, and support on our social media channels. You are invited to join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to see the latest video interviews on managing a globally mobile life, connect with others, and share resources and support.

    Members can also log in to the FIGT website to access the archives (the series of presentations on Coping with Difficult Times may be especially of interest; you need to be logged in to open this page) and join the Facebook FIGT Members group (please send a request via FB to join).

    If you would like to get access to these resources and more deeply engage with this wonderful community, please join us at FIGT! We offer various membership options to suit your needs and interests (also see the FAQ).

    Grateful thanks

    FIGT is most grateful for the continued support from its wonderful sponsors who keep us going through thick and thin. Our deep thanks go to:

    Without you, FIGT would not be able to fulfill its mission to support the growth, success, and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world.

    FIGT also acknowledges all the Board members and its nearly 80 volunteers who keep the organization running. A special thanks to FIGT Administrator Judy Rickatson and of course to Ruth Van Reken, the founder of FIGT.

    Most of all, FIGT thanks all of you members who make this the wonderful, supportive community that it is.

    Take care of yourselves and keep changing the world!


    Watch the recording


    There are several ways to engage with FIGT. We look forward to connecting with you!

    Members: Log in to the FIGT website to access the archives (including the videos on Coping with Difficult Times) and join the Facebook FIGT Members group (please send a request via FB to join).

    If you're not yet a member: To get access to these resources and engage with this wonderful community, please join us at FIGT!

    Everyone: Sign up for our enewsletter to get FIGT news updates and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to see the latest resources.

  • 07 Apr 2020 2:43 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    David C. Pollock Scholar Jessi Vance is founder of the TCK space, Kaleidoscope. She talks about how faith is an important part of the TCK conversation and the incredible opportunity TCKs have to be “bridge builders in a world determined to build walls.”


    How did you hear about FIGT and what inspired you to apply for the Scholarship?

    I’ve been following along FIGT and dreaming of attending a conference for years now! I think Marilyn Gardner was the first person who encouraged me to pursue the scholarship to be able to attend. I applied last year and didn’t get it, so it was very exciting to apply for a second time and get the “yes!” 

    To whoever else is hoping to get involved but got a “no” this year, remember that trying again is worth it! This is a dream five years in the making and there were multiple times along the way that I just thought, “oh well, the FIGT conference isn’t for me,” but here we are and I couldn’t be more grateful. 


    What are your areas of interest?

    I’m a third culture kid (TCK) who grew up in Central Asia, so TCKs are always going to be my first love. I think the cultural complexities are so beautiful and vibrant and a lot of the time we talk too much about the challenges and not enough about the gifts.  

    About 6 years ago I started an organization called Kaleidoscope (www.kldscp.org) to create spaces where TCKs can connect and learn from each other. We’ve partnered with many faith-based organizations over the years, and I’ve always wrestled with the question of how to separate a young person’s story and experiences and personal values from strong faith traditions and expectations. 

    As an organization that’s built on creating safe spaces, how do we welcome the questions and conversations of TCKs with a variety of personal beliefs, family faith traditions, and religious host cultures? 


    How did you get into this field? Why are you passionate about it/why is it important to you? 

    I grew up in such a fascinating mix of cultures! Not only was I part of a conservative Christian missionary community, my upbringing, worldview, and sense of self were also influenced by devout Muslim neighbors and fiercely independent, atheist Russian friends. 

    Faith is such an interesting and important part of a TCK’s world because it can be one of those anchor points that don't change with every transition. In that way it is just as (maybe even MORE) important to engage TCKs in conversations around faith than our single-culture, single-religion peers. 

    As I’ve gone through my own deconstruction and reconstruction of faith, it’s been eye-opening to realize how much of a role these cultures still play in my adult life. I realized that whatever faith journey other TCKs are on, they will have similar influences, both clarifying and challenging. 

    I also have a tendency to want to share what I’m walking through. I’m not close to having any kind of answers or ‘solutions’ but I’m confident that including personal and communal faith in the TCK conversation is vital to individual identity and, not to be overly dramatic, perhaps to global peace as well. 


    What are some key messages you wanted to share at FIGT2020? 

    The biggest take-home message is, as Tayo Rockson says, “use your difference to make a difference.” In the current political, religious, and global climate, humans are looking for more and more ways to alienate one another and  “circle the wagons” with like-minded, lookalike individuals. 

    TCKs have an incredible opportunity to be bridge builders in a world determined to build walls. 

    For me, I identify as Christian, but I have deep respect and love for Muslim people and religion. That was my experience. Maybe yours is the other way around! 

    Either way we have the opportunity, and maybe the responsibility, to be voices that create connections around topics that often lead to division. 


    What’s next for you?

    I’ve just moved out of New York City to a farm in a small town in Massachusetts. So personally, what’s next looks like a lot of walks on the beach, enjoying home-grown egg omelettes and more quiet and fresh air than I’m used to. 

    Kaleidoscope is now taking the training and curriculum that we’ve facilitated at in-person TCK events over the last six years and creating easily accessible products for culturally complex families and leaders anywhere in the world (including a video series, “Faith and your TCK”),  so that’s a whole bunch of “new,” too. 

    It’s never boring around here, but if there’s one thing being an adaptable, globe-trotting kid taught me, it’s that those are the best moments in life. 


    Can you share a random piece of info about yourself, please? 

    I love to read. Preferably at an outdoor table of a little French cafe, but more often on an airplane or in between Zoom meetings. In a profession that keeps me connected to screens more than I’d prefer, it’s so nice to decompress with a good book! 

    As I’ve reread some of my childhood favorites I realized how many of them featured storylines with TCK themes. Even before I knew what a TCK was I could resonate with these culturally complex literary characters! 

    Come connect with me on Instagram @jessi_rue, I’d love to hear what you’re currently reading. Of course follow along with Kaleidoscope @kldscp, too! 


    ALSO: Read Jessi's bio and learn about the other 2020 Scholars and watch Jessi talk about the role of faith in a TCK's life (FIGT Members can log in to the website to access the video).

    FIGT focused on the theme “TCKs” for March 2020. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publicly available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website).

  • 02 Apr 2020 6:49 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    We may feel alone in these extraordinary times but are lucky our world is well connected and hugely supportive. 

    You don’t need to look far for resources, support and open doors in challenging times like this. All around the world, we are all daily appreciating connectivity and technology. 

    You can work out in your living room if you’re willing to move a bit of furniture. You can chat with your distant relatives if you have time to schedule it into the week alongside schoolwork, housework and paid work.

    If you are home-schooling, there is a plethora of resources out there. Here, setting a schedule and employing a level of flexibility is key. These days will remain in our minds for a long time, and our children will remember them vividly. So let’s give them things to look back on fondly. 

    As a community of people who thrive on new experiences and the challenge of immersing ourselves in new situations and cultures, being told we must stay at home can affect us in ways we had not envisaged. We have been described as ‘stimulus junkies’ and at times like this, we may feel particularly lethargic and uninspired. Or for some of us, the global lockdown may have brought home just how vulnerable we are to circumstances and location. 

    Especially when we think of the medical personnel, those who have had to flee civil war, those working for non-compliant employers…all those who are facing particularly tough challenges, it can feel as if things won’t be quite the same when we are out and about again. 

    So, be easy on yourselves and remember that you’re not alone: everyone across the world is feeling the effects of this virus. Enjoy slowing down, building resilience, feeling yourself adapt to the current reality and looking forward to restrictions being lifted!

    While the restrictions continue, please make the most of the amazing resources that our online community has to share. FIGT is the perfect community in which to find connection, support and gratitude.


    Stay connected

    FIGT Members Facebook group

    The members-only group on Facebook offers a place for members to connect and chat. Thank you to all the FIGT Members who have shared relevant resources in our group. Please continue to share!

    If you’re an FIGT Member and are not yet in the FIGT members FB group, please send a ‘join’ request.

    > Join FIGT

    If you're not yet an FIGT Member and would like to join, please visit https://www.figt.org/members

    Other resources recommended by FIGT Members

    • Future Learn: Online courses

    • JSTOR: A great resource for academic researchers, JSTOR is expanding free access during COVID-19.


  • 25 Mar 2020 12:36 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Linda Janssen, a resilience, cross-cultural and transformative leadership coach, trainer, and longtime FIGT member, explains how the RAFT model—originally introduced by David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken in Third Culture Kids—can help us through changes of all kinds, including transitions induced by the current pandemic.

    By Linda A. Janssen

    [This content was originally shared by Linda during the online FIGT meetup on 14 March 2020. Her handout can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.]


    One thing the globally mobile lifestyle requires from us all is to adjust to change. In Third Culture Kids: Growing up among Worlds, David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken introduced the concept of ‘building a RAFT’ to help ease us and our children through moves to new cultures.

    RAFT stands for: 

    1. Reconciliation

    2. Affirmation

    3. Farewells

    4. Think Destination

    But RAFT is not only for moves across cultures. It is a change model for transitions of all kinds and can help us adjust in times of rapid change, ambiguity, even turmoil, such as what we are experiencing today.

    (For full details on RAFT, please refer to Third Culture Kids, now in its third edition, by David C. Pollock, Ruth Van Reken, and Michael Pollock.)


    R is for Reconciliation

    Reconciliation means recognizing and acknowledging disruption, stress, tension, uncertainty, concern, turmoil, and loss associated with the evolving CoViD19 situation: within our families, our communities, our countries, worldwide. 

    We cannot make peace with difficulty, begin to address any negative impact on us or take steps to reduce stress if we don’t take the time to identify and put words to our thoughts and feelings.

    The ‘Six Levels of Why’ exercise helps us each identify and acknowledge our own deepest concerns and challenges within our new circumstances, in order to begin the process of reconciliation. 

    Acceptance is not the same as liking something, nor is it giving up or giving in. It is understanding that naming what we truly fear or stress over most is the first step in loosening its hold over us.

    When we are tense or experiencing negative feelings, we can ask ourselves this simple question: How am I feeling? 

    Without rushing, we wait for our answer, which can be written, spoken, or simply thought. 

    Then we ask Why? and answer ourselves beginning with Because… (and say what comes to mind). 

    It is in repeating Why? and answering with our reasons (Because…) multiple times that we gently drill down to the core of what is bothering us, thus setting the stage for reconciliation. 

    We tend to move from our conscious mind to our subconscious mind, helping to surface underlying concerns so that we may address them.

    You can repeat this exercise as often as you wish, as circumstances change.

    A is for Affirmation 

    Affirmation is appreciating and acknowledging who and what matters to us, and recognizing we can identify positives, even during challenging times.

    The ‘Six Levels of Why’ exercise now helps us each identify and consider those little rays of light in our new circumstances. Sometimes they may feel difficult to identify, but they do exist. 

    We shift our question to Who/what am I thankful for? and then ask ourselves six rounds of Why? responding with Because... to mine the deeper meaning. 

    This helps us appreciate small positive aspects (and, yes, sometimes simply less negative aspects), so that we can acknowledge and affirm them. This is where we find the seeds of hope and gratitude.

    F is for Farewells 

    To ‘enter’ well requires us to ‘leave’ well. Usually, we are thinking in terms of saying goodbye to the people, places, activities, and rituals that are important to us so that we avoid deep regrets for not having done so later.

    Here, we may be saying goodbye to where we thought we’d be and what we thought we would be doing; we also add what opportunities or choices we no longer have, people we cannot be with, etc. While some of these might simply be postponed, others are avenues clearly closed off to us. 

    This is where we focus on what we’re leaving behind: the way we had hoped things would be, the positives we’d been looking forward to, and as much of the negative feelings we’re experiencing as we are able to

    The metaphor of releasing a balloon (or a handful of balloons) represents letting go of our losses and what ‘might have been.’ As in saying goodbyes to people and places, this stage can be bittersweet, but is necessary to move on in as healthy a way as possible.

    T is for Think Destination 

    Only after reconciling, affirming, and saying farewell are we ready to turn our attention more fully to what comes next. It is important that we try not to impose undue expectations on what lies ahead, and instead remain open to what is to come.

    During challenging times, it helps to think of what one or two small ‘next steps’ you could take to help move you along to a better place. This could mean redoubling self-care efforts, reaching out to check on or check in with someone else, giving yourself permission to do something that gives you joy (or simply makes you feel better), or even allowing yourself to take a well-needed break.


    Resources

    Thank you to Cath Brew of Drawn to a Story for the balloon illustration!

    ————————-

    As a Resilience, Cross-Cultural and Transformative Leadership coach, trainer and speaker, longtime FIGT member Linda A. Janssen helps people deal with complexity, challenge, and change. She is the author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures.


  • 21 Mar 2020 9:35 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Dr. Iris Hertz, FIGT Member and psychotherapist, describes some of the characteristics of adolescent TCKs and the challenges they face in forming social relationships.


    An interview with Dr. Iris Hertz, who was scheduled to present at FIGT2020.


    Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

    I am a psychotherapist and expressive therapist (PsyD, MA DMT), holding a doctorate in psychology specializing in family and couples therapy from the Professional School of Psychology, USA. 

    I have been practicing psychotherapy since 2003—in Israel, Singapore and, since 2014, Thailand— working with clients from different age groups and cultural and social backgrounds. My services range from diagnosing and treating personality disorders or emotional and behavioral disorders to working with couples and families on improving their relationships. I aim to support people through the stages of relocation and cultural adjustment to a new country.

     

    Please tell us about your research on international mobility and young TCKs’ interpersonal relationships

    For my PhD dissertation, I undertook qualitative research on the implications of international mobility on the interpersonal relationships among adolescent TCK who had relocated to Bangkok, Thailand, and who were undergoing therapy. I looked at the nature of interpersonal connections between adolescent TCKs and (1) their peers and (2) their families, as described by the young people themselves.

    The research was conducted through semi-structured interviews with five adolescent girls and four adolescent boys whom I see at my clinic. All of them were high-school students between the ages of 16 and 18. I also analyzed five counseling sessions with each. 

    Before participating in the study, all interviewees and their parents were fully informed about the study and signed a consent to the use of information collected in the interviews and documentation from the counseling sessions (see Declaration of Helsinki).


    Why are you interested in young TCKs and their interpersonal relationships?

    Over the past ten years, I’ve been working as a Western foreign therapist in Asian countries. Over the course of my work, I meet TCKs on a daily basis and see that they need emotional therapy to help cope with day-to-day pressures and the challenges—in and outside their homes—that result from recurrent moves and separations. In particular, I found a gap between the way adolescents described their relations with their family members and that in which they described their social connections.

    I wanted to look into this phenomenon further because I believe it will be of use to the global community of therapists who support globally mobile families with adolescent TCK and, ultimately, for the young people and their families themselves.


    What are some things that you’ve found?

    Adolescent TCKs often have difficulties creating and preserving interpersonal connections. They experience loneliness, stress over their studies, and lack of control over their lives. Sometimes these pressures become unbearable and the adolescent may face depression, resort to self-harm, or become suicidal. Emotional therapy can be a lifeboat for these adolescents. 

    Through the study, I’ve found that adolescent TCKs

    • Build confident, stable, and strong connections with their families: It appears that, in most cases, the relations in the nuclear family were stable and meaningful. The young people demonstrate confident and stable feelings in their relations with their nuclear family, and the families were unified and spent a lot of time together.

    • Have difficulty in creating meaningful and good social connections with their peer group: Most of the adolescents who come to me for help report loneliness and great difficulty in creating social connections with their peer group. 

    Noting that this was based on a small group of adolescent TCKs who were undergoing therapy and that they are not representative of all adolescent TCKs, here are some dynamics that came through the research.

    Family dynamics

    For this group of participants, the division of roles between the parents was dichotomous: the father was the provider while the mother was the ‘dependent’ (as defined in her residence permit).

    • Mothers: While the mother–adolescent relationships were generally good, empathetic, and healthy, the mothers were at times seen as interfering. The adolescents, aspiring to be independent, may be reacting to their perception of their mothers as dependent (as a personal characteristic), while the mothers may be moved by their sense of exclusive responsibility for the kids. Mothers’ lack of paid employment may also play a role, although this needs further study.

    • Fathers: Among the study participants, the connection with the father tended to be distant and hostile. The adolescents often saw the father as the main cause for the moves and blamed him for their feelings of alienation and loneliness. 

    • Siblings: In most cases, there was a close connection with the siblings, especially when they were of the same gender. It may be that the moves and life in a different country magnified the feelings and experiences shared by siblings, which, in turn, strengthened mutual understanding and the feeling of partnership. 

    International school setting

    • The competitive academic demands of international schools may be making it more difficult for TCKs to adapt. Adolescents in their last two years of studies may not be free to invest in social connections, let alone new connections, making socialization extra difficult.


    The most important thing to remember is: TCKs and adolescents gain a lot from their life experiences through relocation, but they also pay a price. The price is usually their ability to connect in a close and intimate way with others around them. We need to recognize that TCK youth need professional support and guidance from their parents and teachers. 

    Therapists working with TCKs need to be culturally sensitive and intellectually flexible and show unconditional acceptance of every client. The therapist also has to make sure that their client understands what happens during the therapy process, even if they come from a completely different culture. Establishing a positive therapeutic relationship is especially important for TCKs because if that relationship is good, the TCK clients have a better chance to replicate it and establish close, trusting relationships with other people.


    Anything else you’d like to share?

    My research focused on the difficulties and negative influences experienced by Third Culture adolescents as a result of recurrent moves. It was conducted with a small group of interviewees who came to me for therapy. Future research could look into areas such as:

    • Experiences of specific segments of the TCK population. TCKs are not a homogenous group: families come from different regions of the world, parents may be of the same origin or not, TCKs may study in international schools or single-culture schools, etc.

    • Long-term effects beyond the adolescent period

    • Quantitative research with a much larger group of TCKs

    • TCK experiences in other countries, to compare with these results from Bangkok

    • The positive effects of global mobility and TCK development, such as cultural exposure, high-quality education, and the sense of safety and independence in a foreign country.


    FOR MORE INFORMATION: Iris’s paper is due to be published in early April 2020. Please visit her website to read the full dissertation.

    ———— 

    FIGT’s focus for the month is on TCKs. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publicly available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website).


  • 14 Mar 2020 3:13 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    On 28 February 2020, the global community lost Caleb Meakins. The FIGT community mourns the social entrepreneur and global poverty ambassador, who as FIGT2019 Keynote Speaker inspired us to “change the world”.

    By Ginny Philps, Communications Co-Director


    Caleb Meakins was an outstanding human being. The kind of person you would most fervently have voted for if he had ever gone for office. He exuded a calm, a humility, a presence, and a passion for life that was palpable. How shocking then that his life on earth has come to an end.

    I first ‘met’ Caleb during our pre-conference interview. He was seated in the café in his entrepreneurial hub in Addis Ababa. The place was bustling, sparky, alive. It was the kind of environment that many would have found distracting. Yet Caleb remained totally focused. He was sitting in the beating heart of his mission – doing everything he could to support Ethiopian business, innovation, and progress, and you could see how it fuelled him.

    At FIGT2019, people seemed to part when Caleb walked through the corridors. They seemed to stop and just absorb when they were fortunate enough to get some time with him. It was as if everyone just wanted a part of Caleb. As if everyone felt his energy and positivity and realized what a rare human being they were sharing space with.

    The beauty of Caleb’s Keynote at FIGT speaks for itself, as do all of his witty and meaningful challenges. As of course does the TedEx talk where he describes his faith and how he dealt with losing his father. In essence, everything that I saw Caleb do came from a place of deep gratitude, clarity of faith, and purity. 

    The global and extensive FIGT community reeled when they heard the news of Caleb’s passing. Some had lost a very close friend. Others had lost one of the most inspiring young men they had had the fortune to meet. Without a doubt, everyone who knew Caleb would have felt a deep sense of loss for humankind.

    I tuned into the livestream of Caleb’s funeral and spent over an hour connecting, floating through deep emotion. I happened to hear his sisters speak. The grace, power, and beauty with which they described their brother was enough to stop me in my tracks, make me sit down, draw breath, listen closer. 

    May we be grateful for having met and known Caleb. We send his family all of our love and support for the years to come.


    MORE: Caleb talked with us in the lead-up to FIGT2019. His FIGT2019 Keynote Speech is below.

  • 11 Mar 2020 2:40 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    2020 David C. Pollock Scholar and international educator Jacob Daniel Huff shares some insights on TCK identity development from some interviews with a multigenerational TCK family.


    2020 David C. Pollock Scholar and international educator
    Jacob Daniel Huff is currently interviewing members of a multigenerational TCK family to look at TCK identity development over generations of a globally mobile family. We asked him about the project and to share with us some initial insights.

    Please tell us a bit about your project

    I’m looking at a specific group of TCKs — the multigenerational TCK family — through collecting oral histories in a series of case studies. By ‘multigenerational TCK family’, I mean a family in which more than one generation has experienced a globally nomadic life and more than one of these generations fit the TCK definition.

    Currently, I’m interviewing a family with French nationality and Asian ethnicity who have been living an internationally mobile life over four generations. Each generation has moved at different ages to different countries, but all have a strong connection to France (with different generations having lived in France at some point in their lives) and carry the French passport proudly.

    The interviews have been with the second-generation patriarch (now living in retirement) and his four children. This third generation is now in their prime and live in three different countries, having lived in four to six countries while growing up and in more countries as adults.

    I started this project out of personal interest while working on my doctoral degree at the Liberty Graduate School of Education. My plan is to complete the interviews with this family, do supplemental research and analyze the histories, and have a paper for publication ready later this year. Eventually, I would like to repeat this process with four or five more families, but will likely begin in about a year when my doctoral dissertation is complete. 


    Why are you looking at multigenerational TCK families?

    According to the UN International Migration Report (2019), more families are living internationally than at any other time in history. We can infer that the number of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are also on the rise. More families are also globally mobile over multiple generations, but so far, we don’t know much about the dynamics of TCK identity development for such families. This is what I hope to shed light on through my project: How do the globally mobile generations of one family develop/maintain their personal and family identities? What does that mean for TCK identity development?


    What have you found so far?

    While I am still conducting interviews and hope to talk to more families, the members of this family shared some common messages — much of what confirms what David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken elaborated in Third Culture Kids: Growing up among Worlds.

    >A sense of culture inherited through close family ties

    The members I interviewed expressed a deep respect for the family, both as a unit of support and as an inculcator of culture. When talking about how the kids learned their culture and developed a sense of who they were, storytelling played an important role. One sibling shared: “For us, it was that everything came from my parents. All of it. There was no internet, there were no history books; it was just my parents, ...what they told [us], and what they did. That was our culture.” 

    Another referred to family activities and the time spent together as a family as sacred. (For more on how family can be a “place” that helps create a sense of stability and of belonging, a “home,” see Anastasia Lijadi and Gertina Van Schalkwyk, “Place Identity Construction of Third Culture Kids: Eliciting Voices of Children with High Mobility Lifestyle”, 2017.) 

    They felt the experience of a “third culture life” has ingrained in them a deep appreciation for time together and the enjoyment of one another. They referred to this as one of the great gifts of third culture life. 

    >Adaptability

    Another element of this family’s experience was that they all spoke of being able to adapt to any situation. As one sibling put it, she had always felt like she was a chameleon, that she could always become the person she needed to be in that situation. This concept of feeling like a chameleon is not uncommon for TCKs (researcher Agnieszka Trąbka talks about the use of the word ‘chameleon’ by TCKs in her 2014 paper “Being Chameleon: The Influence of Multiple Migration in Childhood on Identity Construction”).

    The father spoke of the changes in his life and how he was able to adapt, first as an adolescent leaving his homeland and learning new languages to communicate, then in a university settling into a French identity, and finally taking on the international life in what he called the third civilization.

    This, I think, is the key to how this family sees the world around them and the relationship they have with it. It is a life of growth and a life of change while always remaining the same person. That is what they say life is “living overseas and in different countries where we adapt, we even adapt our names”.

    >The need to move

    Mobility is one of the gifts of the TCK life that can sometimes also be a curse. Many TCKs report feeling a “call to move”, perhaps because TCKs often only feel a true sense of stillness when they are on the move (as discussed by David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken in Third Culture Kids. I also found interesting Laia Colomer’s 2017 article “Feeling Like at Home in Airports: Experiences, Memories and Affects of Placeness among Third Culture Kids”). This family is no exception to the rule.

    One sibling spoke of the joy he feels when he moves to a new place and feels the sense of discovery. Another spoke of the idea of staying in one place as inconceivable, comparing himself to a shark: “if I stop moving, I die”.

    However, it was their father that had the most beautiful statement about mobility. He said, “We used to say that we are like a turtle. We carry our home on our back. So the home is where I have my kids and my wife. That is my home”. 

    >A desire to share the international experience with the next generation

    The final insight that I would like to leave with is that when asked what they hoped for their kids and their grandkids, the dominant theme was an intense desire to make sure that the next generation experiences a continued international life, “this life full of mobility.”

    “I hope for my children that I'm able to pass on everything that has been passed on to me, through my grandfather, my parents, my own experiences….I wish that I am a guide for them and [I] want them to take their own journey,” one brother said.

    One of the sisters put the entire multigenerational TCK experience together:

    “I wanted my children to grow up being open-minded, being able to think out of the box, and being multicultural and multilingual (like I) was....I think that those were the biggest positive points of who I am today. And I wanted my children to have that”.


    FOR MORE INFORMATION

    Jacob is looking for potential participants as he expands his multigenerational TCK study. If you are an adult TCK with one or more parents who were also TCKs and would be interested in participating in a series of interviews about your experiences, please contact Jacob (mrjacobhuff@gmail.comLinkedIn). Jacob would like to continue this study with TCK families of many different backgrounds. Families with multiple members who would like to participate are most highly preferred.  


    ALSO: Read more about Jacob Daniel Huff

    This post is part of this month’s FIGT focus on TCKs. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publically available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website). 


    (Edited by EN; reviewed by AL & DT )

  • 05 Mar 2020 3:41 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This month, we focus on Third Culture Kids (TCKs): persons who have “spent a significant part of their developmental years outside the parents’ culture.” Many of FIGT’s members are TCKs or adult TCKs, are parents to TCKs, or work with and support TCKs as educators, counselors, and other professionals.

    Where would FIGT be if not for Third Culture Kids (TCKs)? Many of our members are TCKs or adult TCK (ATCKs), are parents to TCKs, or work with and support TCKs as educators, counselors, and other professionals.

    And of course, FIGT Founder Ruth Van Reken is co-author, with David C. Pollock, of the “TCK Bible”, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, which is now in its third edition.

    The term “TCK” was originally coined by researchers John and Ruth Useem in the 1950s, and is now typically used to define:

    [A] person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. (Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. 1999, 2001, 2009, 2017.)

    TCKs often share such characteristics as an expanded worldview, adaptability, language and cross-cultural skills, as well as the not-so-positive restlessness and rootlessness, confused loyalties, and a lack of a true cultural balance.

    (FIGT members: log in and get a refresher on TCKs with this FIGT2007 presentation by Ruth Van Reken and Libby Stephens: “Third Culture Kids: The Experience Of Growing Up Among Worlds” or watch “Third Culture Kids 101” with Tanya Crossman.)

    Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring some of the issues facing today’s Third Culture Kids (TCKs). This is a vast topic and an area that is the focus of a great deal of exciting and interesting research. 

    While we cannot promise to touch on every aspect of TCK life, we hope to touch on topics and themes that will promote further discussion.


    To access the content: Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Video content will be available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website.

    If you would like to add your voice to this conversation, please contact Sarah at social-lead@figt.org


    There are a vast number of presentations and resources on TCKs on this site and we introduce a few here. You're invited to also explore our Free Articles and Information and TCK/CCK Resources.

    (Items with * require FIGT member log-in.) 

    From this month's social media


    From the FIGT archives


    From FIGT conferences


    > TCKs and school

     

    > Different groups of TCKs

    From the FIGT Bookstore

    The FIGT Bookstore features publications written or recommended by FIGT members. Purchasing through the affiliate links below supports the David C. Pollock Scholarship at no extra cost to you. (Descriptions are from Amazon.) 

    There are many more titles in the FIGT Bookstore — so please do explore!


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