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.

  • 25 Apr 2015 5:19 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I have read many, many posts and group comments on Facebook this week about re-entry to one’s passport country.  It is an emotional experience and it seems many people don’t realize that the emotions they are going through are experienced by so many in the same situation.  One group I am part of has had an enormous spike in membership following the Repatriation Blues article by Debra Bruno in the WSJ Expat blog. It’s a fantastic read.

    Transitioning between places is different for everybody depending on their circumstances.  Here’s the link again to a talk I gave at the Families in Global Transition conference this year titled “Home is Where the Air Force Sends You” based on Nancy Schlossberg‘s transition theory which looks at the many factors which influence how we experience transition and begins to explain why different people experience it differently, or why the same person can experience transition differently at different times in life.

    Over at The Culture Blend there are some great articles on relocating.  In the article “The Expat Exodus: 10 questions every repatriating expat should ask themselves” point number 2 about leaving well or leaving happy really hit home.  With a re-entry in the not too distant future I know I won’t be leaving happy but I am now trying to focus on leaving well. It can also be difficult for those expats left behind when others leave and The Culture Blend has an article about that as well.

    There is also another aspect of being left behind as well, the idea of which was triggered when I heard Chris O’Shaughnessy talk at the FIGT 15 Conference last month.  Chris was talking about how a group of US Air Force personnel who had been posted to Chris’s town in the UK (and who Chris became close friends with) relied heavily on him for support as they tried to readjust to life back in the USA.  Chris’s point that his friends needed to forge their new life back “home” was extremely valid.  To quote Chris (as many others have done because he was so insightful) “Home must become less a passive retreat and more an active pursuit”.  Chris also warned of the dangers of relying too heavily on social media for human connection;  likening it to junk food in that it feels good short term but lacks nutrients for long term good (I told you he was insightful!).

    When listening to Chris it occurred to me how those who are “left behind” at the post location can use social media (although it’s certainly not limited to the use of social media) to be a bridge for those who have left, between their lives at post and their new lives.  It’s not going to help the person who has left to continue to “live” virtually in their old life but neither are they yet settled in their new life.  Those of us who are left behind can be a bridge by gently encouraging them to move ahead in their new life while at the same time being a safe place for them to come back to when they need support, or to talk to someone who understands because so many of the new people they meet won’t.

    Transition is a process, not an event (unfortunately I can’t remember the source of that little pearl of wisdom).  No one moves to a new location and instantly adjusts.  You may be physically in location but your heart and mind sometimes have difficulty keeping up.  Having a connection to those who you have left behind is an important part of transitioning.  Just as important however is moving forward.  If you don’t want to leap and would prefer to gently make the transition find yourself a bridge.  And if you’re not the one leaving try and be that bridge for someone who is.

    If you have recently repatriated you might like to read this article here by Rocky Reentry.  I found this to be a heartfelt note to those who have recently returned to their passport country.

    Contributed by Amanda McCue, who has spent 20 years frequently moving, both around Australia and between Australia and the USA as an accompanying spouse to her Australian military husband. Amanda is passionate about empowering individuals (especially military spouses and other accompanying partners) to make satisfying career decisions that are compatible with other important aspects of their lives and she will shortly complete her post-graduate qualifications as a Career Development Practitioner. She blogs at www.careerswag.com

  • 12 Apr 2015 3:13 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Career opportunities take individuals and their families away from their home country. Their focus is on the new job and adjusting to life in another country. In most cases parents have encouraged their child to take advantage of the unique opportunity to work and live in a foreign land. Expats quickly learn that life in another country is exciting but also more complicated. They have a new life to build and challenges to handle, so less thought is given to their relatives back home. It isn’t that they don’t care; it is simply a matter of human nature that if someone or something is absent, it is overlooked.

    Today most pensioners are leading active lives so we don’t have to worry about them. However, a relative’s health status can change suddenly and dramatically. When we live on the other side of the world we feel helpless. Caring for your loved ones from a distance is a multi-faceted issue and there isn’t one right answer.  Expats dealing with a frail or ill loved one from a distance commented that they were managing, although each described unexpected challenges, frustrations and a desire to have known more in advance. The families are juggling multiple issues including guilt, resentment by other family members, time differences, added costs, cultural traditions, legal issues, and misunderstandings.

    Here are five suggestions to consider:

    • 1.     Use technology to stay in touch with your loved ones, your family and those involved with the care.  Technology gives you the opportunity to have an active role in the ongoing activities and decision process.
    • 2.     Create an emergency plan including a special fund. Put resources in place such as child care so that you can react quickly. The emergency fund will help to reduce the financial burden of unexpected family expenses. 
    • 3.     Whenever possible have open, honest conversations with your siblings and aging loved ones so that everyone has the same expectations and it will minimize misunderstandings.
    • 4.     Look for creative ways to stay in touch and involved with the family. This can help lessen your feelings of guilt for being so far away.
    • 5.     Honor cultural differences including how people want to be cared for and how you can best honor them when they pass away.

    Being prepared, having information, making a plan and opening dialog with their relatives will mean less scrambling when their loved ones need assistance. Being prepared for the ‘what if’ related to our aging relatives can give us peace of mind.

    Contributed by Elizabeth Vennekens-Kelly, an intercultural trainer, consultant and author. Elizabeth helps individuals to be prepared for their expat assignments and she encourages assignees to exam all aspects of expat life so they have realistic expectations. Elizabeth combines her familiarity of expat living and intercultural knowledge to help people to develop the knowledge and skills to be successful in multicultural situations. She is a member of various organizations: VOKA, VIW, FAWCO, SIETAR and FIGT.

    THis article was originally published on Expat Nest in January 2015: http://www.expatnest.com/caring-ageing-loved-ones-distance/

  • 29 Mar 2015 1:41 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I'm still basking in the afterglow of the Families in Global Transitionconference held in the Washington, DC area last week. The theme of "Finding 'Home' Amidst Global Change" was clearly evident from start to finish. Every single moment and event of the conference was like a homecoming - warm, embracing, inspiring, moving, and insightful. As FIGT President Killian Kröll so eloquently and accurately stated in his opening remarks, "We will be challenged to think about 'home' in terms of ethnic identity, literary perspectives, business practices, intergenerational communication, non-Western approaches to building community, volunteer organizations, and the ritual act of saying goodbye and hello."

    What always impresses me about FIGT every year is the incredible assembly of talented people gathered together from around the world. In many ways the conference is a "Who's Who" and "Hall of Fame" of cross-cultural change makers and thought leaders all rolled into one.

    Teja Arboleda, president of Entertaining Diversity, Inc. which focuses on diversity and inclusion programming through entertainment, kicked off the conference with his fantastic autobiographical performance of "Ethnic Man!", which engaged and entertained the audience with his own story of multicultural diversity and search for identity. Though he had us in the palm of his hand, it was stunning to learn that he wanted to be with us as much as we were pleased to have him present. As he was performing, I was thinking of the many TCKs I work with who also have vastly multicultural backgrounds and how his story of cultural identity, moving, transitioning, trying to find a place where one can fit and belong is, in many ways, their story, too.

    There were many published writers present, and the bookstore was perhaps the largest curated collection in one place of books about expat life, transitions, TCKs, cross-cultural anthologies and a few novels, counseling and more - most of which were authored by conference participants. It was especially exciting to see Eva Lazlo Herbert, co-editor of The Worlds Within: An anthology of TCK Art and Writing: Young, Global and Between Cultures, present to sign stacks of this recently published treasure. (The other editor, Jo Parfitt, was not able to attend this year.)

    As the conference unfolded, each event seemed to outshine the previous one, and made me think, reflect, and re-examine what I thought I knew. As a few people noted, the sessions were a combination of content and heart; information and emotion. My biggest frustration was that I could not attend all the sessions offered! But those I did attend, remained with me for days afterward as I replayed them in my head.

    In particular, the session by Chris O'Shaughnessy, "Changing Our Concept of Home to Find Hope", used stories and emotion to talk about creating a sense of home, belonging, and community wherever we go. I was inspired to get back into the game myself and work on creating that feeling of community again when I return to my own new adopted home. I know that I often get busy or distracted, and find a host of other reasons why I don't always do what I could be doing to build community and connections around me. His message was also relevant for the students I work with who are headed off to college or forging their way into the big wide world of work and young adulthood: "Don't just look for community - create it!"

    The closing event was led by a psychologist and former international school counselor, Doug Ota, who has his own story of ethnic diversity and lifelong exploration of culture, belonging, and identity. His keynote, "Don't Leave Without Taking Your Vitamin 'G': Why Goodbyes are Good for You," was outstanding, leaving us all a bit stunned at the end by the emotional journey he had taken us on. His new book is Safe Passages, How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It, and I am already reading it with enthusiasm. I also bought multiple copies of the book to send to some friends of mine in the world of international schools as well as some therapists I know who work with teenage TCKs. His theories about attachment styles really resonated with me, and I was reminded of individual students by name who have struggled with the loss and grief that comes from having said too many goodbyes and not enough hellos.

    In closing, Doug Ota said that this conference has to be the safest place in the world to explore these complex feelings of home, belonging, identity, our place in the world, our attachments, our losses, and our joys. He described telling his wife that he had to come back to this conference, for it was time for him to go "home" again to be with like-minded people.

    And it was so true - this small, intimate gathering of about 150 people, inspired by Ruth Van Reken around her own kitchen table 18 years ago, is a homecoming. It's a place where you don't have to explain yourself, your background, or your differences - unless you want to. And since everyone in the room has a unique story to share, it's also the one place where everyone wants to hear it. 

    Contributed by Rebecca (Becky) Grappo is a Member of FIGT and founder of RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC. You can contact her through her website at www.rnginternational.com.


  • 22 Mar 2015 7:22 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    An edited version of this article was originally published in Expatriates Magazine. See below for English language version.

    Si ser padres ya es un desafío, más aún lo es ser padres expatriados. La vida cotidiana termina siendo mucho más compleja cuando uno es expat/migrante y esto le agrega complicaciones al difícil arte de ser padres. Cuando estamos fuera del país de origen solemos estar fuera de esa tranquila y segura zona de confort (que si bien es cierto que a veces no es tan cómoda igual es lo conocido y el lugar donde sabemos cómo funcionan las cosas). Cuando vivimos fuera de nuestro lugar de origen, pequeñas tareas se convierten en grandes empresas que pueden implicar muchísimo estrés y grandes desafíos. Cosas que parecerían ser muy simples terminan siendo similares a escalar el Everest (sin entrenamiento previo).

    Si esto nos sucede a los adultos, tratemos de imaginar cómo es estar en los zapatos de nuestros hijos. Si ellos se mudaron con nosotros seguramente no tuvieron tanto tiempo como nosotros para procesar la decisión que hemos tomado. Por supuesto, no digo que los niños deberían decidir una mudanza internacional, pero sí necesitan tiempo para poder procesarla y adaptarse. Por esto es tan importante que, una vez que hayamos tomado la decisión, los padres comencemos a conversar con nuestros hijos acerca de la expatriación y los apoyemos durante el proceso de adaptación. Esto se puede realizar mostrándoles fotos del lugar, navegando juntos por internet para buscar información sobre el nuevo destino o, según la edad, incluirlos en la evaluación de las opciones educativas. También, aunque sea un poco incómodo, abrir la conversación acerca de qué cuestiones los están preocupando y qué dudas o temores tienen con el cambio que se avecina.

    Quizás les preocupe cómo hacer nuevos amigos, o qué sucederá con las relaciones de amistad que tienen ahora. Tal vez les preocupe el idioma. Y, si bien queremos tranquilizarlos, no alcanza con decirles "No hay problema. Va a estar todo bien" y terminar la conversación. La mayoría de los niños guardan para sí mismos sus sentimientos y emociones porque nos ven a los padres lidiando con tantas cosas, con tanto stress y situaciones difíciles (que no faltan en las mudanzas internacionales) que no quieren hacer las cosas más complicadas para nosotros.

    Entonces los padres necesitamos encontrar la manera de crear -en medio de tanta corrida- un tiempo compartido para conversar con nuestros hijos acerca de lo que están sintiendo.

    Cuando aterrizamos en un nuevo destino es inevitable hacer comparaciones. La mayoría de las personas tendemos a buscar semejanzas y diferencias. Este mecanismo nos ayuda a familiarizarnos con un entorno desconocido. Tiene que ver con la necesidad humana de nombrar las cosas que son desconocidas e inciertas, de conocer las cosas para sentirlas bajo control. Volviendo a nuestros hijos, ellos necesitan que los ayudemos a nombrar sus sentimientos, especialmente si están enfrentando situaciones nuevas. Necesitan de los adultos para que los ayudemos a entender y nombrar lo que les está sucediendo. Más aún, sería muy tranquilizador para ellos saber que nosotros, sus padres, hemos atravesado situaciones similares y hemos "sobrevivido". No solo porque esto les provee de estrategias para afrontar la realidad que les toca vivir sino porque también es una forma de enseñarles que, si bien la vida no siempre es perfecta, sus héroes (sus padres) han encontrado maneras de manejarlo y resolverlo.

    If parenting is a challenge, being an expat parent is even more. Life as an expat is way more complex and adds complications to the difficult art of parenthood. As expats we are away from our safe and comfort zone (even though it may not be so comfortable, it still is what we know and the place where we know how things work) and tiny everyday tasks might become a stressful and huge challenge. If this happens to us, adults, let´s try to be in our children´s feet. If they were relocated with us (as a difference on born on relocation) most probably they did not have as much time as we did to process our decision. Of course, children should not make this decision but still they should have time to adjust to it. It is very important that parents start to talk with their children about the relocation once the decision has been made, and support their children´s adaptation process, allowing them to see pictures, navigate on the internet to look for information on the new destiny, consider school options and also cover the topic on which things are worrying them.

    They might be worried about making new friends, about their current relationships, about the language, and even though we do not want them to worry it is not enough to say “everything will be ok” and finish the conversation. Most children will keep their feelings to themselves because they see their parents dealing with a lot of stress, managing difficult situations and they will try not to make the situation more complicated for us (except teenagers, of course). It is crucial that parents share time with them to talk about their feelings. We all need to “name” things that are unknown, uncertain. When we arrive to a new location it is impossible not to compare and most people tend to see similarities and differences. This process is working in order to make familiar the unfamiliar scenario. This is related to the human need of knowing, naming in order to feel in control. Going back to parenting, our children need us to help them name their feelings, especially when dealing with new situations, things they have not experienced before. Therefore, they need adults to help them understand what they are feeling. Even more, it will be very calming for them, to know that we have experienced those feelings before (maybe not as an expat but surely you have experienced fear of the unknown or uncertain, loneliness, etc in your life as a child). For them to know that their parents went through similar things and “survived” is relieving.  Not only because it gives them the coping strategies but also because it shows them that life isn´t always perfect but their heroes (parents) managed to survive.

    Contributed by Paula Vexlir, a Clinical Psychologist specialized in working with the Spanish-speaking expat community. Since 2002 she has been providing counseling for migrants and expats. By offering an online service she can support Spanish-speaking expats worldwide. She blogs at ExpatPsi.


  • 07 Mar 2015 8:50 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Kilian Kröll

    March 6, 2015

    Good evening, and welcome everyone to the 2015 Families In Global Transitions conference!

    My name is Kilian Kröll, I am the Board President of FIGT, and it is my distinct honor to open a conference that won’t leave you unchanged. In our midst, we have distinguished speakers, high-impact sponsors, extraordinarily committed volunteers, and most of all people who have dedicated their lives to supporting those who move around the world a lot. I’m talking about parents, teachers, counselors, HR executives, entrepreneurs, artists, researchers and adventurers – in other words, everyone in this room tonight. Welcome.

    You know, a hotel is a perfect setting for talking about global transitions: from the staff to the guests, most everyone here has experienced moving across borders, dealing with culture shock, adapting to unfamiliar customs, being the stranger and welcoming strangers. In this cross-cultural microcosm, in this interstitial space, we get to ask, "Where is home?"

    It is not by coincidence that we're returning to the mother of all loaded questions for global nomads. The theme of finding home was originally inspired by an op Ed in the New York Times, which Julia Simens showed me right after last year's conference. In this article, the author talks about how he as someone born in South Africa, educated in the UK and living in New York sometimes feels what he calls “displacement anguish.” There was something about this notion of Finding Home that struck us as newly relevant -- that because technology, travel and intercultural awareness have made trying to be "at home everywhere" normal for humans around the world, we might simultaneously be glossing over the basic human need of feeling rooted, safe, secure, and whole. 

    Julia and I ran this article, and our thoughts about it, by Fanta Aw, last year's keynote speaker who dared us to voice issues we don't often acknowledge in our expat community: financial insecurity, social inequality, political strife, aging, divorce. Fanta reminded us that the current large-scale displacement of peoples, by natural, military or economic disasters, and massive-scale human migration, allows those of us who have dealt with questions of displacement on a personal scale to share our findings with practically all of humanity. We who have conducted research, counseled transnational families, and supported those sent of foreign work assignments now have the opportunity to help the world at large to Find "Home" Amidst these Global Changes. Helping those who've been uprooted to connect with their sense of purpose and belonging, wherever they may be, might just bring the planet to a new sense of equilibrium. This is the potential I see in bringing up this question -- What is home? -- again today. 

    This weekend, in this hotel microcosm, we will engage with ideas from people whose approaches are as diverse as the places we've traveled from. We will experience performers, educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, humanitarians, business owners, trainers, counselors, artists, writers, parents and kids. We will be challenged to think about "home" in terms of ethnic identity, literary perspectives, business practices, intergenerational communication, non-Western approaches to building community, volunteer organizations, and the ritual act of saying goodbye and hello.

    And most of all, we will experience new feelings of being at home in all the interactions we will have with each other over the course of the weekend. I encourage you to let yourself be transformed this weekend, both professionally and personally, by what you learn and whom you meet, by ideas that resonate as well as disagreements... One thing I know for sure about FIGT is that my personal highlights have always been unplanned and unexpected. 

    One of this year's programmed highlights, however, is our opening keynote, Mr. Teja Arboleda. And to introduce him, I would like to welcome onto the stage a woman who really gets the connection between personal transitions and global business. Ghadeer Hasan is not only the FIGT Sponsorship Chair, but also the Vice President of Relocation Services at CORT Business Services, a Berkshire Hathaway Company. CORT is a proud Gold Sponsor of FIGT, and here to represent CORT, please welcome Ghadeer Hasan.

  • 02 Mar 2015 8:09 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    We continue our conversation with the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residents from 2014, to find out how that experience has impacted them over the past year. (Read part 1 of this article here)

    These are the team who wrote the recently published FIGT “Yearbook” Insights and Interviews From the 2014 Families in Global Transition Conference: The Global Family Redefined now available on Amazon.

    Terry Ann Wilson

    Notes on a Boarding Pass

    • Tell us a little about your own expat/ TCK story and what led you to the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency?

    I’ve been an expat for over twenty years, currently living in our eighth country, we’ve raised three children globally. It felt like a natural progression to have been part of FIGT. To be surrounded by people not only living this life, but also by those invested in the well being of expats, was extremely comforting yet also inspiring.  I first met Jo Parfitt while attending her Memoir Writing Retreat in Tuscany. That experience gave me the confidence to finally move forward as a writer.  I was encouraged to apply for the Residency which I was unable to do, yet was thankful when Jo offered a spot to me on the writing team nonetheless.  The eight writers quickly became an inspired team under the guidance of Jo.

    • How was your experience at FIGT14? What were your favorite takeaways and outcomes from the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency and FIGT14?

    It was gratifying writing with the team of writers not only in terms of the interesting topics covered, but also being part of a like minded, motivated group. The conference itself was a revelation to me; the fact that so many professionals, educators and creative people are concerned with the well being of those of us that live globally.  After completing the articles for the Yearbook, it was with renewed confidence that I initiated my blog, notes on a boarding pass.  I realized that I had a voice and that my experiences were relevant in the global world that FIGT so positively supports.  I believe all of us involved in the Parfitt Pascoe Residency and Writing Team appreciate the skills, experience and inclusiveness of being part of a new writing family. 

    • What have you been up to since FIGT14? What is the best thing that happened to you as a writer since FIGT as a result of your attendance?

    I’ve focused on my blog and as we have relocated once again.  I continue to embrace new experiences and grow as a writer.  As I currently live in Kazakhstan, I endeavor to inspire and have offered a writing workshop within this small community. We’ve been shown, from people like Jo and those involved with FIGT, how vital it is to be supportive in expat communities.  I’m also a cross cultural trainer which I hope to write more about in the future as well.


    Alice Wu


    • Tell us a little about your own expat/ TCK story and what led you to the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency?

    My mother was a global nomad who traveled with her Chinese diplomat parents, and my grandmother also traveled a lot as a child with her diplomat uncles.  I grew up hearing stories about their experiences and also had the chance to live in some other countries as a child and young person (England, Finland, Sweden).  I made two videos about college age global nomads at Cornell in 1994 and 2001, and am currently working on a third video (which I’ll present clips of at the upcoming FIGT15 conference).  I was also the advisor for students who helped found the global nomads club at Cornell and frequently do programs about TCKs and global nomads there.

    I was excited to get the FIGT e-mail about the ParfittPascoe Writing Residency scholarship, which sounded like a great opportunity! I was interested in applying for it because I have been a long time fan and avid supporter of FIGT starting from the early days of the conference, and I welcomed the chance to help spread the word about the organization and the amazing information that is generated there.  I have gained a lot from attending FIGT - both personally and professionally - and was interested in having a chance to help others similarly benefit from learning about it.  I also have several ideas for articles and welcomed having this valuable opportunity to learn more about writing and getting published.

    • How was your experience at FIGT14? What were your favorite takeways and outcomes from the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency and FIGT14?

    I really enjoyed FIGT14 last year - the chance to go to the innovative sessions and plenaries, meet new friends at the conference, and see friends from previous years.  I was also very glad to meet with Jo and get to know the other writing team members.  After the conference, I continued to communicate with Jo, Shelley and the writing team, and to get a lot of support and encouragement from them.  They offered help and cheered me on when I was trying to start my blog and they helped publicize my blogposts – by liking them and putting them on Twitter, Facebook and the Expat bookshop page.  I enjoyed reading their blogposts, and they helped me learn how to set up a blog, as well as how to put FB links, Twitter buttons, hyperlinks, tags and all kinds of other things on a blog.  I also enjoyed communicating with the FIGT speakers whom I wrote about for the yearbook, and I had very helpful editing suggestions from Jo and Shelley on my yearbook articles.

    • What have you been up to since FIGT14? What is the best thing that happened to you as a writer since FIGT as a result of your attendance?

    Thanks to Jo and Shelley, I have appreciated the chance to read some great books and write some book reviews for Global Living Magazine (GLM) over the last year.  I also enjoyed writing blog posts after the FIGT conference, including some about the conference.  I have done some writing about my own travel stories and I am starting to write about the global nomad students who participated in five videotaped discussions this year, as part of my new global nomads video.  They shared their amazing insights and experiences about their global backgrounds.


  • 02 Mar 2015 8:06 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    With the 2015 FIGT Conference just days away, we thought we’d check in with the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residents from 2014, to find out how that experience has impacted them over the past year.

    These are the team who wrote the recently published FIGT “Yearbook” Insights and Interviews From the 2014 Families in Global Transition Conference: The Global Family Redefined now available on Amazon.


    Cristina Bertarelli


    • Tell us a little about your own expat/ TCK story and what led you to the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency? 

    I am a first generation expat, living with an ATCK and raising two TCKs. I was totally unaware about the expat concept until I started living it and, honestly, it was not what I was dreaming about. I felt lost and disconnected until, as I use to say, I stop fighting with my expat life and start dancing instead”. This positive thinking unlock somehow the creative vein and it set aside the fear of not being capable and… I started a blog about feelings, thinking and envisioning the beauty of the expat life despite the challenges. An encouraging, wise and experienced expat together with Jo Parfitt, to whom I would be grateful for my entire life, did the rest.

    •  How was your experience at FIGT14? What were your favorite takeaways and outcomes from the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency and FIGT14? 

    First of all, I went home with a new, like minded and supportive group of friends. I couldn’t have done and lived this adventure without them. My best takeaway from the PPWR was and still is: “Every Story Matters” and we can make it alive when we are passionate and believers. The result of this is in our hands thanks to Jo’s intuition, belief and passion.

    FIGT14 gave me a new village and a new extended family I belong to.

    • What have you been up to since FIGT14? What is the best thing that happened to you as a writer since FIGT as a result of your attendance?

    Many projects, researches, reading, listening, learning… Everything is coming to life at the same time with one main goal in mind: “Helping other people to see beyond the borders”. For the best thing, I still have to pinch myself… Never in life, I could have ever expected to have my name somewhere as a writer, but it’s just true.


    Dounia Bertuccelli

    Next Stop - Musings of a Third Culture Kid

    • Tell us a little about your own expat/ TCK story and what led you to the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency?
    I am a lifelong TCK of Lebanese origin, I have lived in Cyprus, USA, Mexico, Philippines, Australia, France, UK. I am currently back in the U.S. with my TCK husband (which makes life as an adult TCK a lot more fun!).

    I have always loved writing. Journals, poetry…I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, and my notebooks traveled the world with me. When my husband and I moved to the U.S. a few years ago, I started writing regularly again. I started a blog about my TCK/adult TCK experiences; I eventually published a couple of articles on expat/travel topics and I realized that I wanted to try making a career out of writing. When I saw the PPWR, it felt like the perfect next step.

    • How was your experience at FIGT14? What were your favorite takeaways and outcomes from the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency and FIGT14?

    Attending the 2014 FIGT conference was a fantastic experience; I learned a lot and met wonderful people. It was comforting and exhilarating to be surrounded by people who understood the impacts of growing up/living across countries.

    Although there were many great sessions and tips on living a global lifestyle, my favorite aspect of the conference and of being a writing scholar was the personal connections that were forged. The emotional and insightful experiences at FIGT were the greatest takeaway for me.

    Admittedly, being published in a book is also an exciting result of being a 2014 PPWR scholar. Getting the chance to develop a career writing about TCK experiences has definitely been one of the best byproducts of attending FIGT.

    • What have you been up to since FIGT14? What is the best thing that happened to you as a writer since FIGT as a result of your attendance?

    Since FIGT14 I’ve been involved in a variety of projects, both in the TCK/expat and writing worlds. I’ve written articles and book reviews published both in print and online. I’m also a co-host of #TCKchat and Expat Resource Manager at Global Living Magazine.

    TCKchat is a twitter chat for (Adult) Third Culture Kids around the world, of all ages and backgrounds (personal and professional). It’s a fantastic discussion forum, providing insight and information to help support current and future generations of TCKs. The Expat Resource Directory for Global Living is a ongoing compilation of all the best expat and TCK services, organizations, blogs and twitter accounts.

    As a writer, attending FIGT allowed me to gain far more exposure than I ever expected. I was able to make great contacts and meet people that work in both expat/TCK environments and in the writing business. It opened up doors, which led to many new projects and is helping me build a career doing something I love.


    Sue Mannering

    What’s Next? Singapore Food Diaries

    • Tell us a little about your own expat/ TCK story and what led you to the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency?

    I started expat life in Dubai in late 2005. My three children and I joined my husband for his work and all children did high school in international schools there. I also worked in a number of international schools and managed several ballet schools before retraining to teach English. I taught English for a year before we moved to Singapore for my husband’s work. At that point all three children had moved back to our passport country, Australia, to study. We moved to Singapore as empty nesters.

    I was lucky enough to enroll in a couple of writing courses with Jo Parfitt, who travelled to Singapore especially to run them. Through social media I learnt about the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency and applied. I was thrilled to learn I had been accepted into the program.

    • How was your experience at FIGT14? What were your favorite takeaways and outcomes from the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency and FIGT14?

    I thoroughly enjoyed FIGT14 as I felt a connection with every one there. It was an excellent learning opportunity, a wonderful way to connect with people and very emotional.

    • What have you been up to since FIGT14? What is the best thing that happened to you as a writer since FIGT as a result of your attendance?

    Since FIGT14, I was the assistant editor for the yearbook, and have written several articles for magazines in Singapore and overseas, including Global Living Magazine. The best thing that happened to me as a writer since FIGT was having an essay about expat empty nesting published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life.

    I have also enrolled in a Master of Arts, majoring in Political and International Studies.

    Read Part 2 of this post here.

  • 25 Feb 2015 8:39 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    A colony of ants, when in water, can form a buoyant raft made from their bodies. They do this in order to keep their larvae and queen from harm as well as ensure the livelihood of the colony. This is all accomplished without a leader.

    Ant rafts are an example of swarm intelligence. While there are other examples of swarm intelligence and how humans learn from this behavior, I am focusing on that of the ant rafts as it speaks to collective actions and social impact.  

    In using the inspiration of ants and swarm intelligence, I want to discuss how we, as globally mobile individuals, can use social media for collective engagement and utilize these virtual networks for positive social impact. 

    Below are a few ways we can enrich and carry the conversation from #FIGT15 forward. I’ve also included the symbols and language that generate increased exposure.

    1. Set a common language



    At the #FIGT14 conference, we were buzzing with vocabulary like #spartners and #ubuntu.  In posting these on social media, we helped to spread the common language beyond the confines of the conference.


    2. Invite others to the conversation



    Connecting an individual or an organization that would find inspiration in or add to a cause or conversation, helps diversify the voices involved. By using the handle (FIGT = @crossingculture on Twitter) of the individual or organization we want to engage, we can connect them to the dialogue.


    3. Ask people to spread the word

    RT/ Repost/#LI

    Encourage others to engage their networks for the #butterflyeffect to take flight. You can ask people to please retweet (RT) on Twitter or to post on LinkedIn (#LI) or Facebook to spread the word via other social media sites.


    4. Favorite posts to show support


    Favoriting posts and following individuals & organizations who support a common value reinforces a sense of #community.


    5. Start a dialogue using multimedia


    Pictures, videos, and more can encapsulate all that we want to say and often more. If others cannot be at #FIGT15, then bring the conference to them!

    In an FIGT blog post that I wrote last year I spoke to how we, as globally mobile individuals, have some of the most effervescent networks. We all carry the message from the Annual Families in Global Transition conference through engaging in #kitchentable conversations, joining #FIGTAffiliates, contributing research , through social media and so on.

    Although using swarm intelligence through social media is quite different from how ants utilize such acuity, the immense social impact from this sort collective behavior has its parallels. 

    I am looking forward to bringing the thought-provoking and socially impactful conversations from #FIGT15 beyond the conference. If you’re not attending the conference in person, be sure to tune in via social media!

    Contributed by Mary Margaret Herman, a dual-citizen with an Irish and U.S. passport who has taught in France and works in the post-graduate education sector.  She is currently serving on the board of directors for Families in Global Transition. 


  • 22 Feb 2015 3:26 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This is the third in a series of excerpts from the  first FIGT Yearbook, written by the 2014 Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residents

    Insights and Interviews from the 2014 Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference

    The Global Family Redefined

    By Dounia Bertuccelli

    More and more children are growing up among worlds, calling many places home and picking up unique skills from their international childhoods. Until recently, there was no organization to help these kids transition into adult- hood and make the most of the skills they have acquired. But Sea Change Mentoring’s founder and CEO Ellen Mahoney has created just the place for them.

    Ellen grew up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) in various locations of the US and Asia. As an adult, after attending university in Oregon, she lived and worked in Washington DC. and New York. She is currently based in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband Jared, an American who lived in the same town his whole life (in Southern California). He has some experience as an expat from living in Korea during his time with the Air Force.

    As an Adult TCK Ellen knows the challenges that come with a global lifestyle. Having worked regularly with kids, both in schools and youth development, she knew how to build relationships with them. She also wanted to give back to the international community, so she combined her professional skills with her personal background to create a one-of-a-kind mentoring program.

    The Beginning: Returning ‘Home’

    Growing up as a TCK, Ellen was exposed to many cultures while attending schools in Tokyo and Singapore. But upon returning to Connecticut for school, from 7th-10th grade, she was shocked by the intolerance and racism she encountered.

    “It was a mono-cultural and very privileged society,” she recalled. “I felt like an outsider.”

    She was happy to move to Singapore for her last two years of high school, as Asia is where she felt most comfortable. But once she graduated she returned to the US for college.

    After a difficult first year at Wittenberg, in Ohio, Ellen contemplated dropping out because she was so unhappy. But her high school English teacher and mentor advised her to switch colleges and attend the University of Oregon, where her son was also a student. That change made all the difference. Knowing another TCK helped the transition and she finally found stability, made friends and completed her English degree.

    Despite this positive transition, she battled with depression for seven years. She suffered from reverse culture shock, not knowing other TCKs and having no support system nearby. She eventually went to therapy, which helped, but she didn’t talk about growing up overseas.

    Only years later she realized the impact of her experiences and the importance of her time at the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. It was there that she had a first glimpse into her future career because it taught its students about giving back.

    “It planted the first seed [of mentoring], and many of my friends have also gone into jobs that help [their communities],” she said.

    The First Step: Working in Education

    Before Ellen began her career in mentoring she worked in different sectors of education. While she was still a student she volunteered at Girls, Inc., which worked with ‘at-risk’ youth in junior high. It was an eye-opening experience.

    “It was my first insight into the public school system in the US and I was shocked,” she recalled. She had really believed in the system and the opportunity for free and fair education, but she realized that it wasn’t always the case. She was surprised and impressed by many of the students she worked with.

    “Those girls were smart, bold and brave,” she said.

    That first foray into education eventually led her to Washington DC. where she worked at the Lab School of Washington and wrote a new curriculum on media literacy. She then got a degree in counseling from George Washington University and worked at the School Without Walls as a Humanities and creative writing teacher.

    What she learned during her years in education and working with children would have a huge impact in her future career. Her experiences taught her what works best with kids and how to help them.

    “I understood the power of a relationship,” Ellen said. “One adult outside of parents who believes in you can make such a difference.”

    The Next Step: iMentor

    Unfortunately not everyone she worked with had the same motivation and determination to help. She was seeing kids excel in difficult situations, but then fighting against barriers created by adults. After working in several different organizations and needing new inspiration, Ellen began looking for a well run non-profit.

    She had very specific guidelines in mind and wanted an organization that:

        Had sustainable and diverse funding

        Used technology

        Knew that relationships were important

        Had adults who removed barriers instead of creating them

    The non-profit she was looking for turned out to be an innovative start-up, with a ‘big brother/sister’ mentoring program: iMentor. Today iMentor is a leading e-mentoring program with over 200 employees but when Ellen joined she was the 9th person hired. At iMentor she screened and selected all the mentors, did quality control, and even strategic work with the CEO, but there was one area that really stood out for her. “I fell in love with research,” she said. “It was our ethical responsibility to know the research in our professional field.” This interest and diligence in research would prove to be very useful in the future when Ellen would look into creating her own company.

    The Epiphany: 2011 Tsunami

    Although Ellen was happy at work, had friends, got married and had a good support system, she still didn’t have any TCK friends. Even though she had grown up as a TCK, she didn’t really embrace her background.

    “I never allowed myself to acknowledge that part of me,” she observed.

    She wondered what kind of a role model she could be when she didn’t even recognize all of herself. But then a catastrophic event opened her eyes. The 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan opened an unexpected floodgate of emotion she couldn’t explain. Her husband reminded her it was normal she was so upset because Japan had been one of her childhood homes. Only then did she start to understand the importance and the depth of her TCK background.

    Ellen realized she wanted and needed to help. She emailed her school in Tokyo to ask what she could do to help. That led to a Skype call with her old home-economics teacher, who told her the students weren’t getting any help after leaving school and they really needed someone to guide them. That’s when Ellen came up with her idea for a TCK mentoring program. She knew what worked with kids, she had experience in youth development and she also knew the impact the TCK lifestyle could have.

    “Someone had to help,” she recalled. “And I had promised to help.”

    The New Beginning: Sea Change Mentoring

    Ellen stayed true to her promise and very shortly after the tsunami she created Sea Change Mentoring. She reviewed the research, outlined a curriculum and talked to the community.

    “I felt so energized,” she said. “And so lucky to find an intersection of my professional skills and my personal story.”

    Her program works with TCKs between the ages of 16-23, helping them through transitions and to market their skills in the working world. She emphasizes the importance of not generalizing when it comes to TCKs, because everyone’s experiences are different. She also notes that TCKs and expats are no longer mostly American and organizations need to be aware of those changes. At Sea Change support comes from multiple perspectives and she tailors her work for each young adult, family or organization. She knows that the best way to help someone is to ask questions and be attuned to each person’s individuality.

    “We identify the strengths of each child to help him/her build on those,” she said.

    Ellen maintains a rigorous screening process to ensure all the mentors are professional and there is no risk of them projecting their experiences onto their protégés. After potential mentors make it through the initial screening, they have a personal interview with Ellen; they must also provide three references and show they have mentor characteristics. All mentors must be ATCKs, and anyone interested in mentoring must apply via the online form on the Sea Change website. Once selected, they receive ongoing training and are paid mentors, not volunteers.

    The mentor-protégé relationships last for at least two years, with online meetings about once a week. The Skype sessions usually last one hour and are always recorded with an app for supervision and safety reasons. The mentors follow a curriculum Ellen wrote with her advisor Josh Stager based on TCK and youth development research.

    How the mentors help their protégés:

    “The mentors use this [the curriculum] in various ways, including conversation starters, activities and games,” she said. “We also evaluate the program via online tools that helps us capture the growth and satisfaction of the protégé.”

    “By simply being there, listening and relating (which is more powerful than people realize)”

    “Sharing information with them about social emotional adjustment, moving, saying goodbye, choosing a career and tertiary education”

    “Connecting them with resources and ideas that can help the protégé make good decisions”

    Ellen wants to help young people develop the positive aspects of their TCK background – not only support them during hard times. A lot of services come across negatively and that is not the way to help families. There must be a reinforcement of positive youth development, while still acknowledging the challenges.

    “Sea Change is not just about prevention; it’s a promotion tool,” she explained. “It helps promote the assets of young people.

    Funding for Sea Change comes from families, who pay a yearly fee for the services, and also from investments/partnerships with international schools and corporations. The cost for families can vary depending on how much income they bring in, whether the parents are paying the fee directly or if they have a sponsoring organization and what kind of services they are seeking. “We provide a lot of additional services like evaluations and trainings so the fee structure differs,” Ellen explained.

    At the 2013 FIGT conference, Ellen was just getting the word out about Sea Change for the first time. At the 2014 conference, she had an Ignite session and a Concurrent session, where she shared her insights about creating her own company and the joy it has brought her. “It feels like a blessing and like it was meant to be,” she said.

    Some of the most important lessons she learned while creating Sea Change Mentoring are to believe in yourself, set the bar high and also to ask others for help. “You can’t be an entrepreneur without depending on the generosity of others and their faith in you,” she advised.

    She truly believes it’s never one person against all odds and that the only thing keeping you from achieving your dreams is you.

    Her final piece of advice was simply: “Anything is possible.”

  • 08 Feb 2015 6:59 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This is the second in a series of excerpts from the soon to be published first FIGT Yearbook, written by the 2014 Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residents

    Insights and Interviews from the 2014 Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference

    The Global Family Redefined

    CONCURRENT SESSION led by Rebecca Grappo, Ryan Haynes, Ruth Van Reken and Alexandra Pomeroy

    By Sue Mannering

    I raised three of my own Third Culture Kids (TCKs) in the Middle East but I never knew such a term existed until attending the 2014 Families in Global Transition Conference.

    ‘A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experiences, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar backgrounds.’

    – Ruth Hill Useem

    Insights into this session’s topic were provided by four panelists whose backgrounds are as diverse as the TCKs they were discussing.

    Rebecca Grappo has lived in 12 countries over the last 30 years and raised three TCKs of her own. Her specialty lies in individualized college advising for TCKs and boarding school placements. She is president of RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC and has a Masters in Education.

    Ruth Van Reken was born in Nigeria and is an Adult TCK and author. Her work includes Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, which she co-wrote with David Pollock. A revised edition was released in 2009. The co-founder of the Families in Global Transition conferences, Ruth has spent almost 30 years travelling the world, speaking about global family living.

    Ryan Haynes has a degree in Sports Medicine and a Masters in Counseling Education and has worked as a High School counselor for 15 years in four different countries.

    Alexandra Pomeroy has a B.A. in International Relations and has worked as an employment counselor and a Balkans program officer for various government departments. Alexandra is on the board of the Foreign Service Youth Foundation and as the child of a Foreign Agricultural Officer lived in five different countries in her youth. Though she fits the definition of a TCK, her take on the term itself is an interesting one because she rejects the label.

    How do TCKs Differ Today From the Past?

    Ryan cited access to the Internet as one of the major differences, calling today’s TCKs ‘digital natives’. We are more connected than ever, apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, Facetime, and Skype help keep us globally connected. Air travel is easier, cheaper and thus more accessible than ever before. Alexandra mentioned other social networks such as Facebook and Google hangout, but, she said, these networks can also serve to make us feel disconnected.

    Cyber bullying, porn and violent video games are some examples of the destructiveness of technology says Rebecca. Some kids are hiding behind the screen. Addiction to video games can occur when they don’t feel connected. They “descend into their own isolated world”, an alternate virtual world full of imaginary friends. While listening to this I think of the teenager I tu- tored in English some time ago. Eastern European, living in the Middle East, addicted to video games played all night, linked via cyberspace with friends from the passport country, her father posted to Asia.

    Ruth added that despite the advantages of connectivity, the fact that today’s TCKs live in many different countries may prompt you to ask, “how do you change your cultural mirror?” and “how do you sort out who you are?” In addition these moves are increasingly complicated by what she refers to as ‘non-intact’ families (divorced or separated and living on different continents, for example). You can stay connected but it doesn’t change how far away you are from each other.

    Rebecca suggests that the environment impacts TCKs today too. Some postings are to countries in turmoil. Terrorism threats have an impact on schooling. Your passport or the nationality of the school you attend may mean security is upgraded from time to time or always. Certainly when my own family lived in the Middle East, the international school my daughter attended was occasionally subjected to upgraded security, and she would come home wide eyed and tell me all about it. After a while, it became the norm, and she may have mentioned it in 

    The separation of a close family member will impact TCKs too, says Rebecca. Consider the case of an unaccompanied assignment for a family member to a danger zone. And my mind wanders this time to fathers posted on temporary assignments to neighboring countries, flak jackets part of their luggage.

    Cultural Complexity

    Alexandra listed the terms ‘cross cultural, bi-racial and TCK’ and then she said something surprising, to me, anyway, particularly as the term TCK was new to me. She said the terms were contrived and that the definitions were mostly ‘academic debate’. She doesn’t identify with the word TCK and she finds the label and other labels annoying. Furthermore, she argued that she and her friends found the term TCK in particular, to be elitist.

    Ruth, in her quiet, caring and understanding way, countered that young people don’t like labels yet there are issues and terms that provide a common ground for discussion. Teenagers want to be normal so may reject the term TCK. “It’s not productive to tell kids who they are,” said Ruth. Let them tell you and describe it rather than others prescribing it. Yet it’s important to ‘connect the dots’ and to encompass all examples of this concept, for example, children of refugees. It’s important to talk about loss, both overt and hidden. Transitions, she said, are universal so how do we take the message and apply it? Ideas grow and change with time and she questioned how to take these base assumptions and build on them. It would be ideal to find a ‘language that connects with everyone’. Rebecca added that the term TCK covers a variety of socio-economic groups and it’s helpful for people to put a name to these experiences.

    Ryan, who currently works in an international school in Bangkok, and has seen culture clashes firsthand said, “people are curious.” What’s it like to be a TCK in a country where you stand out? What’s it like to repatriate? Any child who studies in a different country will go through a re-entry ‘process’ if they return to their passport country.

    I couldn’t help but think of the rejection of another term, ‘trailing spouse’, by many at the conference and have empathy for Alexandra’s hypothesis.

    Strengths and gifts of being a TCK
    Looking beyond the challenges of the term TCK, those raised as one can benefit from the strengths that being a TCK offers, strengths such as:

    • The ability to talk to anybody
    • Being unafraid of, in fact, welcoming, new experiences
    • Generally being able to transition well
    • Having a three dimensional view of the world
    • Being flexible
    • Seeing the world as an interesting place
    • At 40, using who they are
    • Using their background of diversity in their ability to interact
    • Having a sense of adventure


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