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.

  • 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


  • 28 Jan 2015 9:42 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This is the first in a series of excerpts from the soon to be published first FIGT Yearbook

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

    The Global Family Redefined


    IGNITE SESSION Led by Julia Simens

    By Terry Anne Wilson

    “My home is a plane that drops me into new places.” This statement by Julia Simens resonated with the audience as she discussed the nannies, cooks, drivers and security staff that become part of those overseas homes. Understandably, these ‘beloved strangers’ become part of our family yet are left behind as we transition, often having a lasting impact on them and our children. Julia is a family therapist and educator who has helped countless families transition globally. She draws on personal experience as well as poignant perspectives from families, especially children. The term Beloved Stranger was coined by FIGT two-time attendee, Eva László-Herbert, who had suggested a session on this important subject. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend the conference and the idea was deemed so important that Julia took over the task of conducting the session. She was the perfect choice, her heartfelt message brought tears to many in the audience.

    Two important issues were raised.

    Impact on Children and Staff

    “We need to look beyond dinner parties, pressed t-shirts and daily cleaned floors,” Julia reminds us. She elaborates that the relationship we have with these ‘beloved strangers’ who help facilitate a certain lifestyle, can be powerful and passionate. Children can have a close relationship with these caregivers, in fact they’re often more interested in them than are the adults themselves. Kids can rattle off their names, for example, while parents may only know the man they entrust the safety of their children with as ‘driver’. In her counseling, Julia has often noticed that kids will draw family pictures with their hired help included, yet that is a term children are often reluctant to use.

    When her son was young for example, he had the wisdom to realize that these ‘beloved strangers’ are not defined by a job title, but by the individual people they are. He refused to use the word ‘servant’ Proof that in the eyes of a young child they can become family members, especially since extended

    family isn’t nearby. In fact, Grant Simens, aged about 4, drew a picture of his family, coloring his blood family in bright colors, but the domestic helpers in pencil. A sharp intake of breath filled the room when this was shown.

    Considering the time spent together and commitment shown by many staff, close bonds are understandable. That bond can reveal itself in different ways such as a child late at night wanting to speak the language he had learned from his nanny, as was occasionally the case with Julia’s son, Grant. What a wonderful gift to have received from a loving caregiver, that of language. Undoubtedly fond memories are evoked to this day when that language is heard. My youngest son for example, was fiercely protective of certain things only Gina, our nanny, could do for him. One of them being having his ears cleaned. Only his beloved Gina, was allowed anywhere near him with a Q-tip; the mention of it still brings a smile after all these years. He was only six months old when we welcomed her into our home in Doha, Qatar. Having left behind a one-year-old in the Philippines, one of her four children, we can only imagine how wrenching this would be and the sacrifice it is to leave your own young family behind, to care for another. All the more reason to treat staff with care and “consider them part of our team,” Julia stresses.

    Recognition and Appreciation

    Treat staff with respect and appreciate their service, we are reminded. Ju- lia points out that just as they ‘visit our world’, we must offer them the same consideration and some appreciation of their background. This can be celebrations of their culture and food, such as a recipe. Many families depart with favorites their nanny or cook spoiled their children with, only to find we’ll never prepare it quite as well as they did. My butter chicken is a sorry substitute for the delicious rendition our houseboy in Oman would spoil us with!

    Appreciation can be shown in more substantial ways of course, such as providing additional flights home or a course to better their career options. I know a family who continued to provide for the education of their staff’s children, long after employment had ended. All these are fine examples of acknowledgement and being in a position to act upon it.

    If a family has developed a close relationship with staff, it’s important to retain that once you relocate or to rekindle those relationships if contact has been lost. Julia recommends ensuring they have a photo of themselves with the children and with today’s social media, it’s easier to stay in touch and reconnect. We recently did just that with our beloved Gina, and my three sons are still hers, she happily reminds us on Facebook, and it is special to have her in our lives again. As Julia rightfully says, “the hardest part of living is that nothing lasts forever.” True indeed, but we can do our best to ensure these ‘beloved strangers’ are appreciated for the role they’ve played in our families’ lives.

  • 25 Jan 2015 7:00 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Claire (not her real name) had been in Lagos for about 5months. She was invited to a dinner outside the apartment complex for the first time with newfound expat friends and got back sometime after 23:00. They rolled up to the gate and waited. Nothing happened: the guards didn’t open. She got out of the car and knocked on the window to the gatehouse. She could see the two guards inside, fast asleep. She was incensed. How were the guards going to do any guarding if they were asleep? She had a good go at them and the next morning reported them to the estate manager. But Claire has seen guards asleep since that first incident and is now convinced that Nigerians (guards and estate manager) are incompetent.

    This is a typical example of an event we would call ‘culture shock’. Claire experiences a behaviour that she considers unacceptable, spends a lot of time being irritated and all her worst expectations about the locals are confirmed. Not only that, but her best efforts to change things go to naught.

    Interculturalist Joseph Shawles[1] uses neuroscience to describe why we get irritated by behaviours when we live in a new country. Basically, our conscious mind recognises a difference between the way things are done in the new place and where we come from. As we try to make sense of what we observe, our unconscious mind automatically uses the reference we know to come up with an explanation. We use our own cultural norms and values.

    You can think of this subconscious reaction like the process of baking a cake: The recipe Claire borrowed from an American friend says 3 cups of flower but she uses the European weight system so she uses a coffee cup; the recipe calls for 1/3 cup of milk so she uses 1/3 litre of milk. Her cake comes out like a cement brick – and she blames the recipe.

    There is a leap in logic that Claire is not aware of:

        Guards are asleep = sleeping is a wilful disregard for the rules or gross incompetence;

        The estate manager knows of this behaviour but does nothing = he is also incompetent.

    These two statements would be true in Claire’s home country. But in Lagos they don’t take into account the fact that the guards are paid very little money for their jobs. In fact, I think it is a miracle they do any guarding at all. Also, it happens often that their measly salary is paid days late. When that happens the guards struggle to find money to get to work and then are not able to buy food for dinner or coffee to keep themselves awake at night. They know they shouldn’t sleep – they have the same value for a job well-done - but they succumb to fatigue despite their best efforts.

    Their behaviour (the sleeping) does not reflect a culture of wilful negligence. Rather, it reflects the system of borderline poverty that they live in.

    As for the estate manager, he subcontracts a company who supplies the guards and pays their salaries. He has switched security companies before when it became clear that the company was keeping the bulk of the fee and paying their guards such a pittance that they could not realistically expect any service from these men. If he complains to the security company, they fire all the guards and hire new ones from the gigantic pool of jobless men desperate to find a way to feed their families. They tell these new ones not to complain about their salary and for God’s sake, stay awake.

    I am not excusing the sleeping guards – night guards must be awake at night or they are not doing their job. But yelling at them and the estate manager will probably make matters worse: Claire will continue to be irritated, the guards and manager will recognise her as a problem and so a cycle of mistrust and dislike grows. And nothing changes.

    Is there a solution? Yes.

    When you see a behaviour that shocks you:

    1. Realise that subconsciously you are judging the situation based on your own expectations, cultural norms and values.

    2. Ask around to find out what the context of that behaviour is – why is this happening  and why does no one else seem to think it is a big deal?

    3. Always begin by assuming that people are acting according to THEIR rules that govern good behaviour or at least doing their best to live by those rules – innocent until you can prove them guilty of wilful evil.

    4. Realise that you have can choose how you react: you can simply allow yourself to get irritated; you can try and understand the situation; upon understanding it you can accept it, try to change it or figure out how to live with it…

    5. If you really want to change the situation, realise that you will have to understand the context in order to identify workable solutions.

    Notice that all of these things are to be done by the expat – the onus is on us to adapt to the local culture, not the other way around.

    Is it easy?


    But what’s the alternative? Stay frustrated, hibernate, leave?

    In the case of the guards where Claire and I live, perhaps a solution would be for us residents to get together and buy the guards a bag of rice per month so that they are assured of having something to eat. Or perhaps we can share in the cost of providing them with coffee through the night.

    Or not.

    Perhaps we could ask the guards what they think a solution would be. Showing our interest would be nice – I bet they would be more determined to risk their lives guarding us if they knew we cared about their ability to do their job.

    Contributed by Diane Lemieux, a Canadian/Dutch writer who has lived in 11 countries and speaks 4 languages. Her latest book is The Mobile LIfe: a new approach to moving anywhere. Find her blog at http://diane-lemieux.com/mobilelife/

  • 11 Jan 2015 7:24 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Leading Across Cultures - video from Elizabeth kelly on Vimeo.

    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.

  • 28 Dec 2014 6:13 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    I am a firm believer that the more we understand about ourselves, the better we communicate to others and the more fulfilled we tend to be. Working with the global population has always given me many concrete examples of how they try to process their global upbringing.

    Recently, I was working with 7 -10th graders at a school. We went over all the different parts of our culture to help us understand our own unique identity.  I asked the students to think about 10 areas that pay a key role in “who we are”.

    These are:

    1. Family (Meaning who is living currently under your roof, including any staff or host country people who share the same living environment)
    2. Extended family (those we see often or just yearly but are a part of our lives through social media when we are not physically together)
    3. Rules of behavior (Many families have multicultural rules and norms – so it is important to understand as a young kid “What rules of behavior do I internally have?” and to be able to put these rules down in written form.)
    4. Languages that we have mastered. (To be able to read, speak and understand at least 300 words in another language)
    5. Traditions – which ones do you see in your current home or which ones do you really like.
    6. Religion – which ones are in your home or in your neighborhood that you are aware of.
    7. Art – which type of art are you drawn to.
    8. Music – which type of music are you drawn to.
    9. Food – what are your favorite types or your favorite food
    10. Interest groups- what do you identify yourself as a passion or what you do in your free time.

    Moving in a country allows regional cultures to become part of our mix.

    Global Nomads have many different cultures in their lives.

    We are often good at realizing the cultural differences between countries but as we work with these global souls, we also need to be mindful of the geography differences due to regional cultures.

    This student felt his base language was Bahasa Indonesia but was speaking and writing above grade level expectations in English. He also could communicate in Makassarese which is used in South Sulawesi island, Toraja-Sa’dan a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken in Western Sulawesi, and Manado Malay which is spoken in Manado.  Imagine mastering five languages prior to becoming a teenager. He also was confident that his language skills would continue to develop since he communicated often with these extended family members and they did not fall back into English because they were aware of the need to keep their base languages strong.

    He also had an extended family that were Christian, Buddhist and Muslim. He had the ability to understand all of these core beliefs and see similarities and differences. He said, “As a family we celebrate a lot of religious events, we understand the need to honor every ones belief.”

    Sometimes the students write powerful personal glimpse of what it means to be a global nomad.

    Story # 1  My view is not the same.

    I grew up in a small village in Indonesia but half way through my elementary school years my family moved to Balikpapan. My Dad does not carry an Indonesian passport but he gets a work visa to stay with my Mom, who is Indonesian. They decided to move me to an international school once we moved to Balikpapan.

    My English quickly got a whole lot better. I still so most of the same things that I did before coming to Balikpapan.

    When we worked on our culture or identity and you walked us through all the things that makes up a person’s culture, I go it. I could finally understand why I don’t always see eye to eye with my mom or my dad.  My dad sees things that he knows or through his culture.  My mom sees things or knows things through her culture. I am unique, I see things through my culture which is both cultures.

    Story #2 Why can’t I have both?

    Why can’t I have both – why can’t I pick what I want?

    It seems like I live in two worlds all the time but find neither one of them perfect. When I am in Indonesia, I dream and want to be in Australia. When I am in Australia I dream of being back in Indonesia. I have mastered both languages, can tolerate both kinds of music from our countries and actually love both Australia and Indonesian food.

    Why can’t I have both – why can’t I pick what I want? I have good friends at school in Indonesia but always feel like I am missing out on things going on in Australia. I have great friends and family in Australia. But I also have great friends and family in Indonesia. Why can’t I have both?

    Why can’t I have both – why can’t I pick what I want? In my dream, Australia will be perfect.  But it is not in real life.  In my dream, Indonesia is perfect but it is not in real life. Why can’t I have both – why can’t I pick what I want?

    Here is the classroom presentation:

    It can be also viewed at: http://prezi.com/vohav6owhsyb/international-school-balikpapan-grades-78-and-910/#

    Contributed by Julia Simens, an American writer who has lived on five continents and raised two TCKs. Her book "Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: practical storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family" is commonly found in many international schools and embassies where she gives talks to parents, teachers and families living a global lifestyle. Find her blog aat http://www.jsimens.com


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