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 the entire expatriate family. Contributions are welcome from current members, please use our online submittal form below.

  • 10 Mar 2017 4:40 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Erin Long is the President and founder of Worldwide Speech. She developed the idea for the company after opening independent practices for expatriate children in both Mexico and Brazil. Through her experience with these practices Erin became aware of the large, but dispersed demand for native English-speaking speech pathologists among the expatriate community and realized that the key to meeting this demand was teletherapy. Erin is certified by the American Telemedicine Association in telepractice and for the last five years, she has been a leader in teletherapy within the speech-pathology community. Erin is an active member of the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association's (ASHA) steering group for the development of teletherapy policy and training. Because of her experience and expertise in telepractice, Erin has also been asked to present at seminars on special education at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute.

    For Erin, finding a way to provide speech therapy and other special education services to children abroad is not only a business opportunity; it is a personal passion. As a member of the U.S. Foreign Service community, Erin has a unique understanding of the challenges that expatriate families have when trying to find appropriate educational support for their children outside the United States. This is why Worldwide Speech's primary focus has always been on expatriate children, and what drove Erin to eventually expand the company to include occupational therapy and reading intervention.

    Erin is currently licensed to practice speech-language therapy in California, Virginia and Maryland. She is the recipient of the ASHA’s prestigious Continuing Education Award for her dedication to training above and beyond the requirements for maintaining her credential. Erin also has experience working in U.S. school districts in multiple states as well as in private clinical settings. Erin is a graduate of UCLA and California State University of Los Angeles.

    “As part of our continued dedication to helping children everywhere, Worldwide Speech is reaching out to expat families to make our services known and available to them. Like FIGT, Worldwide Speech grew from recognizing the needs of families living outside their own countries. We began offering online therapy in response to the needs of children living abroad and away from the education services they needed. It has been our great privilege to provide online speech therapy, OT, PT, Reading Support and special education services to children around the world.”
  • 08 Mar 2017 1:14 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The #FIGTN17NL Annual Conference is quickly approaching. Do you have your tickets? Are you ready to go? We are counting down the days when FIGT members and supporters journey from around the world to come together for our annual gathering. Over three days we celebrate, network, and educate one another on ways to continue to support our multicultural community. 

    Get inspired by six new and existing FIGT members as they share, “Why I go to the FIGT Conference” and “2-3 Tips/Suggestions on what to do while at the FIGT conference." Read about the first three members in our Part One series and stay tuned next week for Part Two!  


    Name: Katia Vlachos 

    Conferences attended: 4 FIGT Conferences 

    1.    Why I go to the FIGT conference? 

    Because it feeds my soul. FIGT is not a regular conference. It’s a meeting of like minds, hearts, and souls. It’s the one time a year that I find myself surrounded by dozens of people who come from vastly different backgrounds yet share a very deep, instinctive connection and understanding of each other. FIGT is my annual meeting with my tribe.

    2.    2-3 Tips or suggestions on what to do at the conference?

    a. Do not make any other plans besides the conference, not even dinner! FIGT is a very rich and intense — both in terms of the conference program and social connections. You get the most out of it by immersing yourself completely.

    b. Come with curiosity and an open mind. Ask questions, listen, share. Some of the stories you will hear will blow your mind. Some will seem incredibly familiar.

    c. Become part of it. FIGT is run almost entirely by volunteers, and it is an extremely welcoming organization and community. You can make a difference!


    Name: Joy O’Neill

    Conferences attended: First conference this March!

    1. Why I go to the FIGT conference? 

    I've been planning to attend for the last couple of years and circumstances have meant that I haven't made it. This year I wanted to make it a priority.

    2. What am I planning to do at the conference? 

    I am looking forward to meeting as many people as possible and finding out new ideas to help children in transition.


    Name: Lisa Ferland

    Conferences attended: 2016 - Amsterdam

    1. Why I go to the FIGT conference? 

    This year I am the Bookstore Coordinator, Ignite presenter mentor and Early Bird writing session coach. The possibilities for getting involved in the conference are really great.

    People who live abroad are very adept at diving right into the heart of personal issues. The hallways of the FIGT conference are lined with people meeting one another for the first time. In other cases, you will finally meet someone you have only known on Facebook in-person for the first time.   

    It felt like I had stumbled into this exclusive club where everyone instantly understood my situation and the struggles I've experienced while living abroad without having to explain myself. Starting with that in common allowed for deep connections to be made very quickly. 

    I love the FIGT conference for allowing those connections to be made and reinforced throughout the sessions. Learning that you are not alone and expanding your supportive network is worth the cost of registration itself.

    2. 2-3 Tips or suggestions on what to do at the conference? 

    a. Learn how to exit a conversation properly. I spoke with so many people who were unexpectedly pulled away by other friends, or they didn't know how to finish a conversation. I think all networking interactions should end with the handing over of a business/contact card and the phrase, "It was a pleasure to meet you, and I'd love to continue this conversation another time. Here is my contact information. Talk with you soon."  The conference is so busy and fast-paced that it is easy to walk away from an unfinished conversation.

    b. Make hallway connections. Attending the sessions is always valuable, but many of the deep connections that I made were done in the hallways. I learned so much about people in between the sessions over coffee breaks. Those conversations are equally as valuable as the sessions themselves.

    c. Prepare for long days. If you want to attend the early bird sessions and the evening dinners or networking sessions after the conference, your day may start at 6 am and end at 9 pm. Coupled with time zone differences and inevitable jet/travel lag, prepare yourself to get some good sleep each night and properly caffeinate yourself throughout the day. The conference is short in length but dense in content. They pack a lot into only a few days. 


    As you can see, there are many different reasons on why we go to the FIGT Annual conference but first and foremost, it is to connect with one another! Thanks to Katia, Joy, and Lisa for sharing your stories and preparing us for the conference. We look forward to meeting you and reconnecting with you again in March! 

    Stay tuned for Part Two: The People who Make Up our Tribe or Why I go to the Families in Global Transition Conference next week!

  • 05 Mar 2017 2:42 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT acknowledges the importance of research. Therefore, #FIGT17NL has an exciting program lined up highlighting the members of the Research Network.

    This year the Research Network will have two Early Bird sessions. Thursday morning will be the annual meeting where “we look at who we are, where we have been and where we are going.” The Friday Early Bird Session is all about doing research.  A panel of researchers will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their research method and other thoughts about doing research on globally mobile families. With audience participation, they will identify needs for future studies.

    During the first concurrent session, The Research Network Panel, “Current Research on TCKs and their Education” features three researchers, Anastasia Lijadi, Katia Mace, and Erin Sinogba. They will be sharing their research on TCKs and International Schools representing comparative research models and various methodologies.

    Also, Research Network members are woven throughout the program:

    • Anne Copeland: Keynote Presentation
    • Ann Baker Cottrell, Alix Carnot, Amy Clare Tasker, Marielle de Spa, and Simone Torres Costa:  Concurrent Session Presentations
    • Kim Hunt, Joy O’Neill, and Ann Lessle: Kitchen Table Conversations
    • Maryam Afnan Ahmad, Maria Lobmart, Megan Norton, Terry Anne Wilson, and Jannecke Muyselaar-Jellema: Ignite Sessions
    • Ute Limacher-Riebold: Panel Discussions
    • Jane Barron, and Terry Anne Wilson Early Bird Writer’s Forum

    Details of the full program can be found here.

  • 02 Mar 2017 12:12 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The Families In Global Transition (FIGT) 2017 Conference in The Hague has various sessions and activities throughout the event that caters to all types of learning styles. From keynote speakers, to panels, to Ignite sessions, to networking in the hallways — there is a little bit of something for everyone. Panels are great because you get multiple experts in one room, at one time, talking about a large encompassing topic. Tapping into various perspectives helps to see different sides of a topic or issue. Panels tend to be thought-provoking and also provide a wonderful chance to pose questions to many experts at once. 

    The FIGT Annual Conference Saturday Panel - Finding Your Niche: Connecting a Multicultural Past to a Meaningful Present includes TCKs from Education, Humanitarian Aid, Health Care, and Communications disciplines. Please join Marilyn Gardner, Kilian Kröll, and Cliff Gardner for their panel as they share about their zig-zag journeys to finding their niche. Learn more about the panel and the presenters below. 

    Not yet participating in the conference? You still have time to register


    SATURDAY PANEL - March 25, 2017 | 3:10-4:10 pm

    Finding Your Niche: Connecting a Multicultural Past to a Meaningful Present Led by Marilyn Gardner, Kilian Kröll, and Cliff Gardner

    It has long been understood that third culture kids develop invisible skills in their multicultural habitats. When TCKs become adults they face the challenge of connecting those invisible skills to a visible occupation. This becomes their journeying reality and each journey is unique. While one TCK may end up a diplomat, another may live on a farm in Germany milking goats and living off the land. Both have found their niche. 

    In this session, we will listen to a panel of adult third culture kids as they recount how they found meaningful jobs and vocations that connected their past to their present. The two panelists and facilitator represent distinct disciplines – Education, Humanitarian Aid, Communications, and Health Care. While the session will begin with our panelists responding to specific questions, we will leave time for participants to both ask and respond to questions.


    Marilyn Gardner is an adult third culture kid who grew up in Pakistan, then lived as an adult in Pakistan and Egypt. She birthed five kids on three continents, and went on to raise them in Pakistan and Egypt before moving to the United States. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts working as a Public Health Nurse with underserved populations. Her first book, Between Worlds: Essays on Culture & Belonging, came out in July 2014. Her writing also appears in the book What a Woman is Worth, Among Worlds Magazine, and A Life Overseas. https://marilyngardner.net/


    The idea for the panel originated with a blog series that Marilyn did on her personal blog called "Finding Your Niche." Marilyn invited Adult TCKs to send in essays on how they found their niche in whatever sphere they were working. The result was a great set of essays from ATCKs who were in education, health care, writers, paralegals, and a number of other areas.  

    The original post is here: 


    Here is one of Marilyn's favorite from the series — but they are all good and different. 

    Finding my Niche - An Oxymoron by Cindy Brandt:


    Here is a re-cap on the "Finding you Niche" Series: 



    Kilian Kröll comes from a multicultural family of artists and teachers in four countries, who inspire him to use his cross-cultural understanding to help others grow and succeed. He received a BA in English & Queer Studies from Haverford College and an MA in Cultural Studies from the University of East London. He is an iPEC-accredited Certified Professional Coach as well as an Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner. Lilian was President of Families in Global Transition from 2014 - 2016.


    Killian’s current place of work, The American International School Vienna.

    Killian’s  #FIGT16NL opening & closing remarks on the FIGT blog.


    Cliff Gardner is currently the Senior Administrative Manager of Research in the Division of Nephrology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Prior to this position, he was the Administrative Officer for the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University from 2007-2011. He has over thirty years of experience living, working and traveling throughout the Middle East and South Asia. He and his wife, Marilyn, have five children born on three continents. 


    Thanks Marilyn, Killian, and Cliff for all your contributions to the community. We look forward to meeting you and hearing your panel presentation in March! 

  • 22 Feb 2017 7:53 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Naomi Hattaway is the founder of the I Am A Triangle community and social platform. She spent her formative years in the U.S. and India, among other places. A story we all know too well. PLUS, she is the kick-off Keynote Speaker for the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) 2017 Annual Conference taking place March 23-25th in The Hague, Netherlands. We can’t wait to see everyone together soon in such a wonderful location. (Btw, you can still register for the conference!) If you are already going or still trying to decide, this post will get you up to speed on the keynote session that kicks off the conference. Get ready to 1) get familiar with Naomi’s upcoming keynote presentation, 2) learn more about her work, and 3) watch a pre-recorded webinar hosted by Naomi for the FIGT community on March 8th. And don't forget to say hello to Naomi at the conference! 

    1. THURSDAY KEYNOTE PRESENTATION - March 23rd, 2017 at 10:10 AM

    Me Too! Lighting the Triangle Beacon – Why Finding Your Tribe Matters - Naomi Hattaway 

    Is your address book overflowing, containing the contact information for friends you have made from around the world? Yet, you find yourself wishing to surround yourself – in the current moment -- with like-minded individuals ready to share coffee, chat online about a success story in recent days, or meet people who could welcome you to your new city before you’ve even arrived in that postal code? Visualize a glowing beacon, an identifying sign, over the heads of the people who, like you, have explored this great big world and are better for it. Now envision being able to identify those people as you go about your day to day living. In this interactive keynote, we will explore eight practical ways to send YOUR beacon out into the world as well as how to find and maintain your tribe — filled with amazing individuals who say, “Me too!”


    Naomi Hattaway is the founder of the I Am A Triangle community and Executive Director of the I Am A Triangle resource site and social platform. She authored Delhibound: A Guide Book for Kids and owns 8th & Home Real Estate and Relocation. After living in several locations in the United States, her family moved overseas to Delhi, India where she learned to thrive in the midst of chaos. Following a one-year stint in Singapore, they are now back in the United States, and she has traipsed her way from Florida to Virginia and is now — for the time being — in Ohio. 

    Naomi is passionate about community building and empowering others to thrive, not just survive, in the places they call home. Intent to make an impact in the world – one zip code or postal code at a time, Naomi’s determined focus has culminated in the launch of the I Am A Triangle site, bringing the best of the best in the expat/life abroad space to one comprehensive location. I Am A Triangle exists to serve the large community of people connected by their mutual love and affinity with living their lives to the fullest, in global locations. 

    Here are some additional resources from Naomi that you can explore:  

    Check out the I Am a Triangle group on Facebook:


    Naomi's original I Am a Triangle blog post:


    A blogpost in the Wall Street Journal, Shaping Up in an Expat World: 


    3) UPCOMING WEBINAR: March 8th, Noon EST FIGT Platform

    PRE-RECORDED WEBINAR: Community Matters by Naomi Hathaway 

    Setting an intention to find your tribe to ensure the success of your next move.

    Finding your tribe and community is an integral part of the process of moving to a new location. In this webinar, we will be discussing the three most common reasons we often struggle with finding our tribe. We will work together on identifying strategies to overcome each of those reasons and pain points! Join us to learn what FUD means and how it impacts your life, as well as how important finding your tribe is to your health and wellness as well, and not just your social calendar!

    Thanks Naomi for all your contributions to the community. We look forward to meeting you and hearing your presentation in March! 

  • 16 Feb 2017 12:53 PM | Anonymous

    The first FIGT Tri-state affiliate meeting took place in New York city on Friday February 3rd. Participants came from the three neighboring states (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) to be part of this breakfast meeting. The atmosphere was the most friendly and relaxed. We were so proud of all the participants who were very welcoming to each other and engaging, it really felt like everyone already knew each other since a long time.

    The FIGT initiative was indeed welcomed with great enthusiasm, the participants had the opportunity to meet each other, connect and create new friendships. Additionally to the networking part, the event was moderated around the following discussion topic “From local community to a global family”. The attendees came up with some great insights and ideas when they were asked to reflect in small groups on the challenges of integration when arriving in a new country, and how global nomads can bring their international experience to contribute to their local communities.  

    We also presented FIGT’s mission statement, future conference in The Hague and invited attendees to take ownership of this platform, launch ideas and collaborative initiatives that can be beneficial to global individuals and families in the Tri-State area. We since received some great requests of participants willing to launch these initiatives and we will be following up with them to establish some guidelines and support them in making these ideas come to reality. We are very excited and thankful for the great positive energy all participants brought with them!

    We are looking forward to meeting them all again at the next event in March as well as welcoming newcomers. In fact, FIGT Tri-State gatherings will be rotated every month between the states of New Jersey, Connecticut and New York. If you live in the Tri-State area and are interested in joying us, sign up to our mailing list to received all the information you will need to attend our future events. Click here to sign up to the mailing list. We also have a Facebook group, feel free to join! 

    --Kat, Sandra and Amel

    Learn more about the New York Tri-State Affiliate

  • 10 Feb 2017 4:35 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This year's FIGT annual conference “Building on the Basics: Creating Your Tribe on the Move” will be held in The Hague on 23-25 March 2017. It is the second conference outside the U.S. and Families in Global Transition (FIGT) couldn’t be more thrilled at its continued success. Join us and share this excitement and enlightening experience!

    As we are more aware of the need to assess the quality of life for the entire family to support a successful international assignment, FIGT is boldly assuming the leadership mantle in this area. FIGT offers resources of support, mentorship, and scholarship, as well as a global conference to reinforce its commitment to the holistic well-being of families on global assignments.

    Whether in an established or in a new market, companies that invest require relocating employees into other countries to build capacity or meet a need. And with those employees often come their families. It is reported that many international assignments fail due to the lack of support of the household. In 2017, the FIGT annual conference is expanding European ties and building on its worldwide focus.

    FIGT is reaching out to companies, organizations, and individuals that are involved with the global expat community. FIGT is asking you to contribute to the success of international assignments, support its mission and give your organization a platform by attending this unique conference of like-minded individuals. The goal is to be a profound resource for families, build a global network of support and develop leadership in current and future generations.

    The 2017 conference will feature 66 renowned speakers representing all aspects of the expat experience. During the three days, it will revisit the basics: “What is the definition of an expat? A Third Culture Kid? A foreign assignment? High mobility? A global family?” The FIGT network of researchers, educators, counselors, relocation specialists, artists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, students, and parents will unpack the terms and frameworks that help make sense of global mobility’s impact on identity, career and community development. Through discussion about updating definitions, it will advance the understanding of cross-cultural and globally mobile communities in an age of profound cultural, economic and political complexity. If a universal basic need for our diverse communities is a sense of belonging, what are then the practical steps to finding your “tribe” and how can we help others do the same?

    Please visit the FIGT website www.FIGT.org and see just what FIGT can offer you. It is almost guaranteed: once you register and attend the conference, your global reality will never be the same!

    The FIGT team looks forward to seeing you in the Hague!

  • 29 Jan 2017 3:28 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT Program Director, Daniela Tomer, writes about finding her tribe on the move.

    We tend to hear stories shared when the cycle is completed: The story teller, usually looking back, is able to identify the dramatic moments of challenge, fear, anger, sadness, but he is here now, to tell the story and inspire how to overcome and complete the journey to reach a successful end.

    When you live a mobile life you are constantly breaking this cycle many times. Before you completed overcoming all the challenges of a new country, new language, new culture, new friends, new career, before you could proudly look back and see how much you have grown, you are thrown again to your next unexpected challenge.

    I am writing today in the middle of the storm; this Boston chapter of my story began less than five months ago. The transition is in process.

    My personal story begins in Buenos Aires. I am the second generation born in Argentina, to a family that was forced to immigrate from Eastern Europe. My grandparents were poor immigrants hoping for a better life, my parents were the generation that was assigned to fulfill their dreams. And they did. I was born to educated, hard working parents that proudly adopted the local culture and felt safe until again history pushed them to become refugees, traveling all over Europe in order to find a welcoming place, until we settled in Israel.

    Israel, an amazing melting pot of cultures and origins, welcomed us in a way that I will always be grateful for. In my current nomad life, I often look back and appreciate the warmth and the power of the Israeli community.

    This was my first international experience: Israel as a nation was my first international education environment, there were others like me, coming from other places, there were other accents, there were other parents not as fluent in Hebrew, it was a place that wanted to hug you fast and make you “local” in no time. So I did. I became Israeli, adopting not only the language but the culture, lifestyle and values. I served two years in the IDF, studied at the University and became a clinical psychologist. I married my wonderful Israeli husband, had my four kids. It could have been the end of the story. I found my home, and as an immigrant manage to build a strong enough local identity to feel at home and belong.

    Opportunity and Challenge are many times two sides of the same coin. My husband was working for a few years in an international company, we were offered many times to move abroad. He was excited. He had studied abroad in his past, it was an amazing opportunity for his career, it was his dream. Not mine.

    We took a chance and followed his dream.

    A new chapter: Belgium. I had my personal experience of transitioning, I knew what it can take, but this time it was different. It was not immigrating, it was transitioning to an expat community, a community of nomads. As an immigrant you are expected to assimilate with the local community, but in such a diverse community where do you belong?

    This is where the importance of your tribe becomes so valuable. In the expat world, the country of origin tends to be your first aid tribe. It can be a blessing and a curse, again the same two sides of just another coin. Within your country-of-origin tribe you can instantly feel at home, everything is familiar and easy.

    But what about the advantages of opening up to other languages, cultures, people? Well, this is the curse side — if it is too comfortable why would you challenge your comfort zone?

    Indeed, many of the non-native, English-speaking communities unintentionally tend to close themselves to others. I was lucky to have the support of the Israeli community but was also invited to be part of the Latin American community, my Argentinian identity that had been pushed aside while adopting the Israeli identity was given a chance to flourish.

    That was my second supportive tribe, still a challenge, after all even though Spanish is my mother tongue, I’d been living most of my life in Hebrew! Luckily this group was the most welcoming, non-judgmental tribe, encouraging and inclusive.

    So with two supportive tribes someone can assume that it will be an easy transition, right?

    Well, when you live your life in a place that operates in French or Flemish, your kids are going to an English-speaking school, a language that at that point they didn't speak, your support groups are in Hebrew and Spanish, and your profession relies on language abilities, it can be complicated….

    There was not much of a choice — I had to learn French. Again, you have to be at the end of the cycle to enjoy it, but the journey can be painful. None of these three languages would really give access to the heart of the expat community that I then realized, was the community that we were invited to join.

    So how can you find your way into a community that communicates in what sounds to you like perfect English, when all you have is the English as a second language you learned at school, which for you is actually your third language, while you are trying to acquire a fourth language to communicate with the locals? How can you feel comfortable enough, to believe that you can actually make friends, work and sound yourself in another language?

    This is where the common language of sports became the bridge to the English-speaking community in Brussels.

    Sports had been part of my life since I was young, when we first  arrived in Israel it was my way to feel confident in a new reality where for the first time I lost my ability to communicate. A ball was just a ball, you pass, you throw, you score, you don’t have to say a word. Without many words you can belong to a team, feel included and enjoying some sense of familiarity.

    I am not a sporty person, I am a social sporty person. I used to run with my Saturday morning running group only for the coffee after. I applied the same philosophy when we moved: I joined a women's basketball team that later on became my best friends and many times the motivation was the beer afterwards.

    Knowing so well how it relaxed me, I was looking for the same for my kids. The Brussels Sports Association is a volunteer-based organization that offers team sports for the English-speaking community in Brussels. Every skill level is welcome and the coaches are parent volunteers.

    I was asked to help with coaching, once again intimidated by many coaches that seemed to know much more about sport and English than me. My first reaction was: I can’t. It ended up being: “You either do it or your son can’t play.”

    One thing is very clear when you are on the move, the wellbeing of your kids is extremely important. So encouraged by my English-speaking women’s basketball tribe I took the chance. My first “job” in English was as an assistant soccer coach for a U8 team.

    It was an opportunity for my kids to join a very inclusive, welcoming and open environment, where they could run and play and feel less disadvantaged by their lack of knowledge of the language because the way to express yourself is by playing. At the same time I was given the opportunity to lead, plan, communicate and rebuild my confidence in a foreign language. BSA became my English-speaking tribe and the bridge to what led me into a wonderful journey of reinventing myself.

    I am very grateful to all my supporting tribes along the way, so for this reason I am looking forward to reconnecting with the FIGT tribe at the 2017 Families in Global Transition Conference  in Den Haag.

    Daniela Tomer has an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Tel Aviv University, she is a Mediator, Coach and Trainer. She has lived in Latin America, Israel, Europe and since August 2016, Boston USA. She is fluent in English, Spanish and Hebrew and speaks basic French. Daniela has worked professionally as a Clinical Psychologist, in the field of Psychotherapy and Psychological Evaluation and in the past 8 years dedicated most of her time to work with families and organizations in global transition. She is currently serving on the Board of FIGT as Program Director.

  • 15 Jan 2017 1:42 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    For years I followed the Families in Global Transition conferences at a distance. I checked their participants, programs, events, tried to grasp the atmosphere. Having been an expat for more than half of my life, this event looked unique to me: nowhere else before had I come across something so structured and stimulating for mobile individuals and families

    Unfortunately, the venues of the conferences were always in the States. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that the 2016 conference was going to be in Amsterdam instead, a destination I could finally reach. 

    I booked my place to be just part of the public, but my colleagues pushed me to present Expatclic.com, the website I created years ago and that is an intrinsic part of my experience abroad. I was then flattered and moved when Colleen Reichrath-Smith invited me to speak in a session on Growing a Global Business with a Community. Participating in a FIGT conference was already a dream come true, but being part of such a panel brought me absolutely to the sky. 

    The conference was great, for many reasons: It was the perfect way to meet like-minded people and the atmosphere was inclusive and warm; it gave me a lot of inspiration for my future; it introduced me to many interesting people, books and initiatives; it gave me space to stop and reflect about my personal and professional life; it gave me ideas to develop.

    However, three are the things that really made the difference for me:

    1.   For three consecutive days I was able to walk around and talk to complete strangers without having to explain anything at all: mobile life, its richness, pain, implications and nuances, was the real protagonist of the conference. Knowing that no words were needed to explain the complexity of my life as an expat was an immense relief;

    2.   For years I have been working online, and virtually met loads of interesting people. Thanks to the amazing variety of public it can reach, this conference gave me the chance to meet many of them in person. I could hug the first woman who ever asked me to write about my experience abroad and see face-to-face lots of women with whom I had corresponded or worked through the years. This has been an enormous plus. It shows that this conference is not only a place where you can intellectually recharge your batteries or find useful material and contacts, but it also offers a huge and warm human capital;  

    3.   Mostly and foremost, though, what I took away from FIGT16NL was a seed planted by Christopher O’Shaughnessy during his keynote speech. While all speeches and presentations were interesting, Chris’ one touched the audience profoundly and let us go with a renewed sense of purpose in our expat experience. In a few words Chris made us shift the perspective to give us awareness of how deeply meaningful the expat experience can be, and how it can be constructively used to actively participate in making the world a better place.

    After the conference a colleague of mine who was also in attendance, wrote a beautiful piece entitled What Expats Co Do: bringing hope to the world about the feelings Chris’ speech provoked. We talked about it a lot. We exchanged impressions, compared our experiences abroad under a new light. We felt this invigorating turmoil needed and could be channelled into something constructive and good. Something that, while helping ourselves to live our life in contact with different cultures more deeply, could also stimulate others to reflect on the treasures mobile life gives us, and how to use them.

    This is how What Expats Can Do was born. 

    The main goal of the project is to encourage expats to stop and think of how they can use their experience abroad in a more meaningful and creative way to contribute to the stock of empathy and hope of this world, which, as Chris says, is running dangerously low nowadays.

    It is a big challenge, because its practical implications touch such a wide spectrum of life situations that it gets sometimes difficult to explain. We launched the website of the project in October and since then we have been collecting positive initiatives that we believe show how expats can spread empathy and hope in their communities.  We would like to grow this project as a collector of information, contacts, ideas, initiatives and whatever is related to empathy, and turn it into a reference point for expats who want to challenge themselves in the difficult task of giving their hope contribution to the society.

    What place would be better to present What Expats Can Do than the one where its seed was planted? This is why we are going to talk about it at 2017 FIGT conference, where we once more have the honor to speak, and this year’s theme, “Building on the Basics: Creating Your Tribe on the Move” is a perfect match.

    A tribe on the move needs a sense of belonging: Sharing the common purpose of using our experience abroad to make the world a better place seems to us the best way to find one.

    Claudia Landini is a cross-cultural trainer and mobile career coach. She has lived in nine countries over five continents. Twelve years ago she created Expatclic.com, and since then she has been writing about her life abroad and helping expat women in many ways. She is also the creator of Expatwomen at work, a community platform for professional expat women, co-creator of Expatbooks.org, a virtual library of books written by and for expats, and Expatatable, a cultural/culinary portal on gastronomies all over the world. She currently lives in Jakarta, Indonesia.  

  • 10 Jan 2017 1:57 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    FIGT17NL is proud to present “Spotlight on our Speakers Series.” We will be showcasing our network of researchers, educators, counselors, relocation specialists, artists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, students and parents that will be speaking at our annual conference.  

    To get us started, we’re delighted to welcome Kristin Duncombe, who is a strong supporter of Families in Global Transition and one of the first to sign up to attend. We asked her what makes the FIGT conference so special and in answer, she beautifully explores the role and importance of sharing both in her life and her work.


    As a practicing psychotherapist AND the author of two memoirs, I am accustomed to people asking, “how do you deal with exposing all that personal information, for all to see – including your clients?!”

    I did think about this a lot before my first book, Trailing, came out, and though I could not know for sure how it would feel to throw open the windows on my life, I did know one thing for sure:  My need to publish the book was greater than my need to protect my privacy.  And so I launched the book, with a note to readers in the back that explained, among other things, that I was “compelled to tell my story…because of the way the personal and professional are ultimately woven together. A therapist is, before anything else, just another human being with his or her unique history. My firsthand understanding of some of the issues described in this book, such as trauma, depression, anxiety, and relational struggles informs the work I do with clients today.”

    Since taking that risk, and then doing it all over again by releasing a second book that was equally personal, I can unequivocally say that exposing my life experiences has not only not hurt my therapy practice, but has helped it.  I am convinced that the psychoanalytic model of therapist as an anonymous blank slate upon which patients project their fantasies is passé, and that increasingly, what people seek, in addition to insight, is the knowledge that they are not alone, that there are universal experiences that bind us human beings together through the understanding of shared experience. Although my books are never the focus in the therapy sessions I conduct, my clients will sometimes say, “I know you really do understand what I mean by X,Y, or Z, as you wrote about that in your book.”

    Being understood.  Being recognized.  These are particularly poignant and necessary elements for those of us that comprise the TCK global family. So many of the adaptation crises that arise for us global nomads springs from the sense of not belonging.  Although there are always exceptions to the rule, what if we all flung our windows open more frequently?  I believe in so doing we would optimize our chances to find ourselves in others, and what could be greater than that?

    Kristin Duncombe is an American writer and psychotherapist who has lived in Europe since 2001. She has based her career on working with international and expatriate families following her own experience of growing up overseas as the child of a US diplomat, and having lived internationally most of her adult life.

    She is the author of Trailing: A Memoir and Five Flights Up, both memoirs that address, among other things, the specific challenges and idiosyncracies of the expat existence.

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