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 contact admin@figt.org for more details.
  • 06 Oct 2016 12:07 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    by Lisa Ferland

    Pregnant expatriate women must often evaluate contrasting information and interpret well-meaning but confusing advice throughout pregnancy and into parenthood. There are, in fact, no internationally accepted norms: women around the world follow different medical recommendations during pregnancy and are given conflicting instructions regarding consumption of alcohol, caffeine intake, the level of daily exercise, the number of prenatal scans, blood tests, appropriate weight gain, and childbirth recommendations.

    A pregnant woman in Turkey was refused ice in her water because Turks are superstitious about allowing any part of a pregnant woman's body to get cold. When local customs differ greatly from what you are accustomed to, you tend to dismiss them as unnecessary. However, most of them can be traced back to cultural traditions or beliefs. Expat mothers may not understand the history behind the pregnancy recommendations, but I'm sure there is a reason. Right?

    Often, your doctor or midwife's best advice is, " you should listen to your body." In the book, What to Expect When Expecting, the main theme is something like, "Every woman is different and what is normal for you is totally normal," (I'm paraphrasing, of course). With fluffy feel good self-affirming recommendations, you realize that there is no hard evidence behind the majority of pregnancy recommendations. As the Dutch say, "Just act normal—that's crazy enough."

    For the expat woman, absorbing numerous pregnancy recommendations based on cultural norms can lead down a complicated maze of decision making. "Should I do things the way my mother did them back "home" or does my local country have a better approach?" Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing, and that uncertainty can lead to increased stress and anxiety which is not good - the one recommendation that all countries do agree on is the importance of reducing maternal stress.

    Birthing practices around the world also differ, ranging from highly medicalized approaches to low-intervention, home birth or midwife-driven practices. Cesarean section rates can be used as an indicator for the level of medical intervention. Turkey has the highest C-section rate of 50.4/100 live births and the Netherlands with the lowest of 15.6/100 live births (2).

    So, given the variety of practices and definitions of is normal, what is an expat mother to do? Should she dunk her baby's umbilical cord in a warm bath every night as her Thai doctor instructed or keep it dry and swab it with alcohol as her US doctor directed? Does it even matter? For the majority of healthy pregnancies, the answer is no. These recommendations that are not based on scientific evidence are cultural guidelines. If you experience medical complications during your pregnancy, then you want to feel comfortable that your medical team can provide the appropriate level of care for you and your baby.

    To prepare for having a baby abroad, conduct a lot of research and have conversations with other women about their experiences with giving birth in that country. Every woman's experience, even for the woman herself, will be different with every child, but it is good to collect a wide range of stories to prepare yourself for what might happen. Ask questions and take pregnancy recommendations with a grain of salt. The more we learn about what other women deem "normal" during pregnancy, the less we need to be concerned that we are doing something wrong. There is no perfect approach to pregnancy and childbirth, and each woman is unique. 

    Don't let the nine full months of pregnancy be a time of stress, worry, and anxiety as you navigate this vulnerable time abroad. Keep asking questions, mentally preparing, and rubbing that belly. Just be sure you don't let your Turkish neighbors see you eating ice cream lest you risk their wrath.

    For more stories about pregnancy, birth, and childrearing abroad that challenge preconceived notions about motherhood, be sure to read 26 women's stories in Knocked Up Abroad Again. Currently only available on Kickstarter.

    Lisa Ferland is a public health consultant, writer, editor, publisher, and mother of two adorable children. She has lived in Sweden with her husband and two children who enjoy picking blueberries and mushrooms in the forests. Read more at Knocked Up Abroad.


  • 30 Sep 2016 5:56 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

     

    Vivian Chiona

    As we move around the world, we are often confronted with the need to communicate in a foreign language. FIGT member Vivian Chiona has written apost on this topic on her blog, Expat Nest. In it, she describes the difficulties language barriers presents us, and offers a list of helpful pointers on how to master language anxiety. Read the full article at www.expatnest.com/dealing-language-barrier-expat/

    Vivian Chiona, founder and director of Expat Nest, is a psychologist with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, as well as Master’s degrees in both Child & Adolescent Psychology and Health Psychology. 


  • 23 Sep 2016 3:29 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Rebecca Grappo

    Many families find, to their dismay, that the needs of their exceptional children may not be easily met in a foreign environment. 

    In our years of experience working with internationally mobile families and their children, many have found that with careful planning and coordination, their children have wonderful educational opportunities in either international or local schools. But this is too important to be left to chance. Thus, preparation and investigation is key to a student’s ultimate success overseas.

    There are many factors to consider, therefore, if a family is contemplating an overseas assignment when it involves a child with special needs.  Here are my “Top Ten” tips for those considering such an assignment.

    1. If you live in a country with reputable psychologists who can thoroughly evaluate your child’s learning needs, be sure to have updated psycho-educational testing done for your child before you leave your home country. Know and understand the diagnosis and what the recommendations are to meet your child’s needs. These recommendations are usually a combination of home and school interventions.
    2. Identify schools in the new location of the assignment to see which schools might be able to meet the recommendations. Remember that just because a school might say it accepts students with special needs doesn’t mean they are equipped to deal with ALL kinds of special needs. Some may accept mild learning needs only; others may be able to work with moderate needs. In my experience, it is not easy to find a school that can work with severe special needs. Engage in a dialogue with the receiving school before accepting the assignment, not after.
    3. Find out who the personnel are who are delivering the special needs services. What are their qualifications? Where were they trained? How long do they expect to be in country – forever, because they live there, or are they also expats who will be moving on one day?
    4. Investigate how services are delivered. Is it a study hall with homework help? Are they teaching learning strategies for overcoming certain needs? Does the school have specialists on staff for extra reading or math help? How often will your child/teen be in the learning support classroom each day or week? How receptive are the other teachers in the school to making accommodations or modifications to the curriculum? Are they cooperative or see working with special needs students as an extra burden?
    5. If your child needs certain medications, will these medications be available at your destination? Certain prescription drugs, for example those that might be used for ADHD, might not be available locally and there are limits to how much can be brought into the country at one time.
    6. What about other therapies? Some students need physical therapy, mental health counseling, occupational therapy, speech and language, etc.  Will these be available through the school or will the family be expected to find these independently in the community? Again, look for the training of those delivering the services and their ability to take on new students or clients.
    7. Some families consider homeschooling to meet their children’s educational needs. If this is an option that your family considers, then investigate how your child might get the socialization that is also crucial to development. In the United States, for example, many homeschoolers find peer groups in their own community, but this homeschooling community may not exist in the country of destination. Also, homeschooling is illegal in some countries, so make sure that this is addressed before you embark on this path.
    8. Will the school you have identified actually accept your child and deliver the services promised at the time of acceptance? I would strongly encourage to get any agreements in writing in order to be sure that everyone is on board with the school acceptance and services needed.
    9. Ask how the school will communicate with you with regards to your child’s goals and progress. In the U.S., public schools write Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, that define the goals, milestones and methods to achieve those markers. Will the school write some kind of agreement like this? How often will they communicate with you regarding your child’s progress? Will parents be welcome to collaborate with the school or will they be kept at arm’s length?
    10. Finally, if you find that your child’s needs cannot be met at any school in your country of assignment, maybe it would be in your child’s or teen’s best interest to exercise the boarding school option. All children need to be in an accepting, supportive, and encouraging environment where their needs will be met. For a developing adolescent, this becomes even more critical. To not receive this kind of educational environment could significantly impact the adolescent’s opportunities and even desire for post-secondary university or vocational education.

    Rebecca Grappo, M.Ed, is a Certified Educational Planner and the founder of RNG International Educational Consultants, LLC. She and her daughter, Michelle (who is trained as a school psychologist) work with students and families around the world to help them find the right educational setting to meet their children’s needs. This includes placement for all kinds of boarding schools, therapeutic schools and programs, university planning, and planning for post-secondary options for students with special needs. You can learn more about their services at www.rnginternational.com or write them at info@rnginternational.com.


  • 16 Sep 2016 10:26 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Are you an aspiring or established writer, with a passionate curiosity for global family issues? Do you want to develop further? Apply for the Parfitt Pascoe Residency at our upcoming 2017 Conference.

    Each year Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residencies are awarded to four budding writers by providing partial scholarships to the FIGT Conference. The name has been chosen to honour the trailblazing writing work of Expat Expert Robin Pascoe and the ongoing commitment to support new writers of Jo Parfitt of Summertime Publishing.

    The four successful scholars will be selected on merit and receive:

    • Free tuition from Jo Parfitt prior to the conference on how to write articles for the global market and how to place them with publications. This will be conducted by means of an 8-session online course, completed by email, prior to the conference.
    • Free mentoring from Jo Parfitt, a journalist who has specialised in expatriate issues for decades and edited three magazines. Mentoring will occur by Skype prior to conference.
    • Editing of your work prior to publication on the FIGT website, blog and newsletter.
    • Partial scholarships to the conference
    • Publication of your work, with byline, in FIGT media.

    In exchange for subsidized entry, the writing scholars are obliged to provide:

    • Coverage of all FIGT sessions according to the designated format.
    • At least six articles and six blog posts about the conference within a pre-agreed deadline.
    • The provision of the conference coverage text by a pre-agreed deadline.
    A commitment to fulfil obligations.


  • 08 Sep 2016 8:41 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Virginie Raguenaud

    Raising a bilingual child— either from birth or after a relocation—is a necessity for many of us with mobile lifestyles. We want to keep family ties intact and share our cultural selves with our children. However, it’s a common misconception that children will simply pick up languages if they’re exposed to them. It takes commitment and creativity at home and in our communities for children to learn and, more importantly, maintain two or more languages.

    To help us, here’s a list of 10 recommendations from childhood bilingualism experts and parents who have successfully raised bilingual children.  

    1)         Make our family’s languages relevant to our daily lives.

    The first thing we need to do is to keep speaking our native language daily. “The undeniable need to communicate is sufficient motivation to make a child speak one or more languages, but it is also absolutely indispensable,” writes Traute Taschner, the author of The Sun is Feminine. It’s important for us to use our native language not just during cuddle moments or during scolding sessions, but during fun and varied activities and outings to broaden our children’s vocabulary.

    2)         Be consistent with language choice.

    As Professor Fred Genesee points out, “Young children often react badly to inconsistent or irregular exposure to language; they like consistency. Thus, if parents decide to raise their child bilingual, they should do so only if they can provide continuous and extended exposure to both languages…Children need long term exposure to language if they are to develop full competence.”

    3)         Expose children to a variety of activities in their native language.

    In Bilingual by Choice I've included a list of 100 activities to do at home and in the community to practice language skills. The idea is to give children opportunities to hear and interact in the native language to build up their confidence and self-esteem, and develop a rich vocabulary.

    4)         Help children find peers who speak the same language.

    Their native language has to be socially relevant for them to keep speaking it. For some families it can mean inviting a close cousin or friend from back home to stay with you during the summer months. Personal relationships provide a way for children to maintain and progress in their native language, but also bring a sense of pride in their cultural background.

    5)         Give children access to books in their native language.

    As Professor Ellen Bialystok writes, "There's a lot of worry out there about other languages conflicting with a child's ability to learn to read in English, but that's absolutely not the case - Parents should not hesitate to share their native language with their children - it's a gift."

    6)         Provide a form of bilingual education to stay bilingual.

    According to Professor Colin Baker, “Bilingual children must be biliterate for their languages to have value, uses, and prospects… Biliteracy aids chances of employment, achievement, and enculturation.”

    7)         Elevate the status of our native languages.

    One bilingual parent and California resident Rey M. Rodriguez writes, “I want my children to be proud of who they are, and to help them, I need a community that signals that Spanish is important in their lives. It amazes me that a two-year old boy can already grasp that English is the dominant language and that Spanish is secondary and less valued.”

    There are more than 60,000,000 of us in the U.S. who speak another language than English at home, so I believe there is strength in numbers.

    8)         Build a strong support network because we can’t do it alone.

    It's important to lean on friends and family, teachers and community leaders who can remind children that bilingualism opens doors. As Professor François Grosjean writes, “Children do not acquire (or only partly acquire) the minority language if there isn’t community or educational support, or other motivational factors that make using the language a natural thing.”

    9)         Promote and reinforce our cultural values with our children.

    Research shows that children have a better chance of growing up bilingual if they have a strong sense of ethnic pride. It’s important for children to be aware of their heritage and active in the traditions of their cultures.

    And last, but not least,

    10)       Help our children successfully integrate their cultural identities.

    As most of you know, the identity development of a soon-to-be bilingual and bicultural child is a complex issue. According to Dugan Romano, the author of Intercultural Marriage, "The secret - to raising bicultural children - appears to lie in the parents' ability to encourage open discussion of the children's mixed heritage, as well as the opportunity given the children to develop positive relationships with both cultural or racial groups."


    Virginie Raguenaud is the author of Bilingual By Choice: Raising kids in two (or more!) languages, published by Intercultural Press. Virginie recently completed her master’s degree in intercultural relations, with a focus on second language acquisition and the identity development of multicultural children. She is raising her ten-year-old twin daughters in French and English.    


  • 02 Sep 2016 4:04 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    For first time attendees, FIGT has a special Scholarship: the Pollock Scholarship. Winners of this award receive free registration and a small stipend for travel expenses.

    Honoring the memory of David C. Pollock, international educator, minister, sociologist, and co-author of “Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds,” this scholarship aims to attract, involve and inspire emerging, global-minded, intercultural leaders.

    Attending the FIGT conference is an opportunity to build your network and resources and share your passion. We are looking to support individuals who can contribute to our community of globally mobile families with fresh research, ideas, tools and programs.

    FIGT is known as a warm and welcoming community. Attending one our conferences is a unique opportunity to engage with thought leaders across a broad spectrum of specialties and sectors.

    Learn more see http://figt.org/2017_Scholarship_App


  • 30 Aug 2016 7:05 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Sign up for the FIGT Newsletter mailing list to automatically receive regular emails from FIGT. It’s a convenient way to stay updated with events, read interesting articles and stay informed about new developments and the latest research.

    Please note: Signing up for the FIGT Newsletter does not mean that you become a member of FIGT nor receive membership benefits.

    But by signing up, you get breaking news about our next conference, monthly webinars and what's happening in the FIGT community.



  • 29 Jul 2016 5:41 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Most of us agree that so much is gained from our global experiences, and also that we cannot ignore the loss and grief it also brings along. At FIGT 2016, Ruth Van Reken explained that she and her friends had hoped their kitchen table talks would allow them, one day, to travel to a conference addressing the topics that a globally mobile lifestyle brings. Not only did her dream come to fruition, but the table expanded beyond expectations into an ever-expanding tent. At FIGT 2016, each presenter allowed us to connect through stories. Not only did they bring us empathy and expertise, they also brought us hope and dreams.

    In the following four blogs, Valerie highlights the lessons she learned from each keynote speaker, as well as from Doug Ota’s presentation which especially resonated with her as a teacher.

    http://www.valeriebesanceney.com/figt-2016-lesson-i-nakedness-empathy-and-letters-never-arrived/

    http://www.valeriebesanceney.com/figt-2016-lesson-2-rock-stars-and-the-stories-that-shape-us/

    http://www.valeriebesanceney.com/figt-2016-lesson-3-dreams-and-hopes/

    http://www.valeriebesanceney.com/figt-2016-lesson-iv-we-bond-where-we-are-broken/       

    Originally Dutch, Valérie Besanceney grew up internationally and taught primary school on four continents. Currently, she lives and works in Switzerland with her husband and their two daughters. Her interest in the topic of third culture kids spurred her on to write stories children who move can identify with. Her first book B at Home: Emma Moves Again, is a fictional memoir about a ten-year-old girl who has to move yet again. Her second book, My Moving Booklet, is a workbook that serves as a tool for children to explore their feelings about an upcoming move and to write their own ‘moving’ story.


  • 29 Jul 2016 5:11 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Share your expertise, experience and knowledge by submitting a proposal to speak at one of our conferences.

    By leading a session, you’ll have the opportunity to:

    • Tap into a highly connected consortium of globally minded, cross-sector colleagues and clients
    • Interact and share your expertise with attendees throughout the conference
    • Have your photo and biography included in the promotional materials for the conference
    • Speaker page on our website
    • Conference program booklet
    • Conference app
    • Wear a name tag highlighting your speaker status

    There are a wide variety of session formats to choose from, including:

    • Concurrent Sessions: Interactive, practice-based, solution-oriented workshops or presentations that appeal to attendees across sectors. (60 mins)
    • Ignite Sessions: Dynamic, structured talks allow presenters to share big ideas quickly to all conference attendees. (6 mins)
    • Kitchen Table Conversations: Lively, interactive, brief presentations/conversations about a focused, practical topic, designed to expose conference attendees to a range of ideas and presenters. (25 mins)
    • Panel Discussions: Expert panels can be an effective way to consolidate knowledge and lead a conversation across sectors and areas of experience/expertise. (60 mins)
    • Keynote Speeches: High-level lecture, presentation or performance, followed by Q&A. (60 mins)

     If you’re willing to share your leading-edge research, expertise and experience; raise big questions; and create practical tools for global families -- in all their variations -- then we’d like to hear from you!

    Visit the 2017 Request for Proposals page on our website for full details and an application form.

  • 23 Jul 2016 10:09 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Karen A. Wrobbel has published an article in Evangelical Missions Quarterly on a topic of interest to many of our readers. 

    Though many globally mobile families choose international schools for their children's education, some, especially in the missions community where there are long term stays in given locations, use the host country national schools. Students who have studied in these schools may face unique transition issues as they return to their homeland. This article discusses seven issues for families to address in this situation. Though the focus is on members of the missions community and return to the United States, members with other backgrounds may find it helpful. 

    The article is currently available without login at:

     https://emqonline.com/node/3522

    Karen A. Wrobbel, EdD, lived and worked internationally for more than twenty years in roles that included teacher, administrator, school board member, and agency-wide coordinator for children’s education. Currently, she is associate professor of education at Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL, USA). She also serves as associate (volunteer) staff with SHARE Education Services, an organization that helps expatriate families living in Europe, Russia and Central Asia with their children’s educational needs.


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