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.

  • 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.

  • 25 Nov 2016 5:25 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Interview by Catarina Queiroz

    Michael Pollock. Son of Third Culture Kid (TCK) pioneer David Pollock. Middle child. Teacher. School head. Coach, trainer and presenter. Also father of three, husband and Adult TCK. Describing himself as an introvert but undoubtedly a great networker, Michael was born in Long Island, New York. Before he was eight he lived in three different states and by the time he turned nine Africa was his home. He knew early on he wanted to do something that meant using his cross-cultural skills to connect with people. Teaching felt like the best option. “I also thought it would be a very flexible profession regarding where I would end up on the globe,” he elaborates. After getting married in 1990, he took a teaching position in Baltimore and from there the whole family moved to China for nine years. He repatriated in 2012 and now lives in Michigan, US working as Director of Daraja, providing transition support and leadership formation to cross-cultural young adults.

    ‘Place of the Wind’

    Michael recalls fondly the part of his childhood spent in Kijabe, Kenya. Meaning ‘place of the wind’ in Maasai, Kijabe is a town on the edge of the Great Rift Valley at an altitude of 2200 m. With a lot of coves to explore, wild animals to chase and general beauty to admire, Michael describes it as “a great place to be a kid”. He lived at a mission station and attended an international school, so there was no shortage of children to play with. His father taught at a Bible college and put a lot of work into the Kenyan church, while his mother – Betty Lou – worked at a nursing school. They were supposed to be there six years, but their stay was shortened to three due to changes in his father’s work. “This was one of my disappointments,” Michael confesses. He did have a chance to revisit Kenya on and off throughout the years, however, and is still in touch with friends there.

    One trip in particular, part of his senior college year, brings back vivid memories. He went to live in a Maasai village for a month, to benefit from a cross-cultural experience. What did he do there? one might wonder, at a remote African village, cut off from the world. “I just did whatever they were doing!” he exclaims. “I helped herd cattle. I roasted meat. I attended two weddings,” he explains, before concluding: “They really embraced me!”

    His eyes are dreamy as he recalls one particular incident: “We walked home one night through the lion country and realized the lions were hunting. I was worried and asked ‘what will we do?’ They replied: ‘We’re just going to pray and walk!’ It was an 18 km walk. There was a full moon and when the zebra ran the dust was flying up,” he describes, painting an image with his words. “We made it!” After this “very formative” experience he went back to the US with a full heart and ready to dive into his teaching work.  

    Life in China

    Michael's move to China practically coincided with his father’s death, in the spring of 2004. For the next couple of years, he did presentations on TCKs. “I was sharing his legacy and of others like Ruth van Reken, Ruth Useem and Norma McCaig,” he says. His role as an educator also shifted from elementary education teaching, curriculum development and school directing to supervising a project that linked international schools together: The Odyssey ISC.

    The goals of this project were twofold:

    1.     Bring together what the schools were doing independently, and

    2.     Build character, develop leaders and serve the community.

    Michael had a double role of advocacy and planning at Odyssey because he was responsible for communicating with the board of directors and planning the projects that united the schools. He trained people on different campuses to create community programs. For example, one of the Chinese schools began a relationship with a Philippine school and from there they developed common goals. As always in the case of International Schools, the biggest challenge was continuity because of the high mobility turnover. The experience Michael gained from Odyssey was invaluable and later applied to his Families in Global Transition (FIGT) and Daraja work.

    China was also the place where the family grew. After two years living there, everyone spoke a bit of Chinese and felt more or less adjusted. His kids, Abigail and Steffen, attended the International School and Michael’s wife, Kristen volunteered at a local orphanage. There she found an amazing little girl they all fell in love with. Through a truly miraculous process involving a lot of bureaucracy and goodwill they managed to officially adopt RoAnna Mei – Mei for ‘beautiful’. Several happy years went by after that. In 2012, however, things began to change. The two older kids were looking into college, some health issues came up for Michael, his wife wanted to consider new work options and both were faced with the issue of ageing parents. It felt as if the circumstances were pulling them in only one direction and they decided it was time to repatriate.

    FIGT: Exposure, Advocacy & Connection

    Historically, Michael’s collaboration with FIGT started in 2012, when he returned from China. He was invited by Ruth van Reken to go to the conference in the fall, but was unsure about it. Nowadays Michael feels a debt of gratitude towards Ruth for pursuing him. “I am deeply grateful for the open welcome of FIGT, for the chance of meeting so many wonderfully gifted individuals that want to help globally mobile people,” he says.

    Michael sums up FIGT’s mission in three core concepts:

    1. Exposure: FIGT is about sharing the questions we have and the research that still needs to be done. It’s important to reflect on how this can be achieved: “Where can those be shared and drawn together for the greater good of the globally mobile everywhere, in such a way that this replicates within the global community?” he asks.
    2. Advocacy: Transition care and tools are key. “My role in FIGT was also the advocacy for care,” he states, recalling how dear this concept was to his father and others involved in global mobility support. We should set aside time to consider the flow of care in global transition: “How can we care well for mobile people? What do they need?” are some of the questions we should be bringing forward.
    3. Connection: “FIGT is a nexus organization,” Michael explains, emphasizing the Latin word for ‘binding together’. “Who do we bind? What can we accomplish together better than on our own?” he questions, pointing out Doug Ota’s Safe Passage project as a good example of a ‘nexus’ initiative. It’s also good to ask “who’s missing from the FIGT table?” For example, are immigrants and refugees represented?

    Repatriation Completed

    Michael ended up settling in Michigan, next to the lake, strategically close to his wife’s parents and his mother. He was surprised to find out there is a good number of TCKs in the surrounding area, all the way up to Chicago, only four hours away by car. Back in his home country, he felt the urge to start working on an additional vision, caring for young TCKs who recently graduated from high school and are thinking about the next steps. This turned out to be a real need because nothing similar was being done in the US.

    The big challenge this project brought up was finding ways to partner up with organizations in the passport country to help students through this very specific transition phase. So after a year of reflection and planning, Daraja was born, providing services like one-to-one transition coaching for students and organizing events for TCKs like re-entry retreats and seminars, among other initiatives. After a pilot run, the organization of a bridge semester is currently being considered and tested. For Michael, Daraja is the natural culmination of his life story and work and what he wants to dedicate himself to at the moment.

    Advice for TCKs

    Using the 3D glasses metaphor, Michael gives TCKs some valuable advice: “Don’t ever let someone put you into a box that’s only challenges and needs! There is also wonderful potential and gifts.”

    It’s important to be three dimensional when you analyse your mobile life story. Seeing things in a flat 2D perspective will leave you stuck and maybe even bitter. In Michael’s words, “we must catch a glimpse of the whole picture to bring depth to our experiences and future. Look into the challenges and into the gifts – ‘and’ is the binding element!”

    Michael finishes the interview with an anecdote: “Recently I had an offer to move to another city and work at a university.” This opportunity made him realize he doesn’t feel like going mobile again at this stage of his life. “I turned it down and ended up coining the term ‘transition fatigue’,” he says. “Transition fatigue…” he repeats with an enigmatic smile. “I’ve seen the expression turn up in a couple of blogs since I first used it! It’s not that I’m tired of moving, I’m just tired of the transition process in itself,” he explains. And that’s ok – some people need to grow roots in order to help others who are still floating around!



    For more information on Daraja www.daraja.us

    Ruth Van Reken’s website www.crossculturalkid.org

    Families in Global Transition website www.figt.org


    Doug Ota’s website www.dougota.nl


    Letters Never Sent: A Global Nomad’s Journey from Hurt to Healing, Ruth Van Reken, Summertime Publishing, 2013

    Safe Passage: How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should do About it, Douglas W. Ota, Summertime Publishing, 2014

    Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Ruth E. Van Reken & David C. Pollock, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2001

    Catarina Queiroz was born in Portugal but spent her childhood in South Africa and Botswana. She was in her early teens when her family returned to Portugal, where she went on to major in Philosophy, becoming a trained high school teacher. After getting married and having her daughter she traded teaching for freelance writing, translating and coaching, and joined her husband for a two-year adventure in the Netherlands. She is now back in Portugal, enjoying reverse cultural shock yet again, writing on her blog and working as an Expat Partner Consultant. In her free time, she loves reading and travelling. www.bycatarina.com

  • 23 Nov 2016 4:07 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    How Stories can Serve Your Long Term Personal and Organizational Goals

    This plenary panel was led by Julia Simens with Mary Bassey, Pamela Bos Kefi, Amy Clare Tasker, Eric Larsen and Adam Geller

    Article written by Ellen Beard

    Educator, speaker, consultant, and author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Tips and Storytelling Techniques That Will Strengthen the Global Family, Julia Simens led a panel on the power of storytelling. Each of this year’s Pollock Scholars shared, in story form, snippets of their experience and how storytelling fits into their lives and work.

    Mary Bassey, the Hidden TCK

    Born of a bi-ethnic marriage in the region of a third ethnicity, Mary immediately found herself living in a cross-cultural situation “before I even stepped foot outside Nigeria.” At age four she moved to Canada for her father’s post-doctoral work. “From there we went to south-central Kentucky, which is not like Canada.” She described a lighthearted story of her brother, after observing Americans using food as endearing terms, call his friend “tomato chicken.”

    But there were heavier struggles as well. “I learned I’m not only African, I’m also black.” She described her first encounters with racial identity through interactions with the KKK and other forms of social hierarchy in America. Because she appeared African American, she had to play to those scripts. “It was weird to come to terms with a history that wasn’t really mine,” she recalled. She described the many complex layers of her identity that looked different depending on the context. “To feel foreign in your own country is weird.”

    Finally, in a university cultural anthropology class she came across the term Third Culture Kid (TCK) for those who are given multiple different scripts. This revolutionized her identity and has led her on a path to embracing her whole self and using her experiences to open up regular conversation about race, gender, culture and social hierarchy. “I’m just living my truth and taking up space unapologetically,” rather than tailoring her conversations to the comfort level of others or what is socially expected of her. As both a writer and advocate, storytelling has become hugely important to Mary’s work.

    Pamela Bos Kefi, the Multi-Layered Cultural Explorer

    Pamela Bos Kefi told a snapshot version of her life story and how many different layers of cross-cultural experiences she has had. Growing up in the United States, her first cross-cultural experience was serving in the Peace Corps in Tunisia after graduating from university. From there, her life spiraled into a plethora of new cultural experiences. She began a bi-cultural marriage with her Arabic teacher there and they moved to the United States to raise bi-racial, bi-cultural children. “My personal and professional [lives] have helped inform each other over the years.”

    Observing the struggles of cross-cultural confusion within her own family and the outside environment, she became interested in helping those in cross-cultural transition. She began working with refugees and immigrant families, helping them to adjust to the United States. Another complex layer of culture was added when her family moved to work in Haiti. She is currently back in the US continuing to work with refugees, where storytelling is vital to training her staff and interacting with those they serve. “I have dipped my toe in many aspects of cross-cultural living. It’s a journey and I don’t know what’s happening next.”

    Amy Clare Tasker, the “Tennis-Match TCK”

    Amy told of her experiences growing up as a British girl back and forth between the UK and the United States and constantly struggling with the question of where she belonged. “I grew up in the States, and I have a very American way of thinking at times. And then at times in the States I have a very English way of thinking.” Although she noticed differences within herself, she said, “I hadn’t really considered myself a traditional TCK because I only speak English” and had only lived in two countries. Studying abroad in England during university, “I learned very quickly not to say I’m from Manchester” despite being born there. “But I’ve heard the phrase ‘TCK is a feeling’, and I have the feeling.” She has been using storytelling in the form of theater-making for both self-discovery and catharsis among other TCKs who struggle with the question “where is home?” She concluded, “really, we’re all trying to find where we belong” so we should expand the tent for the term TCK to include those who might not be aware they could belong with TCKs.

    Eric Larsen and the Red Chameleon

    Eric began with the image of his pet chameleon from growing up in Kenya and Australia as a missionary kid from the US. He would try and get the chameleon to change colors, just as a TCK adapts to new environments. However, trying to make the chameleon change to the unnatural color of red was impossible and would cause it great distress, just as a TCK often undergoes during times of transition and cultural confusion. He compared changing unnatural colors to suppressing the feelings of struggle and moving on rather than naturally processing grief.

    In the process of moving back from Australia to the US for university, he described his familiar experience of “being still, being silent, boxing everything up, and changing colors. And it was killing me.” However, the story continues to joyful resolution later in life. He received a call for a short job back in Australia “so now all of a sudden, 15 years later, the boxes get unpacked.” He finished his story discussing the beauty of meta-narratives. “It was a divine conspiracy, to get me back there to unpack the boxes.” Even though his story growing up overseas seemed to be finished and packed away at age 18, he found wonderful closure later on in life. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien are his favorite authors because they beautifully express smaller stories within larger meta-narratives of hope and redemption just as in the whole of life.

    Adam Geller on Unity in Diversity

    Through academia, Adam has been exploring literature in addition to personal experiences to “unpack the very complicated manifestations of third culture.” He is in the process of demonstrating in the skeptical academic world that people can both discuss their differences and disagreements as well as temporarily set them aside to simply enjoy a peaceful meal together. He tells the story of his house growing up in Australia full of immigrants from many different cultures, ethnicities and religions that were able to form remarkable bonds of an “international family.” He believes this phenomenon works in smaller scales, like specific homes, but also larger scales like the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference. With intentional action, this environment can be replicated at even larger global scales.



    Julia Simens’ website www.jsimens.com

    Amy Clare Tasker’s reflection of FIGT www.amyclaretasker.com/2016/03/families-in-global-transition-conference-2016/

    Mary Bassey’s website www.verilymerrilymary.com

    Adam Geller’s co-authored blog post www.thirdcultureliterature.blogspot.com

    Pamela’s website for Jewish Family Service www.jfsbuffalo.org


    Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Tips and Storytelling Techniques That Will Strengthen the Global Family, Julia Simens, Summertime Publishing, 2011

    Read Mary’s poem ‘Tales of a Black Third Culture Kid’ published in The Worlds Within – An Anthology of TCK Art and Writing: Young Global and Between Cultures, Edited by Jo Parfitt and Eva Laszlo-Herbert, Summertime Publishing, 2014

    Ellen Beard grew up in multifaceted Osh, Kyrgyzstan and flourishing Hanoi, Vietnam, and now studies psychology, interdisciplinary art, and humanities for her bachelor's degree at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. As an American-Asian artist, her diverse background, eclectic experiences and challenging education have developed in her a passion for learning, harmony, and all things international. Currently working in various research assistant positions and TCK student leadership roles, she aspires to use her growing skills in the areas of psychology and the arts to pursue harmony among people of all conditions of mental health, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Site Search:

Mailing address:
Families in Global Transition

C/o Campbell Rappold & Yurasits LLP
1033 S Cedar Crest Blvd
Allentown, PA 18103


+1 (703) 634-7400
Skype: figt.administrator

© Families in Global Transition, Inc.