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.


  • 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.


  • 10 Jul 2016 3:35 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)


    by Connla Stokes - Global Connection - Expat Partner Support

    adidas expat partner Nathan Tytor explains how Partner Support helped him open a small restaurant in Germany without speaking the language fluently.

    Now is the time

    Over the years, Nate – as he prefers to be called – has been a Harley Davidson test driver, toured in a punk band, worked in highway construction, and dabbled in video production, to name just a few of the many, many jobs he’s done. “But for a while now I have wanted to set up a small ‘taco shack’ selling West Coast style tacos and burritos,” says Nate, who was born in Wisconsin and raised in Portland, Oregon in the US. “The last time we were in Nuremberg I didn’t have a work permit but when Tiffany accepted a position to return, I said ‘ok, now is the time’.”

    Indispensable advice

    “We returned in July 2015, and I got Crazy Nate’s up and running by January 16, 2016. The adidas expat partner support programme proved extremely useful. My Global Connection business coach, Florian Sussner was amazing – maybe I could have figured it all out by myself eventually. But he basically took me through all the steps: procuring a licence, getting insurance and health certification, the whole nine yards. He was also helpful in finding industry contacts that I would need going forward. For an expat setting up a business in a foreign land, it was all indispensable advice. Especially as my German is, for now, limited though I am learning.”

    A fun place to hang out

    “Initially I imagined just doing everything myself but I realised that was impossible. People expect Mexican food to come out quickly. So, now we are a team of five making fresh, authentic, street-style tacos as well as burritos, quesadilla and nachos using as much homegrown and locally sourced ingredients as possible,” says Nate, who uses social media to ‘spread the word’. “People said Germans didn’t like spicy food, but so far, so good. You can’t beat people on the head with something they don’t want. So I just concentrate on making a fun place to hang out and it’s working pretty well.”

    Loving every second

    “Of course, there have been frustrations – sourcing certain ingredients and finding staff was time consuming. But whatever might be described as a setback I just chalk down to experience. I should also say that Tiffany deals with a lot of the paperwork in her free-time so I can stay creative in the kitchen! I’d probably wait till a government official arrived at the door in terms of that side of running a business! But generally speaking this has been awesome. Maybe it was hard at times, but I wanted to do this, so I did it and I love every second of it. It’s a dream come true.”



    Source: Global Connection's media for spouses (B2B subscription).

    For more information about Global Connection’s spousal support: www.global-connection.info

  • 27 Jun 2016 3:10 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Sophia Marshall

    Realistically, the value of international experience should be at the forefront of an employer’s mind. After all, our society is becoming more globally connected day-by-day. With the rise of a flexible work environment including modified hours, telework, and co-working arrangements, social tools make it easy to chat with anyone on another continent. 

    But while things have changed rapidly for the workplace environment, describing the value of international experience still remains a challenge for those with global backgrounds. How does a global professional highlight their experience in such a way that it can be understood by potential employers? Will this experience be appreciated? Here are a few ways to reinforce the value of your international experience throughout the key parts of your résumé/CV.

    Summary of Qualifications: This section should serve as an overview highlighting your value to the organization. You will want to use particular keywords that capture interest regarding your international fluency (diversity, awareness, independence, communication, problem-solving, etc.). Think of a time when you may have been a bridge builder while traveling or within a previous position. Here are a few ways to annotate this:

    ~Utilized cross-cultural skills to champion global viewpoint on XYZ project. ~

    ~Always available to deliver advice, taking a diplomatic view when handling crisis situations. ~

    Tip: This should always be written in a way that shows what you can do for the target organization. Also remember to address what they are looking for.

    Professional Experience: Many global professionals may not have a work history that encompasses one or two organizations. Instead, we often have experiences that are dynamic as we move around the world. The key here is to remember the skills earned during volunteer stints, non-traditional positions, and travel experiences. Here are a few examples of what these entries may look like:

    Volunteer position: Honed Patois language skills while taking part in humanitarian missions in Jamaica, supporting health and education services.  

    Project-based position: Gained insights into German workplace culture as part of 3-month consulting assignment for Lidl, a supermarket chain.

    Non-traditional position: Boosted knowledge and understanding of the U.S. school system by taking part in open forum sessions organized by local Japanese government officials.

    Tip: This section of your CV/résumé is important because it substantiates the claims made in the first section.

    Education & Training: Global professionals feel that travel is an education in itself. But reality states that there are times when it has to be proven.  It’s best to inquire with the organization and country where you wish to live in order to obtain the proper evaluation and/or identify your next steps. List education in your respective country first and the evaluation findings (if applicable) second. That entry could resemble the following:

    Degree Name, Date Earned

    Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey

    Degree Name equivalent to XYZ degree evaluated by XYZ organization, Date

    Tip: The value of education and training may differ by country. Remain flexible and find other opportunities to boost skills when necessary.

    You do not have to blur your international experience because you are applying to an organization that does not have a strong international focus. Instead, become a master at capturing an employer’s attention. This can be done by highlighting the right skills that will enhance their operations, using your global perspective. 

    ***

    Sophia Marshall, MHR is the founder of MeSheet®, a career management organization focused on resume writing. She has a resume writing credential and is a Board Certified Coach (BCC) who writes, speaks, and advises on professional resumes and job search.

    Sophia’s diverse career began as part of the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) program. After returning to the U.S. for a short time, she was back abroad as a military spouse and was traveling internationally even more extensively.  Coupling her international and military experience with multiple positions she has held in academia, social services, and training, anchors her effectiveness as a career strategist and resume writing professional.

  • 22 Jun 2016 8:57 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Janneke Muyselaar-Jellema is a medical doctor specialized in the normal development of children and adolescents.  Born and bred in Africa, Janneke is a TCK who transitioned at at the age of 19 from Zimbabwe to the Netherlands for her medical training. Married to a CCK, together they raise their kids in the Netherlands. Janneke has worked in child and adolescent mental health, and in an asylum seekers centre. Currently she works in medical education and in a child rehabilitation centre.

    Janneke blogs on her site, DrieCulturen. She explains that the name of the blog is Dutch for ‘three cultures’. She chose this name because her blog is about third culture kids (TCKs) who grow up in other cultures. She says:

    •     The first culture is about citizenship;
    •     The second is about the countries an individual lived in;
    •     The third is about the community of individuals that share the experience of growing up internationally.

    You can read an example of Janneke’s posts at http://drieculturen.blogspot.fr/2015/08/interesting-interview-with-rachel-cason.html. In this blog post she interviews Rachel Cason who spoke about her thought-provoking PhD research at the 2016 FIGT conference. Rachel’s thesis examined the notions of belonging, identity, and relationship to place of Adult Third Culture Kids.

    For more from DrieCulturen see https://drieculturen.blogspot.com/ Or go to twitter: @DrieCulturen and @JMuyselaar


  • 13 Jun 2016 8:26 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Sybille Kenny - Global Connection - Expat Partner Support

    Travelling abroad and adjusting to a new culture for the first time is an exciting opportunity for South African Heineken expat partner, Matome Rapholo. After four months of living in the Netherlands, Matome emphasizes the importance of being well prepared for life in a new culture.

    Perception of other culture

    “I knew it wasn’t easy to start a conversation with them… no small talk… always serious… extremely direct,” says Matome with a smile, who is from Johannesburg in South Africa. This was Matome’s initial perception of Dutch culture before moving to the Netherlands. After talking to an intercultural trainer, Matome found he had a better understanding of Dutch values and behaviour which enabled him to interact more comfortably with people from his host country. In the meantime, Matome has got used to the direct way of communication and actually prefers it, as he says there is “no room for misunderstandings and the message is clear.”

    Differences matter

    People from different cultures have their own ways of dealing with day-to-day life. What may be correct behavior in one country, may not be acceptable behavior in another. As Matome observed, “A gesture in South Africa might mean I’m OK, whereas in the Netherlands that gesture could have a completely different meaning and it could set you back in your progress of settling down in a new country.”

    Intercultural preparation

    The aim of intercultural training is to make people aware of the values, norms and behaviour of other cultures, and to help them adapt more quickly to a new environment. According to a Global Connection survey in 2011, one of the factors that contributes to a successful international assignment is intercultural training for the whole family. The easier and faster it is for the family to adjust to life in a foreign culture the better are the chances of a successful assignment abroad.

    Adapt without losing identity

    Intercultural training also helps people learn more about themselves and their own culture. To what extent each expat partner adjusts to the host culture is a personal decision. Matome did not feel comfortable with the way that Dutch people shake hands at any given opportunity, “even at soccer matches”. He decided “no handshake anymore, I am fist pumping. Instead of totally losing myself I try to change small things. It worked well.”

    Expat partner advice

    Matome’s advice is that expat partners should consider a cultural course. “For me it was very important, because I’ve realized there is a point where you can get distressed with how people behave in that country, but had you been told about this behavior beforehand you wouldn’t be so uptight about it… or so scared… when you see it happening.”

    Source: Global Connection's media for spouses (B2B subscription).


    For more information: www.global-connection.info


  • 11 Jun 2016 12:14 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Sam Parfitt 

    It was my first time at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference, but those four letters had been present in my life for as long as I can remember, even if I hadn’t the foggiest idea what they meant. My mother, Jo, was always going to ‘FIGT’ and would return from Indianapolis with Hershey’s chocolates and tacky souvenirs of the Speedway they’ve got there. I guess that’s what FIGT meant to me: bad chocolate and cool – to a 14-year-old – t-shirts of racing cars. My expectations were met in one respect: thanks to the information stands there was plenty of cheap chocolate to go around! Fortunately, however, I realized FIGT was about a lot more, and it could also be meaningful to someone my age – someone who wears the ‘expat’ badge with some discomfort.

    When I meet people for the first time and they ask me where I’m from, I tend not to give them the long answer. “The UK,” I say, or “the UK and the Netherlands,” if they’re lucky. The moment I mention I was born in Dubai, a giant banner screaming oil unfurls behind me (at least that’s what I fear) and along with it, “Oh, so you must be rich?” Of course, most of this is the product of my own imagination, yet when your friends are activists and artists, it’s not the best way to convince others of your ethical ‘purity’ or artistic ‘authenticity’. Identity crises aside, I was also concerned the term ‘expat’ excludes those who do not move with the security of a job, or who move with the intention – or with no other choice but – to integrate. I write at a time of intense migration, most of it forced, from the global South to the global North.

    It would be nice to write that my doubts were assuaged, but unfortunately they were not. I realized, however, FIGT provides a forum for those who, like me, move and seek meaning from the moves they have made. It provides a forum for those who want to help people make the most out of the changes that have beset them. Hearing Doug Ota’s call for a network of Safe Harbors made me wish I had had such a service offered to me upon arrival at one of the many international schools I attended. Claudia Koerbler’s Kitchen Table, in which she shared details of an international school’s response to the refugee crisis in Europe, reassured me that attempts are being made to build bridges between the expat clique and others who move.

    While I learnt FIGT is not claiming to represent the stories of all those who move, I think it is nonetheless worth noting that many of the stories told at FIGT are those of the privileged few who move with the security of a job and who often come from the global North. That said, it is invaluable that such a forum exists, for without it we almost certainly would be lost.


    Sam Parfitt is a trained anthropologist and freelance writer who has grown up in Dubai, Oman, Norway, England and the Netherlands. He has had articles published in local, national and international newspapers and has written arts reviews for music blogs and student journals. Berlin is his home away from home. London his centre of gravity. He is now looking for full time work in the arts and museums and/or charity sectors while working on a book on the pioneers of Penang for Summertime Publishing.

  • 04 Jun 2016 3:45 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Ellen Beard

    Honored at the opportunity to present in a Kitchen Table Conversation and thrilled with receiving the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR), I approached the conference with high hopes and positive expectations. Having never presented in a professional setting beyond peer undergraduate classmates, however, nerves began to build leading up to the conference. My excitement at meeting and learning from professionals in all fields of expat-related work was met with equal anxiety.

    Among my People

    Upon arriving in Amsterdam and first meeting with the PPWR team my anxiety quickly turned to eagerness. I was still nervous at being surrounded by so many great people, but meeting the wonderful faces behind the emails helped form a connection. My focus shifted from fear of failure to the joy of learning as the writing team became a group of mentors and the audience to whom I presented became an engaged and thoughtful voice. Though I still felt like a minnow among a “room full of legends,” as keynote speaker Chris O’Shaughnessy put it, I realized even my small voice has something to contribute to the larger conversation.

    What I Never Knew I Never Knew

    I learned far more than I had expected. With a strangely pleasant confidence, I learned the communication skills involved in networking and gained a genuine curiosity for others’ lives. I gained new insight, both practical and theoretical, from the various speakers, and made valuable connections over dinner conversations. Most importantly, I realized despite having read books, conducted qualitative research, and even grown up as a TCK, I still know very little. FIGT opened up a vast new world of knowledge and questions on a subject I thought I knew like my own hand. I even gained insight on new subjects within the expat community I did not know existed.

    The Perfect Place to Start 

    The beautiful part of FIGT that really stood out to me is the family atmosphere in harmony with brilliant academics. I did not expect a conference attended by everyone from parents to researchers and professionals in all fields of work to be so warm and welcoming. Rather than the pursuit of merit and academic prestige, I saw a group of people who come together to engage and share ideas out of genuine passion for the international community. This reminded me of my own conviction that all work, learning, and success must be towards the benefit of fellow human beings. I cannot picture a more perfect experience to begin my career and post-undergraduate life.

    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.


  • 29 May 2016 7:28 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Geneva Rockeman

    My siblings and I grew up knowing we were Third Culture Kids (TCKs). My parents were expats, but both had grown up in small towns in middle America and I think they spent most of their parenting energy keeping track of our weird little brains and making sure the life they’d picked for us wasn’t turning us into antisocial train wrecks. They asked a lot of questions and made us think before we answered.

    They went to seminars. My parents talked to other expats. They asked questions. We went on retreats with other TCKs. When my father retired and we moved to the US, there was a week-long re-entry camp I attended. It was wonderful! They asked us a lot of questions. I was being heard and I remembered I wasn’t alone. I knew I was one of many people who felt like I did.

    But it had been years since I attended anything similar. There was always some obstacle, and over the last few years I had forgotten what these gatherings were like. I had forgotten how it felt to be asked the right questions and have my answer be heard.

    “You lived in Ethiopia? Lucky! Was the coffee amazing?”

    Yes, random stranger, yes it was. It was actually something of a transcendent experience. Thank you for asking. I will also tell you about the way they measure time and how frankincense smells. I now feel a deep connection between our souls and I think we should be friends.

    “When you hear the call to prayer, don’t you feel homesick?”

    Yes, person I met five minutes ago. Now I’m going to cry on your shoulder a little bit, like I know you really well. Then, you’re going to cry a little too, and we’re going to never speak of this again. It’s not weird.

    The sessions were just as excellent, bright, pointed, and, sometimes, emotional.  

    I sat through hours of presentations, cramming information into my notebook, hoping I could remember it all. I often felt I hadn’t taken in enough, disappointed I couldn’t attend all of them.  Everyone asked questions. It must’ve been difficult for the presenters to answer them all. Almost every session went a little bit over time, but every question felt relevant and the presenters clearly wanted to answer them. 

    I felt wrung out when the conference was over, in a good way. I was sad to be leaving, not only because I would miss being in such positive company, but because I was reminded what it felt like to ask these questions and share information. It was a safe place. I left feeling satisfied, and heard, and like my questions had been answered.

    Geneva Rockeman has lived in many different climates and holds strong opinions on whether or not winter has ever been necessary. She writes for poetry for pleasure and prose for profit because she has been told that it is cheaper and less harmful than a drugs habit.  


  • 29 May 2016 7:19 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Meghali Pandey

    I knew next to nothing about the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference before someone recommended applying for the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR). What an exciting experience it has been ever since.

    As an ‘untraditional’ adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK), I didn’t attend many international schools during my childhood, and I live in a country where very few know of the term Third Culture Kid. It was refreshing to encounter people who not only understood my experiences, but had similar global stories to share. The best part was many of these were friends and familiar faces from my TCK community on Twitter, where I first discovered the power in connecting and sharing stories with expats and TCKs across the world. A fitting experience indeed for #FIGT16NL, the theme of which was Moving Across Cultures: Bringing Empathy and Expertise to the Evolving Global Family.

    As a PPWR scholar, I found it particularly inspiring to meet a variety of writers at the conference this year, from bloggers and journalists to authors with multiple publications under their belt. I found great joy and relished even the little details in the making of myriad connections – like how not one person asked me that dreaded question, ‘Where are you from?’ And unlike previous international conferences I’ve attended, there was no country flag branded onto my name badge, giving me the opportunity to bring my true self to the conference and avoid yet another identity crisis.

    There were several different types of organisations and individuals attending the conference, which took place outside the USA for the first time since its inception. This year the conference was held in Amsterdam. For many like me, this was their first experience of Amsterdam, yet everybody seemed happily at home and eager to be present. It was a family reunion even for those of us who were joining the FIGT family for the first time; a homecoming truly understood when sharing individual and family tales of global transition, spanning from humorous and joyous to challenging and tragic.

    For most of us lucky ones, the journey continues. The researchers from the conference have gone back with fresh ideas for further study. All attendees have been given much food for thought through contemporary challenges and additions to old-school notions of gender and race in the evolving global family. As for us PPWR scholars, we are excitedly getting down to pooling together all the stories we told and heard about our new family.

    **

    Meghali Pandey is an adult third culture kid (ATCK) who works in youth development and cultural diplomacy. She has written for Youth to End Sexual ViolenceOnpartu, and Use Your Difference magazine. She has worked with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK) on youth engagement with foreign policy, in international cultural exchange with the Cabinet Office of Japan, and on developing cross-cultural youth engagement during disaster and conflict. She is currently developing her writing as a means to explore identity and belonging as an ATCK. 


  • 16 May 2016 2:47 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Connla Stokes - Global Connection - Expat Partner Support

    Photo: Rennett Stowe – Flickr

    Coming up with your business name is undoubtedly a vital step for any start-up (big or small). But what if you can’t think of a good name? To avoid frustration, there are some effective ways to assist the process.

    Naming your company

    So you are about to start a company. You even have a business plan and investment. But there’s one thing holding you back: you don’t have a name. Of course, nobody has to tell you that your new company name has numerous branding, marketing, and web implications. In fact, it’s such an obviously important step that the danger is you will start to get frustrated when an ideal name proves elusive. Should this be the case, there are some techniques to make brainstorming sessions more effective.

    Write down keywords

    Rather than randomly trying to pluck the killer name from thin air, write down all the keywords associated with your product and service. Next, grab a thesaurus and write down all of the synonyms for these words. You can enter keywords on websites such as Domainr.com to generate clever abbreviations or Wordroid.com to generate derivations. By playing around with associated names, hopefully you will hit upon something that accentuates what it is you do.

    Unique (but not weird)

    When whittling down the shortlist, you will want to look for something that will set your brand apart. But be careful in how you go about picking a unique name. For example, avoid unusual spellings that will confuse customers/clients and make sure it’s easy to pronounce and therefore easy to remember. Skip acronyms and keep it short. Also forget hyphens or idiosyncratic characters. If you use a single word and it can be turned into a verb, à la Google, all the better!

    Don’t box yourself in

    Remember to consider the international implications – could the name be negatively construed elsewhere in the world? And is the name transferable? Don’t box your business in by using a geographic location or a product category in your business name. If it sounds too specific, customers will be confused if you expand your business to different locations or branch out in terms of products/services. But do give customers an inkling as to what you do or sell.

    Is it even available?

    In this digital era, your company name and internet domain name should also be the same. Most people will assume that your company name is your domain name minus the suffix ‘.com’. If in doubt, test the name out. But if possible, bypass your family and friends, who know you too well, or know too much. Ask other parents you know from your kids’ school, for example. If they are your target market all the better. As the saying goes, the customer knows best.

    Adapted and edited from an original article, in Global Connection's media for spouses (B2B subscription).


    For more information: www.global-connection.info



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