Long-time FIGT volunteer Anna Svedberg was nervous to attend her first FIGT Conference. But much to her relief and delight, she found herself welcomed into the family at FIGT2021.
Reporting by Anna Svedberg
I was giddily excited for my first FIGT annual conference and a little bit nervous. I've volunteered for FIGT for the past 8 years and have been involved in annual conference preparations before. So I definitely felt the excitement with the sneak peeks on social media regarding sponsors, presenters and attendees and putting together my own schedule.
However, I was a bit nervous because even though I am an international adoptee and third culture kid, I have repatriated back to my passport country for quite a few years now. I was afraid that I wasn't global or international enough for the close-knit FIGT family. Needless to say, my fears were unfounded — as I soon found out.
Welcome to the family!
I was happy to find out that FIGT had decided to add events a week before the official start of the conference. I loved listening to the welcome video and different personal stories — such a diverse and welcoming group of people we are! I also loved the virtual conference platform where I could easily read about and connect with fellow attendees before the conference and could tell each other which presentations to listen to and our takeaways from them.
It truly felt like a family affair and my nervousness melted away once I attended the Welcome Circle (what an amazing idea to give a warm welcome to new and returning attendees!) with fellow attendees, FIGT volunteers and regulars (Hi Maryam + Jo!:)), as well as the legendary and inspirational Ruth Van Reken. I also watched the wonderful welcome video (Hi Flor, Sarah + Tanya!:)).
I listened to fellow attendees tell their unique globally mobile stories and was awestruck that they were equally as nervous as I was. “Would they be accepted into the wonderful FIGT family? Would they feel a sense of belonging where they don't usually feel they belong?” I felt the same unease.
Of course it was unfounded, as everyone of us have our own take on the globally mobile lifestyle, whether in our own passport country, in between worlds shifting country to country for work, love or any other reason, or semi-permanently in one country. Every story and person has a welcome place in the ever expanding FIGT family.
My FIGT2021 takeaways
I am still trying to catch up with Presentations, Keynotes and Forums by our wonderful FIGT family — so many interesting and engaging topics and unique stories to convey!
Here are some of the important takeaways for myself that I hope you also will appreciate:
Exploring the Space Between Breaths with Carolyn Parse Rizzo was an amazing guided breathing and for me meditation session that I had to stop tapping away on my keyboard and really listen to. It was such a welcome break for me that day.
The world now is more reachable and global nowadays with endless Zoom and Teams meetings and support services open 24/7 — not just if you are in a different time zone but if you are unexpectedly working late or early one day along with the endless activities and commitments outside of work and family obligations everyone has.
This much-needed breathing break made me just stop and breathe to come back to, and rest faithfully in, my own inner strength and calmness so I could go about the rest of my day with renewed energy.
Day 3 Keynote Presentation: It’s a Two-Way Street by Danau Tanau was a true wake-up call for me as well, as she discussed structural racism and the profound effect it had on one of her friendships. I was struck by the openness and urgency with which Danau so thoughtfully and sincerely spoke about her experiences.
Structural racism is a hard topic to discuss but none the less important for us adults to openly speak about. How can we empower individuals to speak out on it? How can we discuss it with children in a constructive way so that we minimize structural racism in the future?
I certainly would have benefited from talking about it while growing up. Teachers and other adults were adamant in saying that everyone is welcome and to be kind to one another. But what happens if you as a child encounter structural racism outside of a family or school environment? It's therefore important that even children learn tools to use when encountering structural racism.
Vertical Development Transformation: Turning the (CCK) Pieces into a Mosaic by Peter Ransom was also an eye-opener for me. Peter discussed how he (please forgive me if I get this wrong from your presentation!) had to go back to his multicultural childhood and embrace his global background to find an inner purpose in his life and therefore in his professional life as well.
As a third culture kid, I have read a lot about unresolved grief that can come as a result of a country- or school-hopping childhood without time to reflect on the actual move and embrace the different tapestries or mosaic pieces, as Peter calls them, that make us up as individuals.
Unresolved grief is one part of it; another is embracing all our different parts or mosaic pieces from our transient life overseas to build a healthy sense of self. Once we can do that, we can find inner purpose and the compass to steer our life in the direction that we want, for our personal and professional lives.
Thank you so much!
I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this year's FIGT Annual Conference. It was a life-changing experience for me. I can rest easy on the fact that we can feel accepted as part of the FIGT family, no matter our different mosaic pieces or globally mobile life experiences.
The openness and transparency of the conference also opened my eyes to the urgency and need for more and deeper discussions regarding structural racism. And I am forever grateful for the continued conversations that we attendees are already having and will continue to have in post-conference Zoom calls and Lobby chats.
I already look forward to next year's conference, whether virtual or in person, and what topics will be discussed . Maybe, just maybe, I will be brave enough to talk about topics close to my heart too, such as international adoptees, repatriation and the globally mobile life.
Until then, stay safe, and I hope you have been enticed to participate in FIGT2022!
Anna Svedberg is a Swedish repatriated adult Third Culture Kid. She is a social media volunteer for FIGT and a staffing consultant for multinational clients. She loves writing children’s stories on themes such as TCKs and international adoption. Anna was adopted from India by Swedish parents and was lucky enough to grow up in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In normal times, she and her family frequently travel back to childhood stomping grounds to visit family friends, as well as for some sun and warmth during the winter months!
Anna would love to collaborate with you on projects close to her heart: international adoption, repatriation, and globally mobile families. FIGT members can find her in the Member Directory for Members Only (log-in needed).