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 expatriates and cross cultural individuals and their families. Contributions are a privilege for Small Business and Corporate membership levels only and you can submit up to 3 posts per year. Please use our online form below to submit a blog for consideration or contact blogeditor@figt.org.

  • 16 May 2019 8:47 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    It was exciting to see #FIGTMember and Tandem Nomads founder, Amel Derragui, featured in the South Korean Magazine “Weekly Woman” alongside some powerful Korean women entrepreneurs.  In the article, Amel describes the career challenges for expat spouses and acknowledges the crucial role these spouses are for assignment success.   As the numbers of Korean expats increase around the world this will be a growing area of interest.

    We have been seeing amazing reports of book launches for #FIGTMember, and author, Mariam Ottimofiore.   There was one at her current home in Ghana, and at another place she calls home -Dubai, there was a join launch with Santa Fe Relocation, and the night before #FIGT2019 began in Bangkok. Congratulations Mariam on your beautiful book –it has received excellent reviews from many #FIGTMembers and experts.

    Featured not once but twice, by different writers, in the same edition of online and print magazine, Beijing Kids, was #FIGTMember, author and #FIGTBoardMember, Tanya Crossman.  Tanya shared her expert understanding of Third Culture Kids in the feature, Parenting Third Culture Kids; What are they and how can you help yours? P 45-46 and she is also quoted in the article Raising Third Culture Kids P 51-53.  It’s an interesting magazine wherever you may live and was great to see Tanya’s expertise highlighted.  It can be read online here.

    Congratulations to #FIGTMember and podcaster Sundae Schneider-Bean who shared the exciting news that her podcast had just broken into the Top 100 iTunes podcast in the USA for Places & Travel and is at number 28 in Switzerland!

    Impressive achievements from the few #FIGTMembers described here.  We also acknowledge the quiet achievements of each and every one of you as you live your global lives with grace, humour and resilience wherever you are.

  • 06 Apr 2019 4:40 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Breaking news - FIGT has been shortlisted for Relocate Global’s Think Relocate 2019 Awards in the Excellence in Employee & Family Support Category.  It’s tough competition, or you could say, – we are in good company, along with #FIGTMember ACCESS who are nominated for their work in The Netherlands assisting families as they adapt locally.

    Also nominated are #FIGTMembers; TASIS The American School in England in the School Providing Outstanding Relocation Support Category and #FIGTMember, #FIGTBoardChair and Researcher, Anne Lessle in the Best Research Contribution Category.   Anne will be presenting that research on expat spouse adjustment at #FIGT2019 so you can learn more about it at her Poster presentation at the conference. 

    #FIGTMember Joyce Jenkins is looking forward to a different conference.  Joyce is President of SIETAR UK so has been tweeting about the SIETAR EUROPA Congress in Leuven May 27-29th.  She will join us in Bangkok first, so if you want to learn more about SIETAR look out for Joyce.

    The big news for #FIGTMember Mariam Ottimofiore has been the upcoming release of her new book –‘This Messy Mobile Life’.  There were many congratulatory comments on Mariam’s FB feed.  She is very excited to receive her new book which will be launched just before #FIGT2019 and will be available in the bookshop.

    On LinkedIn, #FIGTMember Ellen Mahoney shared stories of her travels and work at International Schools including at Western Academy of Beijing.  She has also been sharing about her upcoming presentation at #FIGT2019  where she will share the results of research conducted with another #FIGTMember, Jane Barron of Globally Grounded, looking at transition support in International Schools.

    On a more sombre note #FIGTMember Trisha Carter, an expat kiwi, shared a tweet from Christchurch, New Zealand, at her old university where students honoured the souls who lost their lives in the Christchurch terrorist attack by gathering for the call to prayer. As she described it, a hauntingly beautiful way to remember.

    We wish all our #FIGTMembers well, especially those who are nominated for the Think Relocate Awards.  The announcement of the winners is on May 15th and we will be keeping our fingers crossed for FIGT!

  • 05 Apr 2019 1:55 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As we countdown to FIGT2019, here are a couple of quick tips for those wondering about what to pack, where to eat and how to navigate Bangkok.


    Late April is going to be hot – around 28-34°C /82-94°F. Light clothes, sandals but with the A/C blasting inside, bring another layer to stay warm inside! Air quality is usually good in April.

    Getting Around

    If you’re staying in the Sukhumvit Road area around NIST, getting around should be pretty easy. You may even be able to walk to NIST from some of the hotels with whom FIGT has negotiated discounts. For example, the Movenpick is a 5-10 minute walk.

    Traffic can be a pain in Bangkok so if you’re planning to go far, then public transport is recommended – either BTS or Metro. There is no Uber but you can download the Grab app for a similar service – you can pay cash or use your credit card. You will see plenty of tuk tuks which can be very expensive but tempting as a visitor experience! There are usually motor taxis outside NIST but these are not recommended on main roads.

    Taxis from the airport are pretty easy; they charge a little more than the meter for the airport fee & possible tolls if you take the highway. If you are staying in the Movenpick, they have a shuttle that goes to Terminal 21/Asoke bts station, which is great for outside the NIST shuttle hours.

    The Neighborhood

    NIST is in the center of the city so lots of options for eating, shopping and just relaxing with new and old friends from FIGT!

    • Soi 11 is within walking distance of NIST with lots of bars and restaurants. There’s even a Starbucks for those who need their ‘fix’. Our team recommend Soho for NY pizza place and Brew, a bar with decent burgers in an attached restaurant.
    • Also within walking distance is Terminal 21, a huge mall with shopping and restaurant options. If you are staying in the Movenpick, they have a shuttle that goes to Terminal 21/Asoke bts station.
    • The team recommend Cabbages & Condoms which provides good Thai food and supports a great local non-profit.
    • Right outside NIST are a couple of street food vendors – our team recommends the fresh fried rice and the rotis that are sold at the end of the school day.

    What else should I check out?

    • There are lots of rooftop bars/restaurants which are fun, but it might be too hot.
    • Make sure you have some mango sticky rice before leaving.  It’s everywhere.
    • If you go to Wat Pho temple, where the reclining Buddha is, you can also get a fun astrology reading if you like that kind of entertainment.
    • There are many massage places to pick from & everyone will suggest a different favorite. For something quick, our team recommends Silk or Baan Dalah. If you want a full private experience, Asian Herb Association is pretty reliable.

    For more tips on making the most of your time in Bangkok, please visit https://www.figt.org/2019-Hotel

  • 05 Apr 2019 1:52 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition has been fortunate to have Worldwide Speech as a longtime sponsor, but this year is special: not only are they renewing for a fourth year of sponsorship, they’re upgrading to Gold as well.

    Worldwide Speech was built with the mission of making it possible for children with special needs to attend and flourish in the international school setting. They are committed to giving children the opportunities they deserve; their therapists are licensed practitioners, and they make hard-to-find services like speech therapy and reading intervention available by providing sessions online.

    Founder Erin Long is herself a member of the expat community, having now lived in five different countries, and raising her own children in this lifestyle. She directly interacts with international schools and knows the community her company is serving.

    “Our primary service is providing online services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and academic tutoring,” Erin says. “Our value, however, is not just in our services, but our understanding of the international schools and mobile community.”

    Attending and sponsoring the FIGT organization and 2019 conference holds a two-fold benefit for Worldwide Speech.

    “FIGT offers a wealth of opportunity to speak with like-minded people and attend sessions that directly address my professional and personal life,” she explains. “As president of the company, I find FIGT is an amazing environment to meet and hear the stories of people and how they help their own children in the international setting.

    “I am also personally invested in the expat life and community as a person working, raising children, and creating a fulfilling life as an expat. This group helps me develop a clearer understanding of what works for families like my own.”

    We are thrilled to have Worldwide Services and Erin continue their sponsorship at the Gold level, and greatly appreciate their ongoing support. We look forward to seeing them in Bangkok at #FIGT2019!

  • 05 Apr 2019 1:49 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    One of the best signs of a great sponsor is when they choose to renew. Families in Global Transition is thrilled to report that American Psychologist, headed up by Dr. Mark Burdick, is returning once again as a Silver Sponsor.

    BPPS (Burdick Psychological and Placement Services) / American Psychologist is a family- based, concierge psychological services provider, consultancy, and education & program placement agency located in Amsterdam. With five offices registered in the EU, UK, and US, they serve families worldwide, providing continuing support to their families during and after placement. Many of their clients have youngsters with learning or emotional issues. But not all: others are exceptionally bright and need a challenge or better educational fit. 

    “American Psychologist travels the globe – yes, making house calls – to help support expat families at risk,” Mark explains. “Whether it’s for assessment and expert recommendation for treatment or education, we’ve been providing solutions to expats for over 30 years. I’m particularly looking forward to the upcoming conference in Bangkok, as it’s an opportunity to introduce one of our unique services: our addiction support to challenged expat families.”

    Another sign of a truly dedicated sponsor? Recognizing when others might benefit from connecting with and supporting FIGT’s mission and global community.

    Here at FIGT, we like to say that “our sponsors know when it’s a good fit, and so do we.” Mark epitomizes this belief, as he is the person who recently brought fellow Silver Sponsor Solebury School into the FIGT fold.

    At a conference in Switzerland late last summer, he met Solebury’s Director of International Recruitment and fellow Adult Third Culture Kid, Jennifer Morrissey. Mark told her all about the FIGT organization and our annual three-day conference, and convinced her of the advantages of becoming involved. Having one sponsor help enlist another is a positive development, indeed!

    We welcome back American Psychologist as a returning sponsor, thank Mark for his continued support of FIGT, and look forward to seeing him #FIGT2019 in Bangkok.

  • 26 Mar 2019 11:41 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition is delighted to announce another new sponsor: Solebury School, an American college-preparatory boarding and day school for grades 8-12, located in the bucolic hills of New Hope, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia.

    What brought FIGT to Solebury School’s attention? A typical cross-cultural connection, of course.

    While attending a conference in Switzerland, Solebury’s Director of International Recruitment, Jennifer Morrissey, met Dr. Mark Burdick. (FIGT community members will recognize Mark, of American Psychologist / Burdick Psychological and Placement Services, as a returning Silver Sponsor.) Mark told Jennifer all about the FIGT organization and annual conference, and urged her to attend.

    It’s not surprising that Jennifer’s work in international admissions would elicit her interest in being part of #FIGT2019 in Bangkok on April 26-28. But there’s more to it: Jennifer is an adult Third Culture Kid.

    “I was born in Canada, raised in Europe, traveled in Africa, and came to the United States as a student,” Jennifer explains. “I earned my B.A. in International Studies from Russell Sage College and have devoted my career to both the secondary and higher education levels in international programming, recruitment, admissions, and teaching. My international travel has allowed me to meet many wonderful people around the world, and reaffirm my belief that in sharing our cultures, we will discover more in common with each other than differences.”

    One can see why someone like Jennifer would wind up at Solebury. The school is committed to educating global citizens, including students from other countries. In addition to attending to earn a full diploma, international students may choose from other options including half-year, one-year, Exchange, Summer, English as a Second Language university prep, and Post-Graduate programs.

    Recently, Solebury has added an exciting new initiative – The Solebury School Scholarship for Global Citizens.

    We welcome Solebury School as a new sponsor, and look forward to meeting Jennifer in person at the conference.

  • 26 Mar 2019 11:35 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Social entrepreneur, global poverty ambassador and TedX speaker, Caleb Meakins enjoys a challenge. The brainchild behind ‘my40days’, a set of 40 challenges that took him way out of his comfort zone on a daily basis, Caleb pushes himself through fear and into the opportunities that the unknown brings. ‘The ability to face fear and be unafraid of failure is central to being a successful entrepreneur’ he explains.

    Born in Ethiopia, Caleb moved to the UK when he was eight, but has always felt deeply connected to the land of his birth. ‘Being at international school in Ethiopia exposed me to many different cultures; they were enjoyable and formative years I had there.’ Thrust into a less diverse London community at a young age represented a challenging transition for Caleb and his sisters. ‘Many people hadn’t been exposed to or lived in another country’ he explains, ‘but we learned very quickly to adapt.’

    As a successful mixed-race representative, Caleb was often asked to speak to Ethiopian communities in London, many of whom were grappling with their mixed-race identities. Inspired by his father, he completed a degree in Civil Engineering which equipped him with the skills he needed to add tangible value. ‘I always felt part Ethiopian and part British’ he explains, ‘and I just couldn’t shake off the desire to come back to Ethiopia.’

    While there are both opportunities and challenges for diasporas in Ethiopia, Caleb is now encouraging people to return as entrepreneurs. He established the Ethiopian Entrepreneurs Association in 2014, with an aim to ‘inspire enterprise, fuel a culture of entrepreneurship and connect investors to investment opportunities within Ethiopia’ and now splits his time between Addis Ababa and London. His initiatives in Ethiopia continue to go from strength to strength. ‘So many people want to play a part in seeing the country grow’ he explains, ‘and I’m helping show them how they can come back and invest.’

    So how does Caleb view FIGT? ‘FIGT is full of great resources’ he explains, ‘and what really excites me is that this is a group of people that really understand cross-cultural dynamics.’ He continues, ‘Culture is the collective progression of the human mind and these days it is more about connections and networks, and less about political powers. We have the opportunity now to create content across these networks and use it as transformative information.’

    Caleb believes that as global citizens, our position within and across cultures enables us to drive positive social change and embrace the opportunities that challenge brings. ‘You learn to make your environment work’ he explains. ‘If my family had known a network or community like FIGT it would have been very valuable; it is full of great resources and I can see the value.’

    He concludes, ‘wherever we come from, it’s about how we leverage what we have and become key players in the direction that society is going. Society will always change and who will lead that change? It’s normally the people who have a vision for it that actually make that difference.’

    - Ginny Philps

  • 13 Mar 2019 12:42 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In February we reported back on the progress of FIGT’s new membership strategy, as announced at FIGT2018. The growth in our small business/associate level as well as corporate members is a testament to the collaboration, networking, resources and visibility FIGT provides these members. And we are delighted to see connections being made, projects being hatched and activity increasing within our community.

    Today we would like to reflect on – and appeal to your insights about – our individual/student members. How can we better serve them, better offer them the wealth of what we, as a community, have to offer and contribute to their own ‘successful navigation of crossing borders and cultures.’ Not to mention, learn from their own experiences in order to enrich us further. Read the blog and please share your questions with us!

So, our question to you, this month is this: what do you recall as being the ‘first’ question you had – when starting your global journey? 

    What for many of us, is second nature – if not first – is not the case for many others. So, we would like to ‘check-in’ on some assumptions, gain insight from those starting and then, weave these needs into our own mission, vision and value propositions for individual/student members.

    Can’t recall what ‘that' question was? Check in with your colleagues, clients and acquaintances. Ask them: "what ‘blank’ did you have when you heard you were going ‘global'?" And, please do share them with us. 

    Remember. There is NO such thing as a ‘silly question’: because the answer may just be what makes the difference, and what is silly for one, can be monumental to another. We are excited AND curious to hear what you have to share. Together, we can all make the difference. That much we, at FIGT, know.

    GO! Share your questions with us.

  • 12 Mar 2019 12:06 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    We are always delighted to feature submissions from our Member community, and today we are excited to share the second part of a two-part series by Carolyn Parse Rizzo, a longtime FIGT supporter, conference attendee and 2018 Conference Presenter. You can read Part I here.

    Many thanks to health psychologist Vivian Chiona, founder and director of Expat Nest, for her important contributions to this article.

    By Carolyn Parse Rizzo

    It can be extremely stressful when we, or someone we love, becomes ill abroad. As well as the (very normal) physical and mental turmoil of illness, we often find ourselves dealing with additional challenges that are unique to international life.

    At the 2018 Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference last spring, psychologist Vivian Chiona of Expat Nest and I got together with other FIGT supporters for a “Kitchen Table Conversation” on exactly this topic.  

    Participants included missionaries, financial planners, educators, executives, researchers, writers, coaches, artists, and others within the international community. They were also parents of children with serious medical conditions, spouses to partners with a serious illness, or medical patients themselves.

    Swiss, Canadian, Italian, Austrian, Australian, English, Israeli, American, African, Belgian, Taiwanese, and Dutch passport holders have all contributed to this ongoing discussion. 

    In Part I of this article, we discussed the interplay of the following eight challenges when facing a health condition abroad: Lack of Knowledge, Financial Impact, Isolation, Communication, Mistrust of Medical Personnel, Overwhelm and Indecision, Complex Parenting, and Pain and Discomfort.

    In Part II, we share four overarching strategies that experienced expats have utilized in their own healthcare journeys abroad: Being Proactive, Practicing Mindfulness, Cultivating Fun, and Connecting with Others.

    The advice and insights to follow come from those who have chosen to see their health challenges abroad as opportunities for growth and vital enrichment. Their experiences, though sometimes excruciating, have opened the doors to love, self-reliance, relief, personal empowerment, creativity, confidence and inner strength.

    Imagine a tool-belt loaded with the strategies below. Choose what fits for you. Be curious, explore, and remember that like with any new skill, we become more proficient with planning, commitment, practice, and a connection to why we’re doing it in the first place.

    1. Be Proactive

    Expats who take peremptory action against potential problems when it comes to healthcare say this is the foundation to their success.  Not every situation can be controlled, but they urge others to identify the things for which they can prepare.  Research and learn the logistics of the medical system, they say. Don’t make assumptions, nurture your inner leader, and take care of yourself, so you aren't left reacting to a situation with limited tools within reach.

    • Don't Assume

    Patrice "Pattie" Schweitzer reminds us that part of being proactive is being careful not to make assumptions. For example, Pattie has managed her complex healthcare needs across eight nations, over a span of 34 years. She's learned from experience that different countries have different regulations for medications. While one country may require a prescription for a given medication, another sells it over the counter. Or, as Pattie experienced, a prescribed medication in one country could be classified as an illegal substance in another.

    She urges others to plan with their physicians well before their travel date to identify alternative medications or to adjust their treatment plan based upon regulations in their destination country.

    Other assumptions about treatment protocol, hospital services, or payment options can lead to unnecessary stress. Whenever we assume we know something, based upon our former experiences in other countries, we set ourselves up.

    • Embrace Your Inner Leader

    Looking back, those patients who describe a real sense of personal power and satisfaction around how they coped with their healthcare challenges are those who also claimed some authority over their own bodies and medical history. They’ve honed in on their intercultural communication skills, persisted if dismissed, got creative, and kept searching for a physician who shared their values.

    For parents of young patients, having confidence in their unique knowledge of their child’s medical history, temperament, personality, and coping style is vital when crossing cultures.

    “Everything we used to prepare ourselves in earthquake zones, we used with the ‘earthquake’ at home.”

    — Jeanne Piether from www.healingyounghearts.com

    One mom talks about crossing four different borders with her son's medical condition. She became a pro at choosing healthcare providers and coordinating services across cultures. She explains how clarity and cohesion around their parenting values, helped she and her husband build a strong sense of leadership around the medical care of their son.

    Pattie shares how she crossed five borders with an auto-immune condition and came across a wide variation of communication styles and beliefs around treatment protocols. At a certain point, she says she had no qualms "firing" a doctor who did not value, or respect her personal experience living with the illness. As the only constant in her health care across borders, she makes sure to keep hard copies of all her medical records, sharing only copies with new physicians.

    • Prioritize Self-Care

    Aside from good nutrition, adequate sleep, and basic hygiene, the definition of self-care is personal. It doesn't have to mean three days at a spa or a weekend away. It can mean meditating in the hospital chair as a loved-one sleeps, walking laps around the hospital, regular visits to a space set aside for prayer or contemplation, or stepping outside for five minutes to breathe fresh air.

    One partner explains how she searched for a peaceful, light-filled place in the hospital where she could take 10 minutes to restore once or twice a day during her husband's long hospitalization. Another partner etched out time to practice yoga between hospital visits, working, and household tasks.

    An expat having gone through chemotherapy in Qatar explains how much better she felt when donning beautiful head wraps, jewelry, make-up and having her nails done, even if she was feeling physically terrible.

    Along with self-care, many parents of kids with complex healthcare needs, talk about the importance of “couple-care”. Finding a way to take time to be with each other is a real challenge when living abroad with a medically complex child.

    When Alessandra Giocometti's toddler experienced an unexplained respiratory disorder while they were living in The Netherlands, she and her husband benefited greatly from the "rucksack" program that provides a stipend to families with children with complex medical needs. The stipend pays for home-nursing and medical child care, so that parents can take time to connect outside of the home, or participate in activities that are rejuvenating.

    Self-care begins with acknowledging that it’s a basic need and making it a priority. The “how” comes later.

    2. Practice Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it “a love affair with life.”

    The ability to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment and without judgement is vital to making the shift from seeing a situation as unmanageable, to seeing it as filled with new opportunities to live more deeply.

    • Stay in the Present

    Staying in the now prevents our brains from racing forward into the black hole of 'what ifs'. When Jodi Harris’ young son experienced life-threatening symptoms of type I diabetes in Madagascar, a firm foundation in meditation and mindfulness practice got her through the initial chaos of her son's diagnosis (including an emergency evacuation from their home of 18 months).

    Because she’d been developing these skills over time, she was able to apply them immediately. Jodi believes this was the fundamental factor to her ability to stay level-headed and reliable throughout his near-death experience and recovery.

    Pattie, too, after multiple, serious medical encounters and years living abroad with fibromyalgia and asthma, named her most effective coping strategy as “focusing on the present moment.”

    • Feel and Acknowledge

    ALL Emotions After losing part of his leg due to what was thought to be a bacterial infection, one participant stresses the healing that experienced when he allowed himself to feel and express his sadness, grief, and regret. Another who waited three long weeks for biopsy results, stressed the importance of talking about one’s fear rather than sitting on it letting it fester and grow.

    Jodi, too, says that permitting her fear, sadness, and sense of loss to flow through her body in real time, allowed her to stay present and be an effective parent for her son during his recovery.

    Several parents talk about the discomfort of living in limbo without a diagnosis for their child and spending years wondering if they'd done something to cause their child's developmental difficulties. One mother recalls her feelings of guilt and self-blame for what had happened to her child.

    "What did I do wrong?" she wondered, only to find out years later that his developmental struggles were unpreventable due to a genetic condition. Allowing herself to release that old guilt has allowed her to be more present for herself and her family today.

    Another participant shares that acknowledging her own depression and expressing her feelings to others in similar circumstances, allowed her to receive the support she needed so she could move through depression in a healthy way with an experienced counselor.

    • Choose Words and Imagery Consciously

    Words carry energy. Notice how words influence feelings, for example. When we use words that lift us up and resonate within us deeply, we feel more powerful. The opposite is also true.

    Some chose to call themselves a “survivor”, rather than a “patient” or “victim of…”. Others kept their illness and their personal identify completely separate. For example, one woman explains how she made a point not to identify herself as a cancer patient or survivor. She chose not to wear pink, wear a ribbon, or join in cancer-awareness activities. From her perspective, she was treating a temporary illness and did not invite it to become part of her identity.

    “Like Raku’ —the cracks are repaired with gold dust, the more cracks, the more valuable the piece becomes.”

     -- FIGT18 KTC participant

    When asked about inner strengths, participants used words and phrases like "born a fighter", persistence, and grit. Mantras like “quiet the mind to save the body”, and healing imagery like being wrapped in a “blanket of love”, rainbows after rain, light shining out of darkness, and a phoenix rising out of the ash helped partners and patients alike to feel more powerful or safe.

    When asked to name his healthcare journey, like a chapter in a much larger tale, a story of vulnerability, broken bones, and surgery while on vacation in Spain became A Spanish Tumble. For the years she zigzagged across the world trying to navigate a wide range of medical systems, Pattie’s journey became The World Maze of Healthcare. Giving it a name creates distance, so that a person can look at their situation from the outside.

    • Practice Gratitude

    Focusing on what is going right creates an energetic shift for many people. Some use a gratitude journal to record the little and grand aspects of their daily lives, incorporate their thanks into their daily prayers or into an intention they set for the day. Others in the group make the effort to give direct thanks to the people or organizations that helped and supported them through their medical ordeal.

    • Know Thyself

    Those who feel like they are living more profoundly with a greater sense of connection to others and life itself, have taken the time to reflect on their healthcare journey and their own strengths and vulnerabilities. We all have a dominant personal coping style, an Energetic Profile and an Energetic Stress Response. Understanding how the human stress response works and how we, or our loved-one, cope under stress provides the opportunity to make stress work for us, instead of against us. Once we understand what triggers our stress, we can work to transform it.

    3. Cultivate Fun

    Adults benefit from play just as much as children do. Not only is there therapeutic value in creativity and recreation but the diversionary aspect of play reduces stress, induces the relaxation response, and often provides avenues for connecting with others. Research also tells us laughter and smiling have direct health benefits and actually change our brain chemistry.

    For some, long waits in the treatment room, during dialysis, or chemo treatments become opportunities to practice a skill, create, or lighten the mood for others. One participant knits through her chemotherapy treatments. She uses photography to create self-portraits with a humorous slant, like a shiny green apple juxtaposed against her shiny pink scalp. She spends time with a group of women who share her sense of humor.

    Another describes his own mischief-making during a long and isolating hospitalization. Using meditation techniques to slow his heart rate he was able to set off monitor alarms, causing his nurses to come running.

    Discussion participant, Cath Brew, author and illustrator of Living Elsewhere, draws cartoons with often humorous and sometimes poignant captions about the experience of living abroad. She sees the lightness in the shadow side of being a global nomad and has found a way to heal and expand her own support system using creativity and humor.

    4. Connect (and Accept Support)

    Feeling isolated and alone is one of the most frequently mentioned challenges expats describe when facing a health crisis abroad. Far from family and close friends, some described their hesitancy to cross professional boundaries by informing colleagues of their situation or asking for assistance.

    Several participants who were working abroad and single, expressed the loneliness they experienced and how much they appreciated the help their colleagues provided. No one seemed to regret that they’d finally reached out and accepted help from acquaintances.

    For these expats, little things like hospital visits or telephone calls from colleagues, and larger gestures like retrieving fresh clothes and personal items from the patient’s home, or sitting with a hospitalized child while the parent takes a long overdue immediately broke the sense of aloneness they were experiencing.

    • Choose Your “Healing Team”

    One US Department of Defense civilian employee describes how she created a "protective bubble" for herself while going through cancer treatment in Italy. She discussed her illness only with those who had gone through treatment themselves or those who offered to help in tangible ways. She chose not to talk about the illness at work, allowing her to maintain a much-needed sense of normalcy in that part of her life.

    Another expat receiving cancer treatment in Qatar described her "core group" of "succulent women" -- high energy friends who were living life with zeal. This allowed her to stay engaged and inspired.

    • Use Social Media Consciously

    Several participants talked about how social media was both a blessing and a curse, urging others to choose carefully what, and with whom, they share online. It's important to know what purpose social media will serve and use it mindfully. Not everyone on social media knows how to be supportive or empathetic. One person chose to post nothing about her illness and recovery, while another used it for daily support.

    • Have Faith, Build Trust

    Many people with whom we spoke, expressed a sense of complete confidence or trust in something. Be it a higher power, the medical team, a greater purpose, or their own inner strength, turning towards a faith or life philosophy that held meaning and hope carried many through otherwise impossible times.

    Eliafra Seror, an American mother of nine living in Israel, says she had a very clear thought in her head after experiencing debilitating rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 42. "I knew I would find a way out of the pain," she says. “I thought to myself, ‘This is not how my life goes. I will find a way out. No doctor’s going to dictate how life will be.’” She had a one month old, seven other children and couldn’t dress herself.

    Some talk about prayer being the backbone of their recovery, imagining themselves in the "palm of God's hand" or "being healed by God's light," as Eliafra describes.

    Many talk about how important it is to build trust with their physicians. When parents are considered part of the team, trust immediately increases. One Italian mother describes an evening when she and her husband host their son's neurologist in their home for dinner while living in The Netherlands. Though unorthodox to some, this was a turning point in their relationship, she says.

    • Say Yes!

    To friends, to help, to love."Say YES!"exclaims Jodi Harris. When her young son required hospitalization and a medevac out of country, she accepted whatever help she and her family were offered, acknowledging their gestures of love directly, making her gratitude known. It’s not the time to pull away or let complex feelings get in the way of accepting support. Allow any outpouring of love to carry you through.

    • Make a Difference for Others

    For many, the opportunity to turn a painful, frightening, difficult path into something more meaningful comes to those who find value in sharing their experience, support, and wisdom with others who are facing similar challenges. Acting as a mentor to someone new to the situation is an opportunity to give others a chance to “say yes,” connect, and build trust.

    Some choose to work toward making systemic change in the areas they felt were lacking within their own experience. One former patient, is taking part in a medical school reform project called Patient as Teacher in Qatar. Here, she and other former patients provide education about the patient experience for young medical students and doctors.

    We invite you to join our discussion by sharing your own tools and strategies for thriving through health challenges abroad. What unexpected opportunities have emerged from your healthcare challenges? What would you add to this list? What insights do you have for those facing a life-shifting health experience abroad?

    If you are considering seeking professional support, working with a professional coach or psychologist creates a safe place to express your thoughts and feelings, create solutions, make decisions, and feel more satisfaction, peace, joy, and vitality in your life. A Certified Child Life Specialist can support you and your child or teen in preparing for an upcoming medical event, developing and rehearsing a coping plan, providing psychological preparation, and education around a child's understanding and experience of illness and loss.

    Many thanks to the 2018 Families in Global Transition Kitchen Table Conversation participants and other interviewees who have shared their stories and insights with us over the past eighteen months. You are all inspirational leaders in life and the expat community at large.

    Carolyn Parse Rizzo is a Certified Child Life Specialist and life coach for global families facing health challenges and change. She hosts a quarterly Vibrant Women's Circle for expat women in Northern Italy where she lives with her cross-cultural family. https://www.intervallifecoach.com/ 

  • 11 Mar 2019 9:30 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT conference has changed everything for me! Will it do the same for you?

    I attended my first Families in Global Transition conference was in 2016, since then I have never missed a single conference. If fact, that is probably the only one trip that each year I know I’ll be taking for sure despite the long distance.

    I remember the day I arrived to Amsterdam to attend my first conference, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. I was wondering if I had done a huge mistake with this major investment for me to fly all the way from New York to be there. The conference had of course been highly recommended to me by some peers, but still, it was quite a leap of faith to decide go.

    My initial motive to go was simply to research my market and grow my network as I had launched a podcast show and was looking for interesting guests and experts to interview.

    However, from the moment I entered the room of the reception and attended the first keynote it suddenly felt as if I already knew these people, they were my people!

    Everyone was so welcoming and felt so familiar, despite the huge diversity of people, coming from all origins, ages and backgrounds. Also, it was such a relief to not have to go through the exhausting explanations about where I come from, where I lived, where I was going, and what is my mother tongue…

    Little did I know that this was just the beginning for me… After those three days, I left with a family and friendships with emotional and intellectual ties that are beyond explainable. But I also left with so much knowledge and understanding of everything I have been going through in my life, my career and my identity while living on the move since childhood, belonging everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

    I also discovered the wide range of great experts and resources that are designed to help expats and global nomads make the best of their experience on the move. My thought then was “why did I not know about these things before? I would have saved so much energy and time figuring it out on my own!”

    Therefore, since then I have been so passionately spreading the word to make sure that every global nomad in general and every expat spouse and expat parent in particular that I meet knows about this amazing platform.

    I am always impressed by how professional is the organization of this platform and by the high level of each conference I attended (Bangkok is going to be my 4th conference in a row, and the distance is twice as long!).

    All of this is made possible by a small team of amazing volunteers who generously offer their precious time, skills and energy. I honestly now can’t imagine a world for global nomads like us without the existence of Families in Global Transition.

    This was my personal experience with FIGT and why I keep going every year.

    However, in few words, here is how I think you should consider if you should join this conference and if it will make a difference for you:

    • If you want to connect with like-minded people who understand the whole complexity of your lifestyle, you will find your tribe of people who understand you at first glance and know how to build relationships that last beyond borders and time.

    • If you encounter identity, cross-culture, career, business, or legal challenges that you or your family struggle with due to your nomadic life and global transitions, you will find there all the expertise and guidance you need to make the best of your experience!

    • If you are an expert, coach or entrepreneur who has services or products that can truly help global nomads and expats, this is the perfect place to contribute with your expertise, grow your network but also find a community of entrepreneurs to stay in touch with and find potential partners.

    • Also, know that if you have participated to the conference and get to understand the spirit of FIGT, you will have a good chance to be selected to speak at the following conference.

    As a business coach, I always invite my clients to make sure to have at least one regular event or platform to belong to and attend on a consistent basis, but this has to be done from a place of true curiosity for other members and authenticity.

    That is one of the things I love most about the FIGT conference and why I feel so comfortable going each time, I do not have the feeling that attendees (or even sponsors) are there to just sell! Although a lot of attendees and speakers have indeed services or products to promote, everyone is so curious to learn from others and everyone supports each other beyond the business aspect. That, is for me the most mindful way to actually grow your business.

    As each year, it looks like I am going to have such a hard time choosing between all the great sessions. But here is just a small glimpse of topics that I find really interesting:

    • Prevention is Always Better Than Cure: How This Applies to International Family Law Issues with Lucy Greenwood and David Hodson

    • Cultivating Stillness in a Fast Moving World with Jody Harris

    • How To Prevent Your Relationship From Being Put to the Test When Your Life Is in Transition with Sundae Bean

    • Is Online the Future of Therapy for the Globally Mobile? With Sonia Jaeger and Vivian Chinoa

    • Strategies to Support Families in Global Transition with Gender Expansive and LGBTQ Youth with Lauran Anderson

    And I also hope to meet you at the concurrent session I will be presenting on April 27th at 11.30am! It is entitled How To Grow a Portable Business That Will Create the Impact You Want To Make.

    Whether you join this concurrent session or not, I still hope to have the opportunity to meet you there and get to know you if I do not already ;)

    See you in Bangkok!


    Amel Derragui is a business and marketing coach and the founder of Tandem Nomads, a podcast show and entrepreneurship platform designed to help expat partners and global nomads grow a successful portable business and create the impact they want to make, even when living on the move.

    After a career in advertising, she joined her husband abroad and launched a marketing consulting business cross three continents. Six years later, discovering a real need for expat spouses to find their own source of fulfillment and financial freedom, she launched Tandem Nomads. Featured in Forbes Magazine, Global Living Magazine and other media, Amel speaks at various events for corporate companies and organizations such as the UN or the World Bank.

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