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.

  • 15 Feb 2022 6:01 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Sarah Korbus tackles this month's Focus, Grief, by sharing with our community how to talk about loss and the feelings around it, and how we may become stronger for it.

    By Sarah Kobrus

    For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,

    Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.

    So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain.

    Give it purpose, use it. -Amanda Gorman

    “Mummyyy?” Jonny(4) piped up from the back of our Land Cruiser on the way to school in Doha

    “Yes, Jonny.” I wasn’t really listening, focusing on surviving the mad rush hour traffic.

    “You know yesterday… ah’mmnn talking bout you being poorly… and having hoperation?” He now had my full attention. 

    My eyes locked with his in the rear-view mirror as he asked a bombshell of a question. “Mummyyy. Are you going to die?”

    When I moved to the Middle East over twenty years ago, talking to my three kids about cancer was definitely not in my travel plans. Like most parents, I wanted to protect them from loss and grief-and definitely from pain. Yet, before they reached double digits, they’d been with both grandfathers when they suddenly died, seen their mum become very ill and were living in their 3rd country: a cocoon of compounding loss. 

    Talking about tough stuff

    Talking about loss and grief isn’t easy, often uncomfortable and even painful. Our urge to dodge pain is a natural human reaction. But, comes at significant cost. As the renown mental health expert, Dr Gabor Mate, says. “When we flee our vulnerability, we lose our capacity for feeling emotion.”*

    As well as being an accompanying partner and TCK mum, I’ve been a social worker and counsellor for over thirty years-talking about the toughest stuff with the most vulnerable. One thing I know about grief is that if loss is hidden, unnamed, unconsciously experienced, this is when it’s harmful for our mental, emotional and physical health. Numbing or hiding the tough stuff also dulls and blunts the good stuff. We experience loss in our bodies, minds and souls because it’s so closely related to all that we believe and value; that central paradox in life - we grieve because we love

    The transforming power in loss and grief

    Because loss is part of any change, globally mobile folks have so many everyday opportunities to practise talking about tough stuff. When loss and grief are explored openly, honestly and gently, they can become an energetic force for good, building deeper connection and compassion within ourselves and with others. This also show us how to build robust resilience; because practising on smaller losses means we will know how to handle the bigger stuff that everyone will face in life. 

    A therapeutic coaching tool that has helped my family do this is Emotional Logic (link below). This is a system of practical coaching tools that gave us a shared emotional language and a guidebook to navigate through loss. 

    How to talk about tough stuff 101

    • Be prepared for grief, educate yourself about loss then pass this on to your loved ones.
    • Keep it simple. 
    • It’s ok to say. “I don’t know-yet.”
    • Don’t make any promises that you may not be able to keep.

    Back to that car journey. My first reaction was an inner cry, **** why didn’t he ask me last night? But thankfully, my professional voice kicked in. “That’s such a good question, Jonny! Let’s pull over somewhere safe, then we can talk.” As I looked for a layby, Beth (9) jumped in. 

    “You know what, Jonny…” She tickled him until he squealed. “We’re all going to die!” The last bit was delivered with such over the top drama that they both burst out laughing. Which was too much for Alice (5). Her eyes filled up over her constantly sucked thumb. 

    Pulling her into my lap, I bravely cheered. “But not yet!” 

    Who knew that the chats we’d had, the books we’d read and pictures we’d drawn after the loss of their Grandfather’s would return to bless me in quite this way? We were prepared. We had the words and the safe place in our relationship to talk about anything. 

    The useful purpose of loss and grief

    This journey through loss-that I wouldn’t have chosen for my kids-expanded their hearts and their souls. Their resilience grew because of how we embraced our pain, with the bonus that their compassion for others also flourished. My TCKs are now in their twenties; loss and grief gave them the purpose that they use every day. They’ve all chosen careers that help others; a teacher, trainee art therapist and life sciences undergraduate; alongside plotting to resume their globally mobile life as soon as the world opens up again. 


    *Gabor Mate: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts




    A picture containing tree, person, outdoor Description automatically generated

    Sarah is a UK registered social worker, certified counsellor and Emotional Logic coach, specialising in loss, grief, trauma and resilience. She has a private coaching practice, details below and loves working with accompanying partners, older TCK’s and ATCKs.She is also a writer and will publish Good Grief: 7 Stepping Stones to Peace, Hope and Wholeness for the Globally Mobile later this year. She was awarded a publishing prize with Jo Parfitt, Summertime Publishing during the pandemic and is working on her memoir Count Only Sunny Hours. Sarah has lived in America, Bahrain, Qatar, France, Holland and is currently in Cumbria, England. She is presenting a tabletop talk, ‘Recover, Reset, Renew your Resilience,’ introducing the Emotional Logic method during the FIGT conference in March 2022.



  • 15 Feb 2022 4:50 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In the second part of this two-part series, FIGT member Ema Naito shares how, with a few thoughtful choices, your slides and posters can reach a greater audience.

    By Ema Naito

    If you missed Part 1 of this article, find it here.

    Tips for writing: Slides & posters

    Some of us will have slides and all presenters are invited to submit e-posters, so here are additional tips for writing.

    1. Stick to one key message per slide, per sentence. 

    Use short sentences, no more than 15-20 words long (on average—for variety, you make some shorter and some longer).

    It makes the sentences easier to read and understand.

    (Source: “How to write plain English,” Plain English Campaign.)

    2. Say WHO is doing WHAT

    When writing in English, make sure you make it clear WHO is doing WHAT.

    That often means you should try to use the active voice.

    Passive: The challenges were acknowledged (by zombies?).

    Active: We acknowledged the challenges.

    If you can add “by zombies” at the end, that may mean it’s in the passive voice :)

    In passive voice, WHO is doing the action can get easily hidden. Unless the focus is on WHAT was done, make sure you’re clear on the WHO.

    3. Keep the WHO & the WHAT close

    Following from the point above, you also should try to keep that WHO and the WHAT close to each other in the sentence. It will help readers from getting lost.


    People from across cultures as well as corporations, small businesses, international schools, relocation services, diplomatic corps, non-profits, academia, media and the arts come to this conference. 

    [By the time you get to the WHAT (“come”), you’ve forgotten about the WHO (“people”).]


    People come to this conference from across many cultures. Participants also come from corporations, small businesses, international schools, relocation services, diplomatic corps, non-profits, academia, media and the arts.

    You may also need to cut the sentences into two.

    4. Consider readability

    Readability isn’t about making things look pretty. It’s about making your slides and e-posters accessible to your diverse audiences.

    (And it will help make your slides and e-posters more inviting, so people will want to read them.)


    Pick fonts that are readable and use a legible size.

    • For presentations: 28 pt or bigger (but some fonts are easier to read than others so choose wisely)

    • On screen: sans serif fonts are easier to read (because they have evenly thicker lines)

    • Use only two different fonts, max. (unless you know what you’re doing)

    White space

    “White space is thinking space.”

    Don’t cram everything you can onto your slides or e-posters. It’s

    • difficult (if not impossible) to read
    • overwhelming
    • uninviting—who would want to read it?

    Less is more. Use only key words and simplified graphics.

    That way, the audience can listen to you (the screen doesn’t compete for their attention). 

    It doesn’t overwhelm your audience (imagine if you had anxiety or were stressed). It makes it easier for anyone using a screen reader to follow.

    And it forces you to focus on your most important messages.

    (You can always add links where people can learn more if they want.)


    Be careful of the colors you use.

    Consider the following: 

    People can’t read this—the colors are too stark (and anxiety-inducing!) or the contrast is too weak.

    How about this:

    Also consider if someone is color-blind. It will look different.

    So if you use red to mean “bad” and green for “good,” make sure the information is conveyed in other ways too. Don’t rely only on color.


    So! To sum up:

    When speaking

    Choose your words

    • Avoid slang
    • Avoid jargon & abbreviations – but if you must use them, explain the word first
    • Use plain words

    Focus on action

    • Use active verbs (rescue the actions from the nouns)

    Speak SLOWLY!

    When writing: Posters, slides

    Be selective

    • Stick to one key message per slide, per sentence

    • Write short sentences (15-20 words per sentence)

    Design for readability

    • Use big text & legible fonts

    • Use white space

    • Consider contrast


    There are many great resources out there on all the points above.

    Plain language 


    Design basics


    * Many thanks to Sarah Black, Athru Communications, for the accessibility & inclusion resources.

    Ema Naito is an English editor who is passionate about clear, plain language. A bilingual third culture kid, Ema grew up between Tokyo and the US East Coast. She now lives in Bangkok, is an FIGT volunteer, and will be hosting a Kitchen Table Conversation at FIGT2022. You can find more of her tips on clear and accessible writing at www.TheClarityEditor.com

  • 03 Feb 2022 5:10 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In Part One of this two-part series, FIGT member Ema Naito shares how, with a few thoughtful choices, your written and spoken presentations can reach a greater audience.

    By Ema Naito-Bhakdi

    FIGT brings together globally mobile people. That means many of us have plenty of experience talking to people from different parts of the world.

    Then why are we talking about how to use clear English at FIGT conferences?

    It’s because FIGT wants everyone—that includes you!—to feel they can fully take part in FIGT activities and that they are valuable, contributing members of this community.

    And using clear English is one of our tools to create that space.

    (I loosely define clear English as English that is understandable and accessible to as many people as possible.)

    And of course, clear English will also help us, FIGT2022 presenters, be trusted and understood by our audiences.

    What’s in this article:

    • Our audience is diverse

    • Tips for presenting & speaking

    • Tips for writing

    • Resources

    A reminder: Our audience is diverse

    Without an audience, our presentations are nothing.

    We all know that FIGT audiences are diverse, in cultures and religions, languages, passports, socioeconomic backgrounds, identities, and family structures, not to mention experiences of trauma, disabilities (physical and mental, temporary and permanent), and current stress levels.

    All these affect how we understand and engage with the world around us.

    But also remember that FIGT2022 audiences are diverse in experiences of mobility and familiarity with FIGT.

    • We have different experiences of mobility. Some of us move countries every year; some haved lived abroad once. Some cross cultures daily through family, school, or work. Some choose to move; some are forced. All different.
    • We have different levels of familiarity with FIGTOur organization is remarkable that members stay for decades, but we also welcome many new faces each year. Remember that the words and ideas we casually use (e.g., “TCK”) may be new to many.

    Tips for presenting & speaking

    So! Here are some things to keep in mind to more effectively communicate with our FIGT audience.

    1. Be aware of your word choice

    Avoid slang, figures of speech, cultural references

    In slang and figures of speech, the literal meaning of the words do not match the intended meaning.

    “I chickened out” (got scared and didn’t do something).

    “It’s so whitebread” (plain).

    “He wears his heart on his sleeve” (shows his intimate emotions honestly).

    (Can you find all 27 English figures of speech in this drawing by graphic artist Ella Baron?)

    Also watch out for cultural references, like referring to TV and film, sports, fashion trends, celebrities, and music.

    These can make it difficult for people to understand what you are trying to say.

    They also are often used to signal that we’re members of the same group—but if we don’t understand the reference, we feel left out.

    Avoid jargon & acronyms – if you must use them, EXPLAIN

    This one is especially important for our researchers and specialists! We can get so used to using certain words that we forget: not everyone knows what those words mean.

    For example, post-colonialism, translanguaging, TCK.

    Try to use as few of those special words as possible.

    If you must use technical words, have the courtesy to explain them the first time you mention them.

    Offer a simple definition. Formal definitions can often be too technical, so choose something that will let your audience easily understand and remember the concept.

    And remind people what those words mean from time to time.

    2. Use short “plain” words

    Don’t try to sound “sophisticated.” Use the shorter words.

    See “The A to Z of alternative words”, Plain English Campaign, for more.

    3. Find the action: Find the verb

    Often, we “smother” (hide) the action as nouns. But actions are more interesting and engaging, human.

    So rescue those verbs!

    If you can put the “I” and the “you” back into the sentence, then that’s even better. 

    4. Speak slowly

    Remember to speak slowly! Practice and time yourself.

    Speaking slowly will give the audience a chance to understand what you are saying. If you go too fast, more people will get lost or overwhelmed.

    Also, don’t be afraid of pauses. They can give precious space for the audience to think, feel, process what you’re sharing.


    So! To sum up:

    When speaking

    Choose your words

    • Avoid slang
    • Avoid jargon & abbreviations – but if you must use them, explain the word first
    • Use plain words

    Focus on action

    • Use active verbs (rescue the actions from the nouns)

    Speak SLOWLY!


    There are many great resources out there on all the points above.

    Plain language 


    Design basics


    * Many thanks to Sarah Black, Athru Communications, for the accessibility & inclusion resources.

    Find Part 2 of this article, here.

    Ema Naito is an English editor who is passionate about clear, plain language. A bilingual third culture kid, Ema grew up between Tokyo and the US East Coast. She now lives in Bangkok, is an FIGT volunteer, and will be hosting a Kitchen Table Conversation at FIGT2022. You can find more of her tips on clear and accessible writing at www.TheClarityEditor.com

  • 01 Feb 2022 5:25 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition is thrilled to announce that longtime Gold-level sponsor Patterson Partners Ltd/CrossBorder Living is now our Platinum Sponsor! 

    What made Managing Partner and Visionary Jennifer Patterson decide to sponsor this year at the Platinum level? She spoke of her journey with FIGT, growing out of founder Ruth Van Reken’s vision, and how she’s shared what she’s learned with her international financial advisory and wealth management clients:


    “Truthfully, I think that I owe a lot to FIGT and its broader worldwide community.”

    When I was considering increasing our commitment to FIGT, I thought back to 2007 when I first attended the conference in Houston. I resonated with the story of gathering around Ruth's kitchen table to brainstorm, comfort, seek to understand - and how that – gathering around a table ‒ was (and still is) an elegant solution for achieving a positive impact in someone's life.”


     “Over the years I have witnessed the idea of conversations at a single table grow to many conversations at many tables around the world. In addition, the conversations expanded from issues arising from mobility to include issues and situations arising in multi-cultural and multi-national families. Inclusivity has always been the rule.


    “As an individual, it helped me understand that my initial experience with being an expat was "normal". When I started expanding that conversation for myself to include the legal and mental transition from "expat" to "immigrant", I found that again, I was not alone. And as a cross-cultural parent having this context for myself helped enormously, in addition to the many resources that have come through the years.


    Once I understood myself better, I started engaging in the conversation more with clients ‒ ultimately dedicating my professional work to what I started referring to as cross-border financial planning with a few financial planning peers who were also cross-cultural and multi-national. My conversations with clients and peers started focusing on how to adapt and adjust the financial aspects to handle the transitions while keeping focused on the long term too, even if it's not clear exactly what that looks like.


    Sponsorship is just one small way of saying: Thank you for helping me so many years ago. Thank you, Ruth, for the inspiration to do more and be more. And thank you for all the positive work being brought forward to our global village by the leadership and members of FIGT."

    FIGT thanks Jennifer and Patterson Partners Ltd/CrossBorder Living for their immense, ongoing support of our organization, and of our broader globally mobile community. 

  • 19 Jan 2022 2:07 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    With previous experience serving on the FIGT Board, Megan Norton shares her goals in her new role as FIGT Treasurer, and encourages the greater FIGT community to get involved and volunteer!

    We are excited to introduce FIGT member Megan Norton in her new position as Treasurer on the FIGT board. Below, Megan has written a short message:

    Hello FIGT members!

    FIGT is one of my favorite communities to be a part of! Collectively, we have so many diverse voices and experiences; it is always intriguing to hear our members’ different perspectives and stories of both global and local transitions. 

    There are several ways to get involved in FIGT and I believe one of the most rewarding is to serve as a volunteer. I am grateful for the appointment to serve as FIGT’s Treasurer through October 2022. When I answered the Treasurer call for application in November, I was hopeful to be able to serve on the board once again. I value the opportunity to be in this leadership position and I look forward to sustaining the financial health of the organization through my role responsibilities. The onboarding process has been swift over the past few weeks and I am grateful for the Executive Committee’s embrace as I learn the duties of this position. 

    I encourage more of our FIGT members to volunteer within the board committees in order to sustain and grow our global community. You can reach me at treasurer@figt.org; I’d love to hear from you!



  • 13 Dec 2021 4:25 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member Sinéad Galvin shares with us the delightful end-of-year holidays and traditions from Spain.

    By Sinéad Galvin

    My name is Sinéad and I am a FIGT newbie. I’m Irish and although I have lived in many other countries, Spain has been my home for many, many years. For that reason I wanted to share some of Spain’s Christmas traditions. 


    For families that might be celebrating their first Christmas in Spain then it is high time to learn about the Spanish Christmas customs or traditions as they might differ from those to which you are already accustomed. 


    Nochebuena (Christmas eve)

    Christmas eve is celebrated on December 24 and is of huge importance, it is generally a big family affair. Usually, members of the extended family gather around a feast which although differs depending on where you are in Spain will almost certainly include; jamón (Spanish ham), marisco (sea food), cordero (leg of lamb), pescado (fish), meat, wine and all kinds of desserts

    In many homes, especially with children, Nochebuena is a very exciting night: it’s when Papá Noel (Santa Claus) brings gifts to all the children who have been good during the year. Some regions of Spain have their own traditions: in the Basque Country, it’s Olentzero who leaves the gifts, while children from Cataluña and Aragón receive gifts from Tió de Nadal.

    It's really important to note that Spanish kids traditionally received their Christmas presents from Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings) affectionately known as Melchior, Gaspar and Baltazar on 6th January. My Spanish husband never celebrated Santa but I suppose in these global items, Santa is slowly making headway in Spanish homes. Because of Los Reyes, Spanish kids do not go back to school until 8th January.


    Caga Tió (literally means pooping log!)

    The Caga Tió – or Tió de Nadal (Christmas Log) as he is sometimes called – is a smallish wooden log, covered in a blanket and usually given a warm, smiley face. You’ll find Caga Tió for sale in Christmas markets across the two main provinces from which he originates, Catalonia and Aragon. Come Christmas time, the log is expected to ‘poop’ presents for children and their parents, much to the amusement and amazement of younger spectators.

    El Gordo

    Although several lotteries, national and continental, take place daily and weekly in Spain, the most famous and eagerly-awaited of all is the El Gordo ('fat') draw, held without fail on December 22, even when this is a Sunday. It has been held every year since 1812, and the winning numbers are sung out by school children.


    Nochevieja (New Years Eve)

    Spaniards spend the final moments before the clock strikes midnight preparing to ring in the new year. People gather in plazas or homes to eat the 12 uvas de la suerte (12 lucky grapes). For each grape, you make one wish for the new year. The goal, when the clock strikes midnight, eat each grape, one by one, in 12 seconds. Most certainly not recommended for young children!

    Belens (Christmas crib)

    Beléns are elaborate nativity scenes – it is the Spanish word for Bethlehem. More than just a stable with animals and figurines, however, the Spanish beléns can be huge scenes, complete with many different houses, farms, rivers and marketplaces. They really are spectacular to see.


    Dia de los Santos Inocentes (Fools’ day)

    The Spanish versión of April’s fool’s day takes place on December 28th.

    Roscón de Reyes (Spanish variation of Christmas cake)

    The roscón is a sweet bread (almost like a brioche) that is baked into a circle or an oval shape. It isn’t always filled, but traditional fillings include whipped cream, chocolate cream, meringue or custard cream. It is typical to decorate the cake with colorful candied fruits, creating what looks like a king’s crown full of sparkling jewels. Bakers hide small trinkets throughout the cake, so be careful when biting into this pastry.

  • 07 Dec 2021 3:56 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In our last FIGT focus blog on careers, member Doreen Cumberford shares the various perspectives gained from decades of working abroad. 

    By Doreen Cumberford

    The last two years have revealed fast-moving trends in the field of global careers. Covid-19 has transformed our globe in so many ways and careers have become more portable, flexible and transferable. Careers also deliver a combination of hindsight, foresight and insight.


    The globally mobile lifestyle offers so much variety, novelty and complexity that this challenges our old ideas and mindset that a person needs to have a consistently focused decades long career. Careers are transforming as fast as or faster than humans. Modern careers are required to span geography, decades, and cultures. Yet institutions, governments and missions rely on stable personnel to deliver consistent productivity along the way. Technology has created a career revolution. When a two-career family or partnership is involved, the level of complexity grows exponentially.

    There is a story where someone asks a wise man, “Tell me sir, in which field could I make a great career?”, to which he answered, 

    Be a great human being. There is a lot of opportunity in that area and very little competition.” 

    While life always serves up opportunities to be better human beings, is it possible that this could be the purpose for a career also?

    More of us are becoming digitally and geographically mobile throughout all stages of life. Remote work has never been this popular and people who have been shackled to a desk for decades are now waking up to the novelty, freedom, and possibilities of international travel paired with work.  There used to be niches previously populated by diplomatic and mission services, corporate expats, NGOs, military etc. who had no choice of location.  The job and the country was dictated by the institution, now more jobs and locations are selected by the individual.

    After University in Glasgow, Scotland I was actively looking for a career that would also give me the benefits of surfing the globe and joined the British Diplomatic Service. Four decades, eight countries and four continents later I achieved that, just not in the way I had anticipated. It took leaping from government to corporate to entrepreneurship and cobbling together skills and passions along the way. 

    I was pretty sure my career had died when I moved to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1992. As a first-time mother and trailing spouse, I loved staying home for a season but a few short years later I was ready for more self-expression in the form of a career.


    More humans are now discovering geographical freedom in a way we have never witnessed before. This is disrupting the way we have thought about work and occupations in general. There are basically two questions we can ask regarding careers. 


     Where can my career take me? 


     Where can I take my career? 

    More and more people are asking the second question “where can I take my career?”. 

    In the US alone there are 10.9 million people who would describe themselves as digital nomads. This is an increase of 49% since 2019, just a few short months ago!  While the majority are Millennials ranging from between 25 and 40 years of age, the average age of a digital nomad in 2021 is 32 years old. 

    There was also a substantial rise in Baby Boomers (aged 57-75 years old) who chose to become what I call “Slowmads”, nomads traveling slowly.  These are seniors many are former expats (like me), who simply decline the option to be rooted to only one place. Many are still vibrant, capable and have not given up their curiosity and love of learning to retire to a rocking chair.

    In many cases Boomers have extended their careers by simply transforming their skillset, mindset, and attention to freelance and consulting work. To that they have added a decision to live overseas again either part or full time. They are combining what they fondly call side-hustles with their previous corporate skills and making unlikely contributions designed to connect the globe and while making their unique difference. It is frequently inspiring to listen to their stories and get an inkling into their wisdom.

    Yesterday I chatted to one of these “Slowmads”. He is currently in Mexico for six months awaiting changes in the Vietnamese visa system that will permit him to return to Vietnam for the following six months. With time, talent, and resources on his hands he is using his corporate experience to build an initiative specifically for mural artists. His vision, is to provide a clearing house for artists across the globe with opportunities for them to travel, take their portable skills and offer services in other countries. 

    While the world seems shut down from many perspectives, if we look carefully there is massive activity and surprising social migration. From marketing teams to magicians, doctors to data-base experts, people are discarding their desks and making geographical leaps into our lane, the global transition lane.

    While many new digital nomads are choosing this overseas lifestyle to improve work/life balance, or seek adventure, the outcome is always predictable, there will be much to learn and reflect on. This transforms into insight.


    As Families in Global Transition we stand at the threshold of welcoming a new community of fellow travelers who live in transition. We can open the tent flap, invite people in and share all the decades of wisdom, reflection and experience that reside within our hearts and minds.

    But what are the greatest gifts here? I believe they are a combination of the elements that our careers have deposited along the road.  Perhaps the real question should be, how are our careers leading us to become better human beings? 

    Insight frequently arrives in the form of reflection.  As we have traversed the globe, we have either packed our careers and taken them with us, or we have gone where the career led.  Many of us have done both and now share, shine, and shore up the value of all the life lessons that are built into a global lifestyle.

    Perhaps hindsight, foresight and insight are in fact what makes the world, and our careers go around.  Let’s use our globalness for good.

  • 19 Nov 2021 3:35 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In our FIGT Focus on Career, FIGT member Nikki Cornfield shares how her global journey uprooted her career path, but led her on a journey to find her authentic self.

    By Nikki Cornfield

    As a newlywed and in the first bloom of pregnancy, the paint was barely dry on the wall in our beloved new home when he dropped the bombshell question- 

    “So how do you fancy living overseas?” 

    The question hung heavy in the air between us. 

    I was in the glorious nesting phase, and finally putting down roots after a career in the skies.  We were still reeling from the shock of 9/11, swiftly followed by the collapse of Enron, and his career; two bowling balls that had been thrown in our path sending us in a spin and the search for work. This was a time before the internet, a time before online working and a time before the term ‘global nomad’ or ‘expat’ were commonly  known.  

    I followed him to The Netherlands with a six-week-old baby, in the middle of winter and to a house I had never seen. Who was that woman? I don’t recognize her now.  

    I was naïve then, I hadn’t put much priority on what I wanted, my own dreams and aspirations I had somehow allowed to be pushed to one side. I remember the grief of leaving everything I loved behind. Without any secure foundations, those delicate first few months of transitions into motherhood were traumatic. This was the slippery slope to post-natal depression and the first layers of unresolved grief to be laid.  In a time before zoom, messenger, and social media, my life in each new country was at the beginning isolating, a blank slate to fill. Communication to friends and family overseas not the ease it is today. Not having a portable career proved my downfall but this was a time before online business was the norm. I took opportunities as they came along, spontaneity opened doors. Often, this happened without me even looking for them.  

    And sometimes, the best opportunities were the ones that didn't feel like "opportunities" at all. The freedom of time and choice meant I didn’t miss a single second of my children growing up. I was there for it all. It also allowed me time to travel, to explore places and be with my family in the long summer hols back home. I had time to study, try new things, just for the hell of it. 

    So, I don't look back with regrets, or wish I’d done things differently. I made decisions with what I had at the time.

    Have there been tears? Bucketfuls. 

    Laughter? So much. 

    New friendships? Too many to count! Some beautiful, some short, some intense and long lasting.  

    Lessons and education? Yes, along with a deep respect for anyone regardless of race, background and education. 

    Sadness and grief? Yes...

    ...but it’s all part of the human experience.

    Loss and a sense of missing out on family, special events, and life back home is an inevitable part of expat life.

    Was it worth it in the end?

    Yes. 100%. 

    I would not be who I am today, if I had stayed put. I love the lenses through which I now view the world. They are clear, wide reaching and have a depth and clarity on the important things that make life special. And I have a memoir written that without my journey would not exist. It is through the journey after all, that we find the road home to our authentic self.

    So where am I now in my career? Right at the beginning and a feeling that I was left behind. A good dose of frustration and a feeling of not quite knowing where I fit in to this new fast paced online world. But, I am building my career, my way, and my unique experiences give me strength, and confidence as I move forward. 

    “So how do you fancy living overseas?” 

    To anyone facing this same question, my message is one of preparation. Don’t do what I did and become unhappier with each move, less and less confident and falling completely off the bottom ring of the career ladder. Instead, ask the questions, voice your needs, they are just as important regardless of your earning capabilities.  

  • 02 Nov 2021 4:10 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT member, Daniela Draugelis, explains how a strategic volunteering can make a difference in someone else's life, while also giving your own career a boost in the right direction. 

    By Daniela Draugelis

    Michelle Obama said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” Making a difference through volunteering is a great way to merge purposeful work while at the same time adding value to your career. 

    Many expat spouses find themselves unable to work when they arrive in a new country due to the lack of a work visa or work permit, which can lead to disappointment and frustration, and a sense of loss. However, strategic volunteering offers an opportunity to maintain or even develop new skills while making a difference by giving back to an organization or community. 

    Strategic volunteering is essentially volunteering with a goal in mind. Not only are you giving back to an organization and its constituents by donating your time and energy, but you are also gaining new experience, skills, and connections. This targeted volunteering approach can in turn help propel your career in the right direction when you move to your next destination or repatriate back home. 

    To ensure strategic volunteering benefits your career goals, consider the following:

    Decide what skills you would like to enhance or develop

    Think about your past experiences, research the skills you might need in the future if you were to start your own business or shift careers. It is during volunteer pursuits that you can develop the leadership, public speaking or presentation skills you always longed for. Sometimes expat assignments are great opportunities to pause, explore and try something new. Take advantage of the opportunity that being in a new country gives you to learn a new language! 

    Pick causes that interest you

    If your ultimate goal is to work with a specific constituent (i.e. children, the elderly, etc.) or issue (i.e. mental health, animal rescue, etc.), try to find organizations in your host country that serve those groups. Try to find publications, talk to people at the international schools, embassies, churches, who may be able to help you find these organizations. Some International schools also offer great opportunities for parents to volunteer through their Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) to get involved in activities like fundraising, event planning, hosting events for arriving families, managing the gift shop, etc. Leverage your network to find the opportunities that fit you best. 

    Find an opportunity and organization that fits your goals

    When selecting a volunteer opportunity, take the time to consider other factors like: how much time are you willing to commit? Do you prefer larger or smaller organizations? How much travel is required? Are you willing to take on a leadership role, or do you prefer to be a member of a team where others lead? Whichever option you choose, know that the organization will be grateful for the time and effort you put into it. 

    Start your own volunteer venture

    Maybe you identify an opportunity to serve a segment of the community that is currently not being addressed, or you have a brilliant idea to start your own volunteer organization! You may propose your own passion 

    project or a new volunteer role to an existing nonprofit organization. One of the great benefits of the constant change in the expatriate community is the endless flow of new ideas that help these organizations grow. 

    Ideally, in order to make the most of these strategic volunteer opportunities, you will want to make sure that you are producing measurable outputs that can be translated into accomplishment statements on your resume, so you can add these new skills to your resume and LinkedIn profile.

    In the end, you will find that employers highly value recently gained professional skills and experiences, whether they are acquired from a paid job or in a volunteering role. But the most important thing is that your volunteer experience will allow you to walk away knowing that you made a difference in other people’s lives. 

  • 02 Nov 2021 4:01 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition would like to thank multi-year Silver Sponsor American Psychologist for their support of our organization and our broader global community.

    Dr. Mark Burdick is a dual-credentialed educational and licensed psychologist in the US, a UK Chartered Psychologist, and an EU Agent and Independent Educational Consultant well versed about services, programs and schools for families living around the globe.

    As founder of American Psychologist / Burdick Psychological and Placement Services, Mark runs a family-based, concierge psychological services provider, consultancy, and education and treatment placement agency that has been providing solutions to expats for over 30 years.

    So what has driven Mark to sponsor at the Silver level?

    “As an adult Third Culture individual myself, and a psychologist conducting international services, I have found FIGT the one and only place where we talk openly about the possible downside of overseas life.”

    During 2020 and 2021, Mark was joined in sponsoring by colleague Steven DeMille, Ph.D. LCMHC. As Executive Director of RedCliff Ascent, Steven specializes in wilderness-based family therapy and has contributed a chapter on the its practical use in Family Therapy with Adolescents in Residential Treatment.

    FIGT is appreciative of Mark, Steven, and American Psychologist as a Silver sponsor, and their work in the world.

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