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.

  • 20 Jun 2021 11:53 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition is grateful to Cross Border Financial Planning, a Silver Sponsor over the past two years. We value their participation in our organization, and their support of financial planning for the globally mobile.

    Cross Border Financial Planning specializes in providing financial advice to those who live, work and move across borders. 


    Growing out of their specialized skills in this field and an interest from all of their partners to live and work abroad, according to CBFP’s Edward Cole, their focus “has and always will be to provide financial advice to a large but often underserved group – globally mobile people.” 


    The financial planning solutions they develop take into account the tax, currency and legal implications of clients’ current country of residence, as well as past and future plans. Additionally, they’ve developed a trusted network of professionals across the world that they work with in areas such as tax advice, legal services, immigration advice and property finance.


    CBFP sponsored and actively participated in FIGT2021, our first ever online conference held in March.


    “The virtual conference provided sponsors with an opportunity to make information about their company and services readily available for people to explore in their own time,” Edward shared. 


    “Although it will always be hard to replicate the benefits of a proper stall that you can have conversations with people at (i.e., in person), the ability to upload brochures and have a virtual stall at the conference was a well thought through alternative.”


    Regarding FIGT’s conference platform Pheedloop, he indicated that it “was easy to learn, and made interaction with other attendees a simple process. It was also a good platform for sponsors to have their logo on display throughout the conference.”


    Edward also gave an enlightening Power Presentation on Saturday, March 13th, entitled Whilst You Move, Your Money Stays Still: Understand and Simplify Global Financial Planning, in which he drew upon a range of country-specific topics as well as discussion covering broad themes and ideas relevant for most or all countries. Conference attendees may still access the FIGT2021 platform to check out this and all other presentations until September 15th.


    FIGT appreciates Edward and Cross Border Financial Planning’s two years of partnership as one of our Silver Sponsors. Many thanks for your support of FIGT, and we wish CBFP much success.


  • 12 Jun 2021 10:40 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    FIGT Research Network and Counseling and Coaching affiliate discussed with Dr. Tim Stuart and Dr. Jang Eun Cho what helps Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and parachute kids build resilience so that they can thrive, even in the face of adversity.

    Title banner with speaker photos

    It’s not easy growing up with a mobile life, crossing borders, cultures, and languages. What helps Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and “parachute kids” build resilience so that they can thrive, even in the face of adversity? And in what ways can parents, educators, counselors help these children build resilience?

    On 4 December 2020, FIGT Research Network and Counseling and Coaching affiliate co-hosted a discussion with guests Dr. Tim Stuart and Dr. Jang Eun Cho to talk about “Third Culture Kids & Parachute Kids: Building Their Resilience.” The event was hosted by Dr. Danau Tanu, Co-Chair of the Research Network, and Sundae Bean of the FIGT Counseling and Coaching affiliate.

    Image of child parachutingWhat is a parachute kid?

    Parachute kids are children who are sent to a new country — most commonly for educational reasons — to live alone or with a caregiver while their parents remain in the home country.

    The name “parachute kid” comes from the idea that the parents bring the child over in a plane; the kid gets dropped off via parachute in the new country; and the parents fly right back to their home country.

    Sending children off to school in another country is a fairly common phenomenon. Not only must these children adapt to a new environment — culture, language — but they must do it alone, away from their families. 

    Sending children away to study is not new

    While the term “parachute kids” was coined in the 1980s to describe Taiwanese children who were sent to study in the United States, the practice of sending children away to study is not new and comes in many forms. 

    Historically, it was common for British administrators in colonial outposts to send their children back home to attend boarding schools. This practice has continued among the elite, leading to what researchers call the “boarding school syndrome.” At the other extreme end of the spectrum, indigenous children in North America and elsewhere were often forcibly separated from family and placed in residential schools. 

    Not only are parachute kids moving into a new world with possibly a new language, but they are doing it alone.

    Today, missionary kids are commonly sent to boarding schools while parents work in remote areas. Also, both local and international schools in Singapore, for example, have become hubs for students from across Asia to study while living with host families or other caregivers.

    These various experiences are not equivalent but may share some things in common.

    The vast majority of the participants commented that this was the first time they heard the term; some — including Dr. Ruth E. Van Reken, co-author of Third Culture Kids — even realized that they were in fact parachute kids!

    What are some challenges parachute children face?

    Jang works with parachute children and TCKs and she observes that mobility can be very traumatic for children. 

    Not only are parachute kids moving into a new world with possibly a new language, but they are doing it alone. They are suddenly responsible for managing life. 

    “Doing household chores, checking their own appointments, managing homework, money, and health…. It’s a huge mental load,” Jang says.

    “Give children challenges that can be overcome in steps, so that when the child is faced with big adversity, they have the “muscle” to overcome it.” —Jang 

    A move to another country — whether with the family or alone — also changes family dynamics. Even if the child is moving with their family, they will experience generational, cultural gaps.

    But the separation and distance for parachute kids make it even more difficult to maintain the parent-child connection; the cultural and language gaps will be bigger. 

    “While the parents’ identity stays permanently in their home country, there will be a gap [with the child’s experience and identity],” says Jang. “It’s new territory for parents too, because they’re not moving with their child and so they can’t understand what’s going on in their kid’s inner life.”

    What is resilience?

    When faced with these difficult conditions, what allows a child to overcome the challenges versus succumbing to them? What gives a child the resilience to overcome adversity?

    Resilience is often mistaken for endurance, notes Sundae, an intercultural coach. “But enduring leads to depletion,” she says, “[whereas] resilience leads to rejuvenation — you are able to restore what is lost, build what you need to be a productive member of the community, be happy and balanced.”

    “...enduring leads to depletion, [whereas] resilience leads to rejuvenation.” —Sundae

    Tim agreed: “Resilience is associated with avoiding adversity [and] … protect[ing] children from adversity. But protecting a child is impossible. It does the opposite of creating resilience; it creates weakness, the inability to cope with adversity.”

    He went on to say that it’s not about protecting the children from adversity but creating environments where TCKs can use adversity.

    A child who can overcome adversity vs a child who succumbs to it

    When Tim was working as a college counselor at the Lummi Nation Reservation in Washington state, the students told him, “Don’t pay too much attention to us because we’re ‘at risk.’” It stunned him to hear a child use this label on themself. Tim heard the underlying message: “I’m at risk of failure, of not making it.” 

    All children experience adversity. But while some children can believe that adversity is going to contribute to their growth, others see that it will diminish them and will give up.

    “The opposite side of the ‘children at risk’ coin is ‘children at promise.’” — Tim

    Tim decided to research what the difference was between these children. And he found that two factors made a difference: a belief system (seeing oneself as part of a bigger scheme of things) and having an adult who cared. 

    When Tim talked to the children on the Lummi Nation Reservation about turning points in their lives, they often told him it was when a person stepped into their lives and believed in them. 

    And that was his experience too. “I grew up in adversity, so much moving around. But the people who stepped into my life [who showed me], ‘you can do this, you can overcome it’ — that made the difference.”

    Interestingly, Tim found that children who grew up in affluence often identified adversity as the turning point that forced them to grow up. When they failed was when the more affluent children realized they were meant for something bigger than themselves.

    What can parents do?

    Jang tells the families she works with that they have to show their children that there are challenges, but there are ways to turn those challenges into positive outcomes. Her suggestions:

    ☑ Give children challenges that can be overcome in steps.

    Parents should give their children challenges that can be overcome in steps, so that when the child is faced with big adversity, they have the “muscle” to overcome it; they feel “yes, it’ll be challenging but I can do it.”

    ☑ Be humble.

    Jang advises parents to be humble. “Know you cannot know the whole world of your child…. As an Asian parent, I want to do everything for my child — but…we can’t protect our children from all adversity. They will have to face adversity.”

    ☑ Recognize what your goals are for your child. 

    “I know you love your children. So focus on the bigger goals — what does it look like? Often, it’s along the lines of ‘I want my child to be a happy, healthy, productive part of their society.’ When you know your big goal, you can think about how you’re going to raise your child.”

    ☑ When moving, help your child connect to a social network.

    For moves, parents of younger children and elementary schoolers can help their children to adapt by helping them find a social network. 

    ☑ Understand that your child’s “love language” can be different from yours.

    The “love language” of kids — how children perceive love — can be very different from that of the parents — how parents express love. 

    “All children really need to hear that they’re loved, hear what the parents think,” says Jang. But in Asian families, for example, there is a lot of unspoken language that happens within a family. “That unspoken language might be difficult for the kids [to recognize]. Parents have to verbalize their thoughts.”

    What should educators and parents avoid?

    Danau commented on the negative impact of “gaslighting” on TCKs, when adults continuously communicate and focus on only the positives of mobility and refuse to recognize the challenges. It causes additional mental stress, causing confusion and self-doubt.

    “[To experience] the pain of departure and leaving friends behind, and then being told not to worry, that we’ll make new friends. On the surface, this sounds encouraging — focus on the future. But this counsel bypasses the first step in the grief process, acknowledging the loss,” says Danau.

    “If parents/guardians could acknowledge the child's loss, they could both care for what is being left behind AND anticipate good things up ahead.” 

    “As children, we need to have adults who can see past our coping mechanisms and see us for who we are.” — Danau

    Adults also need to keep in mind that children experience mobility differently from grown-ups. The move happens during crucial developmental years and children often are not given a choice. If they are young, they are also dependent on their parents to keep in touch with those they left behind.

    Muslim teachers with students

    What can schools and educators do?

    In the case of parachute kids, the parents may not be there and other adults, such as educators, may need to step up to provide the kids the support they need.

    “The investment in kids will make the difference between a kid being successful and not. We can make a difference,” affirms Tim. 

    He calls upon educators — counselors, pastors, anyone who works with children — to step into the children’s lives rather than retreating from them.

    “The opposite side of the ‘children at risk’ coin is ‘children at promise.’” — Tim

    He points out that this also means schools need to create policies that allow schools to step into a child’s life in moments of adversity. For example, when a child is caught taking drugs or smoking, the typical school response is: “we’re going to push you out.” 

    “But that’s the opposite of what schools should be doing,” says Tim. “That’s when the schools should be stepping in.”

    Tim also invites educators and other adults to see the children — see them and hear them.

    “Our agenda is to get them educated, pass the exams — but we don’t pause long enough to listen, see who these kids are. Many schools are failing in this area, particularly when it comes to transitions, kids who are global nomads.”


    photo of Tim StuartTimothy S. Stuart, Ed.D, is the Head of School at the International Community School of Addis Ababa and former Executive Director of Strategic Programs at the Singapore American School. He serves as the chief architect for research and development and supports strategic school reform.

    Tim has been an international and cross-cultural educator for 25 years serving schools in Turkey, Switzerland, Indonesia (High School Principal of Jakarta International School), Singapore (High School Principal of Singapore American School) and on a Navajo reservation in the United States.

    His passion to support internationally-mobile children led Tim to co-author Children At Promise and Raising Children At Promise. He is also a co-author, editor and contributing author of multiple other books.

    photo of Jang Eun ChoJang Eun Cho, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist in the US with expertise in both psychopharmacology and psychotherapy and Director of the Consortium at Center for Cross Cultural Student Emotional Wellness, which is partner to the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and affiliated to Harvard Medical School.

    As a bilingual and bi-cultural psychiatrist, she formerly headed Hope Clinic, a free mental health clinic for under-served Korean Americans, and now runs her own telepsychiatry practice, Cultivate Psychiatry.

    Jang is also founder and co-chair for the Asian Caucus in the American Academy of Child Psychiatry and is involved in various advocacy work for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the US.

    photo of Danau TanuDanau Tanu, PhD, is author of Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School, the first systemic study of structural racism in international schools. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia and a Visiting Research Fellow at Waseda University, Japan.

    Danau has published anthropological studies on Third Culture Kids and mixed-race identities and is a contributing author to Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads.

    She is also Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network and Co-Founder of TCKs of Asia and Third Culture Stories podcast.

    photo of Sundae BeanSundae Bean is a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist who specializes in minimizing time to adapt and maximizing satisfaction and success abroad. Sundae helps individuals adapt as quickly (and painlessly!) as possible to the ever-changing circumstances of international life.

    Her expertise is sought out by clients ranging from European multi-national organizations to international NGOs, from West and East African country directors to seasoned expat spouses. Sundae helps individuals and organizations expedite success, create meaningful connections (abroad and at home), and cherish the experience.

    Her podcast Expat Happy Hour has been rated No. 1 episode in Places and Travel on iTunes. She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, the founder of Expat Coach Coalition and leader of the Facebook community Expats on Purpose.



    Families in Global Transition

    • FIGT membership information

    • FIGT online bookstore: Browse for resources on Third Culture Kids. Purchasing through the FIGT Online Bookstore supports our David C. Pollock Scholarship at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, FIGT earns a small commission from qualifying purchases.

    To continue the thinking and conversation please join us at 

    Mentioned by discussants

    The FIGT Research Network seeks to to bring together producers and consumers of research to support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world. You can join the Research Network mailing list from their page. 

    [Written and edited by Ema Naito and Danau Tanu]

  • 10 Jun 2021 10:06 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it loads of uncertainty, but one thing is for sure: it has had an impact on all of us, and continues to change our world in so many ways.

    It seems like both yesterday and a previous lifetime since we made the decision to cancel FIGT’s 2020 conference. For many of us, it feels like we’re on Day eleventy million of living with the pandemic.

    For some of our community, there is a glimmer of hope. There have been cautiously optimistic conversations about flights, family reunions and border openings. For others, there are new waves of uncertainty and even fear.

    The reality is that all these weeks and months after that decision to cancel FIGT2020, we are STILL living with the pandemic. And even if by some miracle, we were to all begin to return to a life without lockdown tomorrow, the aftershocks of the last months are going to be felt for a long time to come.

    Whatever your personal situation or experience, this has had an impact on all of us. The world has changed. We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the changes, the support that many of us still need and will continue to need for some time to come.

    There are many in our community who are living with loss. Some have lost loved ones to COVID and some have experienced the dual challenges of bereavement and distance from their loved ones. Without being able to comfort and be comforted by family members or go through the important rituals of funerals - there has not been a good final goodbye for so many during the pandemic. 

    There is loss too in the plans, hopes and dreams, for the lives we thought we would be living by now. Many families are still separated by closed borders, passport issues, visa delays and more. For many of our community, there is no opportunity to ‘go home’ and see family. Travel has perhaps never been more complicated or anxiety inducing.

    The pandemic has also confronted many of us with our privilege in ways we had perhaps not expected. We have been faced with differing medical care, access to the vaccine and the ways in which the pandemic has been ‘Chinese’, ‘Indian’ and ‘African’, depending on the stage of its development and variation. There has tragically been a rise in racist attacks against many in our global and local worlds.

    Many of us have become more conscious of those who can easily access affordable medical care and a vaccination and those who cannot.

    And all the research tells us that the pandemic has impacted women more than men, in the sense that so often it is the woman in the family who is handling work and home-schooling and whose career will suffer.

    It is not all bad news though - the pandemic has forced some of us to slow down, to reflect and to think differently about the future and in doing so, to make positive changes.  The demise of global mobility has been greatly exaggerated. We are still moving and working through transitions, even with the added layers of complexity that the pandemic brings. 

    If there is one huge challenge ahead of all of us, perhaps it is this - to hold space for each other as we continue to live with the pandemic. Each of us is experiencing this so differently. What might bring one person to their knees will not impact someone else in the same way. We need to continue to listen and to create safe spaces for each other to be able to share and seek and receive the support they need.

    While living with the pandemic is the theme of this month’s Focus, it is a thread that we will try to continue to return to regularly as we try to do what we can to support the FIGT community. If you have suggestions for future content, we would love to hear from you. Please reach out to Flor Breton-Garcia at communications@figt.org or Sarah Black at communicationsmanager@figt.org.

    And a very special thank you to all our volunteers who despite their own unique pandemic challenges continue to keep FIGT happening.

  • 08 Jun 2021 10:31 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world, but for global families, closed borders separated families. Grappling with the "new normal",  FIGT member Nikki Cornfield shares how connecting with nature helped her feel at home.

    By Nikki Cornfield

    In Perth, l have been living in a place which is the envy of the world. The pandemic has been like watching a movie from the safety of our sofa at home.

    We closed our borders in late March 2020 and denied the travel that fed my soul. I took solace from nature as the world was shaken like a snow globe. During the pandemic, the beach has been my daily ‘go to,’ my happy peaceful place, as I have grappled with the frustration and sadness at being isolated from my family on the other side of the world. 

    Since then, I have walked barefoot for hours on empty beaches staring out to sea, imagining the ‘other world.’ Having my feet connected to the endless white sand, I felt  grateful to be mask free, able to breathe a deep lungful of  energy emitted on the ocean’s breeze.  This daily ritual has grounded and connected me to Mother Earth and pulled me out of the air and my head where I have spent most of my nomadic life. 

    Before the pandemic, travel was like a balloon tied around my waist trying to pull me off somewhere else, my feet restless, always looking for the next best thing. Now, daily, I crave this grounding and to feel my feet in one place as the intensity of the chaos grips the world. 

    Despite the ripple of unease permeating my world, my connection with nature has kept me intact, my bubble, my personal boundaries around me strong. It has felt as a family that we have been afforded a place of safety on Noah’s Ark, a bunker to retreat as  the world has been rained on by troubled times.

    One day I took a call from a close friend on the beach, she was warning me of what she saw ahead.  I didn’t want to believe her or accept that my travel-rich life was about to change. I kept resisting, wanting to keep in my bubble of contentment and not see the reality of what was happening outside, in the rest of the world. 

    As I stared out to the ocean that day, I imagined myself in a piazza in Italy sipping a cold glass of limoncello, watching the street life pass by. Reflecting on a lifetime of memories, adventures and experiences that have come my way, I wanted to believe I would wake up from this bad dream; have the choice to take myself off the stage and the part I had been forced to play. My friend told me it was time to prepare, to be self-sufficient and to start growing my own food. I heard the laugh catch in my throat, this was surely a film idea, not for real. 

    I felt a heavy energy and an urgency then to return to my roots, my childhood home but the borders were shut, the drawbridge firmly up and our doors locked tight to visitors. For the first time in my life the skies were quiet and my diary life a slate wiped clean.

    After the call I stared out to the ocean, a need to be soothed by its rhythmic swish. I kept my feet firmly in the sand, anchored in case I slipped to my knees. My world as I knew it had changed and seemingly overnight. Mum was stuck in Bangkok on her way to us but that was as far as she got. 

    I decided on that beach to concentrate my energy on the things I could do to keep my family healthy and in a good vibrational state. I connected back to my dad this way who was now locked up, isolated in a care home on the other side of the world without Mum by his side. 

    I have spent a lifetime thinking something was missing, with my feet mainly up in the air. As an expat I have felt the loss of ‘home’ for years, a turmoil that I had lost something deep, profound and intrinsic to my soul. I have been lost, uprooted and with a deep urge to find myself, that inner sense of home. 

    I now had the knowledge to protect my own family and their health. This pandemic drove me to plant my own garden, to drive my roots into the ground and not give in to the collective fear. I planted to remember my dad and to return to self-sufficiency and live like I did as a child, as close to nature as possible. 

    That night I craved music knowing it would soothe my jangled nerves. Instinctively I knew who I wanted to listen to; and the house filled with the powerful voices of Andrea Bocelli and his son Mateo singing ‘Fall on me.’ I was immediately transported to my beloved Italy and huge tears flopped down my cheeks. “Why are you crying?” my husband asked. 

    “I wasn’t ready for the world to change.” I said sadly and retreated to the garden seeking solace in nature again. 

  • 24 May 2021 8:10 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition thanks SENIA International, a Silver Sponsor over the past two years. Their participation in FIGT and support for those with special learning needs in our wider globally mobile community is greatly valued.

    Logo for SENIA, FIGT silver sponsor

    As a Silver Sponsor, FIGT member Lori Boll also serves as Executive Director for SENIA International ‒ the Special Education Network & Inclusion Association, an international group of educators, professionals, and parents who advocate for and provide resources and support for differently abled individuals.

    By helping the globally mobile find inclusive schools in their countries, SENIA International helps fulfill their vision of every child and family living “in an inclusive world where every individual is supported, resources are accessible, potential is maximized, and action is inspired.”

    Lori has helped bring greater awareness of the organization’s mission to many in FIGT’s worldwide network.

    We asked Lori about SENIA International’s experience in the recent FIGT2021 virtual conference.

    “SENIA enjoyed sponsoring the FIGT conference,” she says. “It gave us an opportunity to connect with people worldwide who have a heart for students with learning needs.

    “It is through these connections where we can continue to network and advocate for individuals. We are very happy that so many of the FIGT participants took time to engage with us and learn more about our organization and its mission.”

    SENIA International will be holding their own virtual conference December 3-5 this year.

    “We hope you will consider coming. And for those so moved, we would be honored to have you contribute to one of our scholarships,” says Lori.

    FIGT is appreciative of Lori and SENIA International’s two years of partnership as one of our Silver Sponsors. Many thanks for your support of FIGT, and we wish SENIA International much success.

    FIGT is grateful to have incredible sponsors who understand the experiences and needs of the globally mobile community. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, please visit our sponsorship page

  • 03 May 2021 6:56 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As parents and as educators, we often overlook the struggles of multilingual children as they learn and study in various languages. Educator, ATCK and 2019 Pollock Scholar Saeko Mizuta debunks some myths and gives great advice in a punch-packed FIGT2021 poster presentation.

    Blog title and images of blocks spelling out multilingual and student

    Reporting by Ema Naito-Bhakdi

    “It should be easy to maintain a mother tongue because that's what you speak at home, right?”

    Educator, ATCK and 2019 Pollock Scholar Saeko Mizuta asks us in her FIGT2021 poster presentation on “Hidden Struggles of Multilingual Students: Helping Them Thrive Academically.”

    Actually, she tells us, that’s a myth. “Developing biliteracy is like the child having two demanding full-time jobs,” she says. To support biliteracy, families often have to prioritize and make tough decisions.

    As parents or educators of children growing up or moving between two (or more) languages, many of us fall into the trap of thinking that children only need to get over some initial bumps before they adapt.

    But Saeko reminds us otherwise. Her poster session on the myths and realities of TCKs who switch between different languages and educational systems hits us with sharp observations Saeko gathered through her work tutoring over 1,000 Japanese TCKs.

    “As parents and educators, we tend to believe children can learn English in a couple of years.” 

    Nope: myth, says Saeko. “We need to remember that it takes at least five years for learners to develop cognitive academic language proficiency — the kind of English we need to be learning and thinking in English.”

    As a TCK, I don’t remember suffering over learning English, probably because I was lucky enough to learn it when I was four years old and then kept it up through a lot of reading. But as a parent of multilingual cross-cultural kids, I remind myself to take note of this point.

    “As parents and educators, we tend to believe that children can ask for help if they need it.”

    “But sometimes they're so confused that they don't know what help to ask for.” 

    Now that one hit home. Although language itself wasn’t an issue for me during my teenage years in the US, I suffered trying to navigate the bewildering social rules and customs of American teenagers. But it never even occurred to me that I might ask for help from someone. I had no clue what to ask for and from whom.

    Hence,  Saeko’s advice to parents and educators: “Ask and offer specific things. Listen, involve parents in simple English if you can.”

    “As parents and educators, we tend to believe English language learners should not struggle with math because math does not require English.”

    Right? But then Saeko shares the words of one of her students: “The math part is easy, but I can't get there.” 

    This reminded me of the TCKs of Asia panel session on Day 1, where bilingual ATCK Aiko Minematsu talked about how she didn’t participate in physical education class because she simply didn’t understand that it was PE class.

    And finally: 

    “As parents and educators, we believe language is a skill. Well, we know that language defines your identity.”

    This alone is a topic of times so I will leave it here but refer you to the TCKs of Asia panel discussion at FIGT2021 and also another forum the group held in October 2020, “A Foreigner in My Own Family: The Hidden Loss of Language & Intimacy” (available as a podcast).

    We all know the pros of growing up among different countries and cultures and speaking multiple languages — the expanded worldview, the adaptability, the ability to get along and survive anywhere.

    Thanks to David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, we also know and can talk about the hidden griefs of TCKs.

    And that’s what Saeko’s three minutes captured, that’s what touched me deep in my TCK heart: language is part of the hidden griefs and challenges of TCKs. 

    p.s. I’ve skipped one or two more myths; if you have access to the FIGT2021 platform, I highly recommend you go watch the poster sessions!

    p.p.s. More from Saeko: TEDxFulbrightTokyo talk “The traumatizing gift: A global childhood” (February 2018)

    Adult TCK Ema has found her volunteering “home” on the FIGT Comms team as blog editor. Based in Bangkok, she is an independent scholarly editor who enjoys classical singing and blogging about raising three cross-cultural, multilingual kids.

  • 28 Apr 2021 11:00 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Repatriation is never easy but the COVID-19 pandemic complicates matters further. As she herself prepares for re-entry, psychologist and former FIGT Program Director Dr. Anne Copeland advises those of you in a similar boat what to keep in mind.

    blog title and image of a red paper boat entering into a fleet of white paper boats

    By Anne Copeland

    I got my second vaccine two weeks and two hours ago. I am literally on the cusp of re-entry, of return from a year’s sojourn in a wild and unknown land, eager to return to my beloved and comfortable old life.

    But I find myself in a kind of deer-in-the-headlights moment about what is about to happen. It is not the cumulative fatigue of the pandemic, but rather an anticipatory worry about what is to come.

    Transition experts know about this. People who move back to their home country after living outside it commonly report a pre-move anxiety, part of the re-entry shock that many say is harder than the culture shock they felt when they first moved overseas.

    Here’s a quick list of warnings I give to repatriating people:

    • You have changed in ways you don’t realize. Living in another culture changes you.

    • People at home have changed, too.

    • “Home” itself has changed and may no longer feel all-familiar and all-accepting.

    • You probably won’t just step back into your old job and proceed as usual.

    • Your interpretation of your home culture is different and may be unflattering.

    • You may be met with a general lack of interest in your experiences.

    • No one expects repatriation to be hard.

    I suggest that this list is also a good one for all of us returning from the Land of Lockdown expecting to be Home at Last.

    You have changed in ways you don’t realize.

    The ways in which our mental health, social lives, and friendships have been affected by prolonged lockdown have been well documented. It’s impossible to be beyond its reach. Maybe you’ve had to find your “inner introvert” and find ways to keep it amused — and you may decide you like it more than you used to. Or…your social self is bursting to re-appear and dancing on the table suddenly sounds fun.

    Your friendships have all been given the Zoom test, with the likely loss of some relationships and gain of others. (I met a group of old friends at a high school reunion right before the lockdown; we’ve met monthly on Zoom all year and I wonder if we would have found or made the time to do so if our schedules weren’t so constrained.) Our challenge will be to reflect on which of our changes are “keepers” and which we will want to shed.

    People at home have changed, too.

    Everyone you knew before the pandemic in the Home in Your Head has been navigating the lockdown just as you have. Some have faced illness and death. They have been managing and coping and changing, just like you, and so you are unlikely to just snap back into the patterns you remember with each other.

    The folks you always met at the dog park may have moved away. The parents you chatted with after dropping your children at school may have divorced. Your favorite coffee shop may be re-opened but with an all-new staff. The friends who used to gather for a Friday night beer may have fallen in love with their inner introvert.

    For each of us in a unique way, it’s going to be different. We must prepare for change and be open to new ways of being in a relationship.

    “Home” itself has changed and may no longer feel all-familiar and all-accepting.

    Home is supposed to be where you are completely comfortable just being you, where how you behave is accepted as is. But now, everyone in your “home” has been through this common bizarre year of constraint and loss. There will surely be new norms and expectations that may be confusing or annoying to decipher.

    There is going to be a long liminal period between lockdown and herd immunity, made more complicated by the different vaccination and lockdown schedules in different communities. Masks or no? Large groups inside yet or no? Expectations to attend business meetings? Keep Zooming when you technically could meet in person?

    The environment we will step into will be new and we are unlikely to feel completely comfortable there. With time, norms and expectations will settle in, but till then, we may still feel a bit homeless.

    You probably won’t just step back into your old job and proceed as usual.

    Just as returning expats find that their old workplaces have changed — new boss, new colleagues, changed policies, new product lines — going back “to work” after the pandemic is likely to be quite different as well.

    If you have been working from home dreaming of the old days at the water cooler, prepare yourself. There are likely to be new health and safety precautions; some colleagues will be missing and new faces will be at the table; hybrid schedules may be popular, so expectations for what a day at work looks and feels like will take a while to gel.

    And that’s if you had a job you could do from home. Others will be on the job market or starting businesses anew. It won’t be business as usual for most of us. Planning for a transition period will be more adaptive than expecting the old ways.

    Your interpretation of your home culture is different and may be unflattering.

    Many expats, having viewed their country from afar, see it with new, critical eyes when they come home. We pandemic returnees will similarly take fresh stock of our now-reopened lives — our jobs, where we live, our friendships, our faith communities, how we spend leisure time. This can be a time of brilliant re-building and reflection, as we apply what we have learned to emerge from the past year with a new commitment to living life the way we want to do.

    You may be met with a general lack of interest in your experiences.

    A difficult surprise facing returning expats is that those at home don’t seem very interested in their world-altering experience overseas. Those at home can’t really imagine what they’ve been through and so it’s hard to listen.

    In this post-pandemic re-entry, that won’t be the case, exactly. Everyone you meet will have been through a world-altering experience of some kind — we all will be both “teller” and “listener.” Will we want to talk about and hear how others’ experience compared to ours? Comparing stories of different paths through the shared journey can be a compelling way to build and strengthen relationships.

    No one expects repatriation to be hard.

    “Going home” — what could be hard about that? “Ending pandemic restrictions” — what could be hard about that? The biggest tip I give returning expats is not to be surprised by the challenges listed above.

    Understand that re-entry is difficult, just as moving to a new culture was difficult. And that’s my message to you…and to myself.


    Anne Copeland


    P.S. It is a time for reinvention for many. Please see interchangeinstitute.org for some training and learning opportunities, including our upcoming Crossing Cultures with Competence training of trainers’ workshops.

    P.P.S. And if you’re currently doing intercultural work, please see share your story — how you got started, how you’ve tried to build your intercultural practice, what’s worked and what hasn’t — by completing our new industry-wide survey: Building and Nurturing Your Intercultural Career (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/InterculturalCareers7). We want to hear from both emerging and experienced interculturalists about how they have built their expertise and business. Participants will be the first to hear the results. Please help! 


    Anne Copeland, Ph.D. is founder and director of The Interchange Institute, a non-profit organization focused on intercultural transitions. She is a psychologist with specialties in intercultural transition, research and clinical issues. She has served as FIGT’s Program Director and board member.

    FIGT Associate or Corporate members can submit blog posts for consideration. Learn more about different membership levels and privileges at https://www.figt.org/Become-a-Member.

  • 21 Apr 2021 6:52 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT thanks Jo Parfitt of Summertime Publishing/Springtime Books for two years as our Platinum Sponsor and for supporting the broader globally mobile community.

    Thanking Platinum Sponsor Summertime Publishing

    Families in Global Transition wishes to thank Jo Parfitt of Summertime Publishing/Springtime Books for two years as our Platinum Sponsor. Her support for our organization and broader globally mobile community has been much appreciated.

    Longtime FIGT member Jo created Summertime Publishing in 1997 to get books by, for and about those living across cultures to print. In parallel to her writing and publishing career, she also became an advocate and ardent promoter of FIGT to dozens and dozens of individuals around the globe.

    “I was delighted to see so many people from all around the world engaged, and I got to meet them.”

    When we caught up with Jo recently, she was celebrating the highly successful, first ever online annual conference, FIGT2021. 

    “I was thrilled with the platform and found the whole experience to be exhilarating,” she said. “In many respects, I think the networking was better than at a live conference. I was delighted to see so many people from all around the world engaged, and I got to meet them. It seemed easier to bring first timers into conversations, too.” 

    “The coffee and connects were fabulous for me – as a sponsor, too.”

    Another high point? Enhanced connection resulting from the online platform format.

    “My lightbulb realization was at the efficacy of having recorded presentations which allowed presenters to engage in simultaneous chats with their audience.”

    FIGT is grateful to Jo for two years of exemplary leadership as our Platinum Sponsor. We thank her for all she’s done in support of FIGT’s mission, and wish her and Summertime Publishing continued success.

    FIGT is grateful to have incredible sponsors who understand the experiences and needs of the globally mobile community. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, please visit our sponsorship page

  • 14 Apr 2021 8:38 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    “Becoming a microcosm of the world, for the world. It’s not a matter of you fitting into FIGT, it’s a matter of you belonging here,” says Nominations Director and intercultural training consultant Megan Norton as she reflects on FIGT2021.

    FIGT 2021 Report, Becoming a Microcosm of the World, for the World: Reflecting on FIGT2021

    Reporting by Megan Norton


    It’s not a hyperbole that FIGT is becoming a microcosm of the world. As the organization grows, shifts, multiplies, and welcomes new sectors, languages, demographics, research, and interests, there are increasingly more action steps and initiatives to expand, champion diversity, and commit to inclusion.

    FIGT2021 was my fifth FIGT conference. I distinctly remember Ruth Van Reken’s keynote address at the 2016 conference in the Netherlands (the first conference outside of the United States since inception in the early 1990s). She said the commitment of FIGT’s members has always been — and continues to be — to enlarge the “FIGT tent.” 

    The tent analogy is appropriate as our FIGT membership community has become more diverse, global, and cross-sector than ever before. The tent analogy resonates with so many of us who have had our own “tents” or “communities” or “homes” that we have repeatedly packed up and pitched elsewhere in the world. The FIGT “tent” stakes continue to be moved further and further apart as we offer resources, story-telling, research, and most importantly: community. 

    It’s not a matter of stretching the fabric of the tent; it’s a matter of stitching in more fabric, as the community contributes to the quilted mosaic of stories, research, experiences, perspectives, and patterns — all welcomed and weaved together in a safe place. 

    One FIGT2021 conference participant wrote in the virtual platform chat box about the conference sessions: “There's so much value in sharing and fostering spaces where people can talk about the alternative perspective.” I couldn’t agree more as our FIGT “tent” is about our stories and perspectives being pieced together and seen together. 

    One is not on top of the other. One is not in front of the other. We are a tapestry of cultures with our complex identities, dreams, passions, and commitment to enlarge our community.

    One of the common descriptions of FIGT conferences is “the Reunion of Strangers.” Personally, I have experienced this at each one I’ve attended. I was a little apprehensive about how this would translate virtually this year, but I was not disappointed in the least. 

    From the conference platform features to the various community rooms, and from the presentation formats to the people who reached out through the chat boxes and direct messaging, there were ample opportunities and invitations to (re)connect, (un)learn, listen, and feel a sense of belonging in each virtual space. I think I shorted the exclamation mark on my keyboard as I overused it to communicate how enthusiastic, grateful, and honored I was to be both reunited and introduced to conference participants.

    One of the most impactful takeaways I have from the conference comes from Danau Tanu’s keynote address on Day 3 of the conference. Titled “It’s a Two-Way Street,” the premise of the speech centered on heightening one’s own self-awareness for biases and blindspots when interacting across cultures. 

    Every one of us has the responsibility to take ownership for our actions and our potential to bridge differences by making the effort to meet others “in the middle.” Her personal stories of how she wrestled with the judgments she made about “others” and then reconciled how she championed truth over assumption-making provided a model and compassionate invitation for us to look deeply and authentically at ourselves and how we treat others.

    Because of Danau’s courageous modelling, I was prompted to reach out to a community member with whom I knew I had some unresolved tension with. To be honest, I was not happy that she was in the FIGT virtual tent this year and I had to lean into the discomfort of reaching out to reconcile. I took steps to meet her in the middle. And I am grateful that she took steps to meet me there.

    I’ve wondered if we had had this conference in person this year, what those steps may have looked like or if I would have had the courage to even take them. I’ve wondered if our paths would have even crossed at an in-person conference. This year’s virtual “tent” allowed me to find her, see where she was in it, and gave me access to meet her privately and directly.

    This year, we used the social media hashtag “OURFIGT.” At one point during the live conference I wanted to use the hashtag “MYFIGT” because I identify so much with the values, mission, and vision of FIGT. But “OURFIGT” recognizes and respects that we are a community committed to welcoming, inviting, reconciling, and growing.

    One of my favorite community rooms during the conference was the TCKs of Asia one. Prior to the conference start, a few of the TCKs of Asia leaders reached out to me to ask if I’d like to moderate some of the community room time slots. My initial reaction was, “I’m not a TCK of Asia. I’m not Asian. I can’t be a community room facilitator.” 

    But the leaders said, “Megan you are a TCK of Asia. You don’t have to be Asian or look Asian to be a part of the leadership. In fact, that’s the point of community rooms; to be inclusive of who may not look or sound or be ‘like’ us. You’re a TCK of Asia because you lived in South Korea and in Japan when you were a child.” 

    I loved meeting other TCKs of Asia who looked different from me, shared their different experiences, and celebrated both our likenesses and differences. For them to affirm parts of my identity that I hadn’t acknowledged or respected in so long was a gift of belonging and acceptance. There were several moments of deep joy, pain, celebration, and gratitude shared together in that virtual space. I felt whole and seen. I felt understood.

    I have found that FIGT conference experiences can be both messy and magical. We need more spaces and places like FIGT conferences for us to show up as authentically and vulnerability as we do in this community.

    We are FIGT, a group of individuals who are committed to gently, passionately, and wisely move the world as it is to what it should be. In the words of one of our founding mothers, Ruth Van Reken: “It matters that you are here. And it matters that we are here.” 

    I invite you to come into “our tent” where our cords stretch and the walls aren’t rigid. Come with an open heart and an open mind. It’s not a matter of fitting into FIGT, it’s a matter of you belonging here.

    Megan Norton is an intercultural training consultant, facilitator, and researcher focused on supporting cross-cultural families. Her expertise as an intercultural trainer combined with her experience in international education enables her to design socio-emotional and educational programming tailored to globally mobile families and youth. Growing up as a US diplomat dependent, she lived in six countries and has lived in four more as an Adult Third Culture Kid, in addition to five US States. Megan is host and producer of “A Culture Story” — a podcast which focuses on cultural identity, belonging, and purpose. Her website is www.adultthirdculturekid.com.

  • 11 Apr 2021 9:15 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families choose to raise their children bi- or multilingually, but the paths they take are unique to each. Blog Editor Ema Naito-Bhakdi reflects on the FIGT2021 session by Diana Limongi and Elizabeth Greninger on “How Languages Help Communities Embrace Differences.”

    [FIGT2021 Report] Language, Family and Identity: Parents Share Their Bilingual Education Journeys

    Reporting by Ema Naito-Bhakdi

    I’m an adult third culture kid (ATCK) raising three cross-cultural kids (CCK) who speak four languages to varying degrees. So you can imagine the topic of raising multilingual kids is close to my heart and with what great interest I tuned in to the session with Diana Limongi and Elizabeth Greninger, who shared how their families set about to ensure their children grow up speaking multiple languages.

    Diana: Bilingual parents passing down their language and cultures

    Diana grew up bilingually with English at school, Spanish at home. Her situation was one that I could identify with. She lives in New York with her French spouse, and they are raising their children in three languages. Their hope is that their children would have the languages to build a strong connection with their Spanish- and French-speaking grandparents. 

    Diana and her husband mostly use the popular “one person, one language” approach, where Diana speaks only in Spanish with their children, and her husband, only French. Diana’s Spanish-speaking parents live in the same building as the family, which gives the children daily exposure to Ecuadorian language and culture, and the children are attending a Spanish-English bilingual school. It seemed like a great and enviable setup.

    Elizabeth: Monolingual parents raising their children bilingually

    The possibility of exposing children to their heritage languages is a common issue for couples who already bring languages other than English to the mix. But Elizabeth and her spouse grew up monolingually in English.

    When Elizabeth and her husband relocated to Mexico for work, they decided to immerse themselves in the Mexican community and to send their young children to a local Spanish-speaking school. That way, they figured, the children would grow up speaking Spanish natively and learning Mexican culture, while Elizabeth, an educator, would teach the children English at home. 

    The nexus of language, identity, and family

    The piece of Elizabeth’s story that made me wonder was how her children — native Spanish speakers whose parents come from English-speaking American backgrounds — will come to identify themselves as they enter adolescence, especially if they move away from Mexico at the end of the parents’ work assignment.

    Clearly, Elizabeth is thinking about this. “We've tried to foster that American identity in our home so that [the children] recognize and realize that they are bicultural. And that even though they're living here in Mexico and embracing that in so many ways through their school and their community experiences, that they still have the identity of Americans,” she says.

    The nexus of language, identity and family connection was something I’d been pondering since the TCKs of Asia had a forum on the hidden losses of language and intimacy in October 2020. It’s an issue that I’m grappling now with my own children.

    Language isn’t just a skill, I’ve learned; it is a defining element of our relationship with our parents and families and our identities.

    My entire relationship with my children so far has been built on the Japanese language, even though I don’t wholly identify as Japanese. So how do I open up my English-speaking self and world to my Japanese-speaking children? And how will speaking more English with their mom affect their own mixed-race, multinational, multilingual identities?

    Of course, no family knows exactly how their children will come to see themselves when they grow up outside of their parents’ “home” culture, between multiple cultures and languages. 

    I certainly have no clue. It’s a living experiment. And as with any parent, we try our best and hope for the best because we believe that the gift of language is the key to enriching our children’s lives.

    A tough journey

    The part of the session that I appreciated the most was Diana and Elizabeth acknowledging that this journey was tough. 

    “Sometimes, because we grew up speaking the language, we think it'll be a piece of cake and then we realize, Oh, it's actually not. … So one of the challenges is definitely commitment: you have to have a plan and seek people that are in this journey, but also know that there are going to be ups and downs,” says Diana. 

    Pointing out that we may also feel isolated on this journey, especially when living away from our home countries, Elizabeth reminds us: “It's like a marathon, it's not a sprint.”

    I hope that they and many others like them, like us, will keep the exploration going, to unpack the link between languages, family, culture, and identity.

    Because at the root, I join Diana and Elizabeth in the belief that growing multilingual families is a cause worth striving for.

    In Elizabeth’s words:

    We encourage you to be bold and brave in your decision to raise bilingual kids. There are certainly going to be challenges. … But we can attest to the rewards and the gifts that your family will receive by making this decision.

    Adult TCK Ema has found her volunteering “home” on the FIGT Comms team as blog editor. Based in Bangkok, she is an independent scholarly editor who enjoys classical singing and blogging about raising three cross-cultural, multilingual kids.

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