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.

  • 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.

  • 08 Apr 2021 4:11 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Long-time FIGT volunteer Anna Svedberg was nervous to attend her first FIGT Conference. But much to her relief and delight, she found herself welcomed into the family at FIGT2021.

    [FIGT2021 Report] Welcome to the Family: My First FIGT Annual Conference - mosaics

    Reporting by Anna Svedberg

    I was giddily excited for my first FIGT annual conference and a little bit nervous. I've volunteered for FIGT for the past 8 years and have been involved in annual conference preparations before. So I definitely felt the excitement with the sneak peeks on social media regarding sponsors, presenters and attendees and putting together my own schedule. 

    However, I was a bit nervous because even though I am an international adoptee and third culture kid, I have repatriated back to my passport country for quite a few years now. I was afraid that I wasn't global or international enough for the close-knit FIGT family. Needless to say, my fears were unfounded — as I soon found out.

    Welcome to the family!

    I was happy to find out that FIGT had decided to add events a week before the official start of the conference. I loved listening to the welcome video and different personal stories — such a diverse and welcoming group of people we are! I also loved the virtual conference platform where I could easily read about and connect with fellow attendees before the conference and could tell each other which presentations to listen to and our takeaways from them. 

    It truly felt like a family affair and my nervousness melted away once I attended the Welcome Circle (what an amazing idea to give a warm welcome to new and returning attendees!) with fellow attendees, FIGT volunteers and regulars (Hi Maryam + Jo!:)), as well as the legendary and inspirational Ruth Van Reken. I also watched the wonderful welcome video (Hi Flor, Sarah + Tanya!:)).

    I listened to fellow attendees tell their unique globally mobile stories and was awestruck that they were equally as nervous as I was. “Would they be accepted into the wonderful FIGT family? Would they feel a sense of belonging where they don't usually feel they belong?” I felt the same unease.

    Of course it was unfounded, as everyone of us have our own take on the globally mobile lifestyle, whether in our own passport country, in between worlds shifting country to country for work, love or any other reason, or semi-permanently in one country. Every story and person has a welcome place in the ever expanding FIGT family. 

    My FIGT2021 takeaways

    I am still trying to catch up with Presentations, Keynotes and Forums by our wonderful FIGT family — so many interesting and engaging topics and unique stories to convey! 

    Here are some of the important takeaways for myself that I hope you also will appreciate:

    Exploring the Space Between Breaths with Carolyn Parse Rizzo was an amazing guided breathing and for me meditation session that I had to stop tapping away on my keyboard and really listen to. It was such a welcome break for me that day.

    The world now is more reachable and global nowadays with endless Zoom and Teams meetings and support services open 24/7 — not just if you are in a different time zone but if you are unexpectedly working late or early one day along with the endless activities and commitments outside of work and family obligations everyone has. 

    This much-needed breathing break made me just stop and breathe to come back to, and rest faithfully in, my own inner strength and calmness so I could go about the rest of my day with renewed energy. 

    Day 3 Keynote Presentation: It’s a Two-Way Street by Danau Tanau was a true wake-up call for me as well, as she discussed structural racism and the profound effect it had on one of her friendships. I was struck by the openness and urgency with which Danau so thoughtfully and sincerely spoke about her experiences. 

    Structural racism is a hard topic to discuss but none the less important for us adults to openly speak about. How can we empower individuals to speak out on it? How can we discuss it with children in a constructive way so that we minimize structural racism in the future? 

    I certainly would have benefited from talking about it while growing up. Teachers and other adults were adamant in saying that everyone is welcome and to be kind to one another. But what happens if you as a child encounter structural racism outside of a family or school environment? It's therefore important that even children learn tools to use when encountering structural racism.

    Vertical Development Transformation: Turning the (CCK) Pieces into a Mosaic by Peter Ransom was also an eye-opener for me. Peter discussed how he (please forgive me if I get this wrong from your presentation!) had to go back to his multicultural childhood and embrace his global background to find an inner purpose in his life and therefore in his professional life as well. 

    As a third culture kid, I have read a lot about unresolved grief that can come as a result of a country- or school-hopping childhood without time to reflect on the actual move and embrace the different tapestries or mosaic pieces, as Peter calls them, that make us up as individuals. 

    Unresolved grief is one part of it; another is embracing all our different parts or mosaic pieces from our transient life overseas to build a healthy sense of self. Once we can do that, we can find inner purpose and the compass to steer our life in the direction that we want, for our personal and professional lives.

    Thank you so much!

    I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this year's FIGT Annual Conference. It was a life-changing experience for me. I can rest easy on the fact that we can feel accepted as part of the FIGT family, no matter our different mosaic pieces or globally mobile life experiences. 

    The openness and transparency of the conference also opened my eyes to the urgency and need for more and deeper discussions regarding structural racism. And I am forever grateful for the continued conversations that we attendees are already having and will continue to have in post-conference Zoom calls and Lobby chats. 

    I already look forward to next year's conference, whether virtual or in person, and what topics will be discussed . Maybe, just maybe, I will be brave enough to talk about topics close to my heart too, such as international adoptees, repatriation and the globally mobile life. 

    Until then, stay safe, and I hope you have been enticed to participate in FIGT2022!

    Anna Svedberg is a Swedish repatriated adult Third Culture Kid. She is a social media volunteer for FIGT and a staffing consultant for multinational clients. She loves writing children’s stories on themes such as TCKs and international adoption. Anna was adopted from India by Swedish parents and was lucky enough to grow up in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In normal times, she and her family frequently travel back to childhood stomping grounds to visit family friends, as well as for some sun and warmth during the winter months! 

    Anna would love to collaborate with you on projects close to her heart: international adoption, repatriation, and globally mobile families. FIGT members can find her in the Member Directory for Members Only (log-in needed).

  • 01 Apr 2021 9:25 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This year, FIGT is inviting 2021 conference presenters to display their conference materials in a fun, attractive, easy to understand ePoster on the FIGT website.

    call for e-poster submissions from FIGT2021 presenters

    What is an ePoster?

    An ePoster is a digital poster that captures an audience with its message. Although they began as useful tools in research-heavy fields like medicine, they are becoming a popular medium for displaying information in a variety of subjects. 

    An ePoster speaks for itself; the presence of its author is not necessary. It is therefore possible to reach a broader audience. 

    According to Lauren Power, Research Fellow and Graduate Student at the University of Tokyo, “[e]Posters create a kind of visual platform for dialogue that can cut across specializations, and I believe that kind of conversation is what FIGT can help facilitate”.


    Benefits of ePosters

    Ruth van Reken, co-founder of FIGT and co-author of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, says:

    “Surely one of the great deficiencies for so many wanting to see what has already been published is not having an official point place to see what has already gone on.” 

    The FIGT conference has always strived to provide this “point place.” We hope that by using ePosters, we can better showcase the work of the FIGT presenters and community.

    Presenters who are not researchers or those who have not yet published their work can design and share their ePoster as a precursor to publication. 

    ePoster designs are adaptable and as varied as the topics they cover. 

    FIGT2021 keynote speaker and author of Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School Danau Tanu sees the sharing of ePosters as a great idea, as the ePosters “would be something that is visually appealing for non-researchers.”

    The ePosters from FIGT 2021 will be available on the FIGT website. We envision this as one step for the FIGT website to develop into a one-stop-hub for anyone who needs reliable, researched, and/or practical information about the wide-range of topics addressed at the conference.

    Which FIGT2021 presenter may submit an ePoster? 

    • Any FIGT 2021 Conference presenter can submit an ePoster

    • Researchers can make an ePoster of their work at any stage of their research (whether it is a literature review, a methodology, a thought-provoking hypothesis, or a summary of their published work). 

    • FIGT affiliates can create an ePoster to show the demographic profile of their specific country/area of focus.

    • Counselors or coaches can contribute their best practices, based on their experience. 

    • Book authors can highlight the content of their books and share reviews. 

    • International schools can show their efforts to support student transitions. Teachers can share methods to ensures a good academic experience for the TCK.

    • Companies can share their HR effort to ensure the well-being of their expat employees. 

    If you are a FIGT 2021 Conference presenter and you are interested in submitting an ePoster, please read the poster criteria, formatting, and submission guidelines.

    The deadline for FIGT2021 submissions is August 31, 2021.

    For questions about submitting an e-poster, you can email researchandeducation@figt.org.

  • 20 Feb 2021 12:08 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    When you grow up in countries outside of your passport country, the difficulties of repatriation can blindside you. Adult TCK Jessi Vance reminds TCKs to dip into your TCK superpowers to get through that transition.

    By Jessi Vance

    I could swear in three other languages before I learned the same words in my “passport” language. While a fun party trick now, in my international middle school this was as normal as eating a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich with chopsticks. Which may sound far from normal if you’ve never met a Third Culture Kid (TCK), but for us it was entirely commonplace. 

    Third Culture Kids are a blend of the countries they have inhabited during their developmental years and for my U.S.-born, Uzbekistan-raised thirteen-year-old self, I had lived more of those in my host countries. 

    I was entering seventh grade the year my parents decided to spend some significant time in what they called our “home” country. American was what I learned from L.L. Bean catalogs and Little House on the Prairie reruns. American was the jars of peanut butter we kept stashed away and the smell of my grandmother’s closet. American was a title I clung to when I felt out of place in the country I called “home” — Uzbekistan — different from the country my parents identified with. 

    A Foreigner at “Home”

    America was more foreign to this cross-cultural kid than jostling with brightly colored shoulders that shunned the need for Western deodorant in a bazaar overflowing with cumin dust, smoked sage, and fresh bread. America was as strange as wearing seat belts and putting ice in drinks. 

    However, no one mentioned this to me. Instead, I joined my seventh-grade peers for the first day of school, oblivious to my foreign self and assuming that my navy and eagle-embossed passport carried the magic of finally fitting in without any questions asked. 

    I walked into my first day of school with a lot of assumptions. I, like most TCKs do, assumed that my outsides, the parts of me that matched the other thirteen-year-olds lining up on either side of me, would mean I matched inside too. I assumed that my freckled nose and the mostly American accent I owned would equal diplomatic immunity in the middle-school pecking order. 

    I assumed that because I called myself American, because I’d been told this was my home and because my parents belonged here, that I also belonged. I assumed that the belonging that had evaded my years of being a grayscale foreigner in a vibrant land would finally fade. 

    As it turned out, the azure of Uzbek mosques and the indigo of sun-drenched grapes had soaked beneath my skin. I was too colorful to fit in here. 

    I didn’t tuck my school uniform the right way, I didn’t drool at the name of popular boy bands (I didn’t even know the difference between them!). I told stories that began, “When I was living in…,” identified more with differences than similarities, and didn’t know the rules of the culture, like how girls who were just friends didn’t hold hands.  

    The day I learned an English swear word I was in the back of a small Speech & Debate class listening to a mediocre rendition of “How I Organize My Closet.” The boy was labeling items on the whiteboard as he spoke, and when he got to “shirt,” he spelled it s - h - i - t. 

    The classroom erupted in laughter. The teacher sent him to the principal’s office. I sat there absolutely terrified to go next considering that I had just learned that in this crazy country you got in trouble for spelling a word wrong! 

    I was so awkward. So innocent. So out of place. So Russian. So deeply “other.” I held an American passport and a very American name, but that was it. 

    It was actually a few years later that I put two and two together and realized the laughter and punishment weren't for a spelling error, but for what he had spelled. It was around the same time that I realized if I were to survive another year in my passport country, I needed to change my approach. 

    Tapping into TCK skills

    The thing is, as a TCK, I hadn’t just inherited a complex identity. I had also gained the skills to adapt to a new culture. I had watched and learned and assimilated into a new school environment many times. I was confident on public transportation, good at communication, and a natural haggler. 

    I had learned more than a second language —  I had learned how to belong anywhere. Why was it that I let my learned experiences and international identity abandon me when faced with a classroom of American peers? 

    The popular 2004 movie, Mean Girls portrays the main character and TCK, Kady, comparing her new classmates to her experience of safari wildlife. She used the skills she had to understand a whole new form of wild beasts. It’s satirical, but a point any TCK anticipating repatriation should take note of.

    • Assume your passport country is as foreign as the next one.

    • Don’t assume that a shared language equals fluency in slang or etiquette.

    • As always, observe before acting.

    • Flex the adaptability muscles you’ve worked so hard to build and take your time learning this “new” culture.

    • Find community with other international or minority students.

    Dear TCK, or those of you raising one, if you’re anticipating repatriation, give yourself patience. Give yourself time for the natural progression of cultural assimilation to take place without the pressure of the things you “should” know or understand. 

    Jessi Vance grew up in Uzbekistan and graduated from Hope International University with a specialized degree in Third Culture Kid Care and a desire to help families just like hers who were spending their most formative years between cultures. In 2013, Jessi founded Kaleidoscope, a non-profit committed to seeing TCKs not just survive but thrive. She channels all of her creative energy into new and exciting ways to engage TCKs, wherever they are in the world. Jessi is a 2020 David C. Pollock Scholar. Read her profile here, or find her on Instagram @jessi_rue or @kldscp.

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