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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.

  • 19 Aug 2021 12:34 PM | Anonymous

    Even in times of COVID, perhaps especially in times of COVID, FIGT member and international educator Jacob Huff explains why it is so important to "go play".

    By Jacob Huff

    While people of all ages can be involved in play activities, children have a unique ability to engage in play and a deep need to learn about themselves and the world around them in this way. Educators and educational researchers have long understood that it is a key element of growth and learning, but in 2013 the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 31 established an international understanding of the rights of children to play. While it may seem intuitive, in these strange times, it is important to deeply understand what kinds of play educators and parents can use to meet the needs of the children in our care because life in the age of COVID has brought many new challenges, new questions, and new solutions. 

    I am an international educator. I am currently the elementary principal of an American curriculum school in Malaysia. I have served as an administrator and elementary teacher in Vietnam, China, the United States, and now Malaysia. When I think of play, one of the first things that always comes to my mind is the Vietnamese word đi chơi, which translates to “go play”. I have loved it as an expression of the purity and joy of play. As a parent, as an educator, and as a scholar I hope that I can help all children to đi chơi. To do so let’s have a look at the uses of play in our lives.

    What is play?

    Play can be broken into two categories: structured and unstructured. When we think of children at play many people typically think of unstructured play. 

    Unstructured play is what children naturally do with or without guidance from adults. It has benefits in physical, social, and emotional growth. It can take many forms but must incorporate two essential elements, freedom and fun (Roche 2018). In play, children find joy but also learn about themselves and learn skills that they will use in their adult life. Self play provides opportunities to understand the physical world, use their imaginations, and increase their motor skills. Cooperative play brings social understanding, problem solving, conflict resolution, and collaboration into the mix. 

    Structured Play is purposeful play time, often led or directed by adults. These can include formal games, puzzles, task-oriented play-based learning, organized sports, goal-oriented activities, etc. They are designed to be both fun and learning opportunities. Both structured and unstructured play are essential for children and adolescence to grow; both should be provided for and encouraged. 

    At School

    In schools when we think of play most people think about the playground. The playground, recess, between class breaks, PE, and sports are all important opportunities for students to experience a combination of both structured and unstructured play. Sadly, in our high pressure educational environment, many schools have done away with or shortened recess and school breaks. 

    I once worked in a school as a teacher that had discontinued recess because the administration was unhappy with the number of office referrals that came after them. Other schools have removed recess because they feel that they cannot meet curriculum demands if they give up class time for recess. My suggestion is for parents to avoid sending their child to a school that makes this decision because unstructured play is mission-critical for learning. 

    As important as unstructured play is for students to engage in during the day for socialization and brain breaks, schools use many different forms of structured play to specifically target various goals in the school. Much of what you will see in the school would fall under the heading of Guided Active Play. Broadly speaking guided play has two forms; adult-designed activities and child-directed activities. Adult-designed guided play is an exploration in which an adult has set the parameters and determined the objective. Child-directed guided play involves activities in which adults didn’t set the parameters but ask questions, encourage exploration, ask-open ended questions, focus student attention on new knowledge, or provide reinforcement (Weisberg et al., 2016). 

    A wonderful example of this is play-based learning in early childhood programs but it can be done at all grade levels. One popular example would be Marker Spaces and Genius Hours which allow students to explore science, design, computing, and engineering through play and exploration. 

    At Home

    I always tell parents that one of the best things they can do is to play with their children. That sounds simple but sometimes simple things must be remembered and nurtured or they do not happen. In our highly competitive modern lives it can be very easy to overschedule our children and have limited time as a family, but just like in school it is a mistake when families do not allow for both structured and unstructured play for children. 

    Sports can be a great opportunity for structured play but I always encourage families to invest the time to give children and adolescents unstructured playtime and also to be directly involved in structured playtime together. It is fun and also gives families bonding time. Another point to consider is the amount of television, video games, and other screen time that students get. 

    It is far too easy to let children spend too much time on devices at the expense of real-world interaction and physical play. This is not to say that children should not be allowed to use devices for playtime, in fact, games like Minecraft, Roblox, Tinker, and Scratch can be wonderful expressions of creativity. But it is to say that families should have discussions together about limits to device usage and alternatives should be sought. 

    In my house, we practice a ritual called No Tech Tuesday. When we do this, we put down our devices, turn off the TV, and do analog things together. We try to do it every Tuesday evening. We read together, play card games, and take walks. It can include any activity which is done together, is fun, and doesn’t involve devices. We don’t always succeed but it is a fun work in progress. 

    Play in the age of COVID 

    COVID has changed everything. There have been lockdowns, movement restrictions, school closures, and many more stresses that we have never before had to deal with on a society-wide scale. While all elements of life have been impacted by COVID, play has been one area that children have suffered the most. Lockdowns and school closures have severely hampered children in their opportunities to engage in all types of play. Collaborative unstructured play is the most easily visible area of this but structured play has also been highly limited. 

    Teachers and parents have had to be inventive to combat this, but out of hardship novel solutions have emerged. PE classes have gone online. Programs like Kahoot!, Quizlet, Prodigy, and Blooket are great ways to add gamification to learning. Teachers have made fun videos for their students (see this video my teachers made for our kids). They use videos from platforms like GoNoodle to get students up and moving. They use video sessions to have students do talent shows. The list is endless. There are struggles but if there is one thing I have learned as a principal it is that teachers have an endless supply of clever and innovative ideas to help make learning and play accessible to students. At home parents have helped to set up video play dates, let their children play games with friends while talking to them in a video chat in the background, and set aside time to board play games as families. 

    It has been a hard time for everyone, even more so for international families who have not been able to visit their home countries or see families, but in challenging times we find strength together. I would encourage all families to evaluate the importance of play, understand their children’s needs, discuss it as a family, and seek opportunities for play. Play together, learn together, grow together, and I will see you on the other side because sometimes we all need to đi chơi!

    Works cited

    Roche, M. M. D. (2018). Children’s Right to Play. Journal of Moral Theology, 7(1), 124–140.

    Weisberg, D. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., Kittredge, A. K., & Klahr, D. (2016). Guided Play: Principles and Practices. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(3), 177–182. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0963721416645512

    Jacob Daniel Huff is a seasoned international who is now in his third decade living internationally. He currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with his wife and daughter, where he works as an international school principal. He was a 2020/21 David C. Pollock Scholar and is presently writing his doctoral thesis on international school teachers' perspectives on TCK identity development. His next project is a collection of vignettes from ATCKs about their travels through the perspective of items they chose to bring with them throughout their international moves and the items they have lost along the way. If you would like to contribute to this project or contact him you can reach him at his LinkedIn profile https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacob-daniel-huff/ or his Twitter @mrjacobhuff

  • 16 Jul 2021 4:21 PM | Anonymous

    Families in Global Transition wishes to thank multi-year Gold Sponsor CrossBorder Living Institute for ongoing support of our organization and our broader globally mobile community.

    Longtime member and Gold Sponsor of FIGT, Jennifer Patterson has lived abroad more than half her life. Together with her dual-national husband Jeff, they know issues surrounding cross-cultural living firsthand, having raised two tri-national children while working for Patterson Partners, their advisory firm for international clients.

    Over time, Jennifer realized more needed to be done to help educate and guide those living and working across cultures, and the financial practitioners who support them. 

    She created CrossBorder Living Institute with two aims in mind. The first is to provide events and training for the globally mobile to create, grow and manage their financial assets – regardless of how much or how little they might be – in a way that best supports how they want to live. 

    The second is to teach cross-border technical and practice-related topics to financial practitioners who serve such clients. 

    Jennifer has been a regular attendee and sponsor at FIGT conferences for several years. When we caught up wither recently, we asked about her perspective of our recent first-time online conference, FIGT2021.

    “Congratulations to the FIGT Team for a job well done,” Jennifer shared. “In many ways, you managed to make a virtual conference more intimate than an in-person one.”

    “I’ve made a number of connections over the years and I always hope to catch up with everyone, but rarely ever achieve that goal – partly due to so many competing conversations, activities, and the actual logistics of travel. This year, however, the virtual environment made it very easy to connect with attendees whom I might not have in an in-person environment.”

    “As a sponsor,” Jennifer continued, “we were able to be of more help. For example, during the conference we were able to reach out and obtain answers from several of our professional contacts to obtain clarification on a couple of important detailed financial matters for a couple of attendees in a timely and efficient manner.”

    “We also heard from a number of attendees that they really appreciated our conversation starter handout and looked forward to using it, which we were very excited to hear!”

    FIGT appreciates all Jennifer and CrossBorder Living Institute have done in support of FIGT’s mission over the years, and is grateful for their continued sponsorship. 

  • 29 Jun 2021 10:50 AM | Anonymous

    As part of this year's conference closing ceremony, our members create a piece of community art in line with FIGT2021's theme, "Embracing and Bridging Differences".

    As part of FIGT2021, artist and FIGT Member Camille Deniau facilitated a session to allow us to create our first ever piece of community art.  Under Camille’s guidance, attendees each created an element of the final piece; leaves, branches, or a part of the trunk. According to Camille, "Everybody did it in their own ways, expressing their own personality and what they wanted to contribute to the conference". She then brought the individual pieces together. "It was a massive puzzle," she explains. "I tried to link [each piece] wherever I could find those bridges". The final creation is the FIGT Tree, which we are displaying here for the first time.

    We encourage you to zoom in or enlarge the FIGT Tree to see how the pieces connect.

    To learn more about the story behind the FIGT Tree, please watch this short video conversation with Camille and Valérie Besanceney, our former Programs Director.

    To learn more about Camille’s work, visit https://projectrootsart.com/ 

  • 20 Jun 2021 11:53 AM | Anonymous

    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 | Anonymous
    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 | Anonymous

    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 | Anonymous

    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 | Anonymous

    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 | Anonymous

    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 | Anonymous

    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.

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