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.

  • 24 Aug 2020 5:39 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Children of Deaf adults (Codas) grow up between worlds just as traditional Third Culture Kids do. A FIGT Research Affiliate webinar on 24 July explored how, with Erin Mellett and Alexander Laferrière.

    Blog title: FIGT research network affiliate - Children of Deaf adults as third culture kids

    The FIGT Research Network (FRN) Affiliate held an online seminar on 24 July 2020 with Erin Mellett and Alexander Laferrière to discuss the similarities between hearing children of Deaf adults (Codas) and traditional, internationally-mobile Third Culture Kids (TCKs), and to examine how the Coda experience might expand and enrich our understanding of the “third culture.” Sarah Gonzales, Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network, hosted the event.

    [NB: In general, “deaf” refers to the biological condition of not hearing while “Deaf” refers to a group of deaf people who share a culture. Please visit the link in Resources for more on this.]

    Codas and TCKs: Growing up among worlds

    Erin, a PhD candidate in anthropology, began by explaining that Codas—born to and raised by Deaf parents—grow up in the Deaf world, yet their ability to hear puts them in a unique position between the hearing and Deaf worlds. Through her 2016 master’s project at Boston University, Erin sought to understand Codas as inhabitants of both (or neither) the Deaf and hearing worlds (see Resources for a link to her thesis).

    Despite being biological relatives of Deaf people and being raised by them, Codas lack the biological feature (deafness) necessary to be considered completely part of the Deaf community. At the same time, Codas don’t feel as though they belong to the hearing world either—citing distinctly “Deaf” ways of being that don’t mesh with hearing culture.

    Robert Hoffmeister, professor of Deaf Studies at Boston University and himself a Coda, explains in Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking (2007):

    ...all Codas grow up in two worlds, the Deaf world of their families and the Hearing world. Every Coda leads two lives: one as Codas and one as a hearing person. They may choose to only live one life, but all of them have two.

    Like traditional TCKs, Codas spend their childhoods “growing up among worlds.”

    In fact, it was Erin’s Coda research participants who introduced her to the concept of TCKs and who told her that they felt a sense of affinity to people like TCKs.

    A table comparing TCKs and Codas. For TCKS: “Raised in a neither/nor world. It is neither fully the world of their parents’ culture (or culture) nor fully the world of the other culture (or cultures) in which they were raised” (Pollock & Van Reken 2009, 4). “Sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background” (Pollock & Van Reken 2009, 13). For Codas: It is neither fully the world of their Deaf parents’ culture nor fully the world of the hearing culture that surrounds them. Codas have developed a sense of belonging to each other; and they have established and utilized Coda organizations as spaces of identity transformation and community construction.

    Both Codas and traditional TCKs have connections to multiple cultures while not fully claiming membership in any. Codas don’t fully belong to their Deaf parents’ culture nor the hearing culture that surrounds them.

    Both feel a sense of belonging with others who share a similar background. For example, Codas have built a community through organizations like CODA International, where they have the space to explore their identities. 

    Codas can be considered a type of cross-cultural kid (CCK), like children of immigrants or international adoptees, who don’t fit the classic definition of internationally-mobile TCKs. 

    Both Codas and traditional TCKs have connections to multiple cultures while not fully claiming membership in any.

    However, inspired by FRN’s seminar series (in particular, FRN Co-Chair Danau Tanu’s provocations), Erin suggested that instead of trying to determine whether or not Codas are TCKs or CCKs, it may be more useful to look at the third culture (or interstitial culture) as an analytical concept and to ask: how might Codas’ experience of the third culture be unique?

    Erin explained that for Codas, biology (i.e., whether one can hear or not) is integrally linked to cultural affiliation (i.e., Deaf versus hearing). As biological relatives, but not biologically deaf themselves, Codas do not feel as though they can truly claim their parents’ culture—no matter how intimately they know its language and customs. 

    This means that the space of the third culture—the community Codas create with each other—becomes even more important as Codas try to establish their sense of belonging.

    One Coda’s “me-search”

    Following Erin’s talk, Alexander Laferrière—a Coda—shared his experiences with CODA International and coming to understand his own identity as Coda.

    Finding this Coda identity helped him recognize that “there is value to my experience”

    Alex comes from a large Deaf family that includes parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are Deaf; he grew up with sign language as his home language. But Alex didn’t realize that his experiences had a name until he was introduced as an adult—purely by chance—to the term “Coda.” 

    Finding this Coda identity helped him recognize that “there is value to my experience and if I could channel it or pursue it, it would be valuable for our community.”

    Now, he tells stories through film to define, refine, and spotlight the Coda culture. He is also passionate about promoting broader awareness and acceptance of sign language as an important medium for communication.

    As part of his “me-search,” Alex created a film asking other Codas what CODA International conferences mean to them (see the film under References). The way Codas describe CODA International conferences are strikingly similar to how traditional TCKs describe meeting each other in FIGT conferences.

    Other perspectives from the floor

    During the discussion session, Oya Ataman, a multilingual sign language interpreter, shared her perspective as a German Coda of Turkish descent. Oya was the first to alert Dr Ruth Van Reken about the need to include the experiences of Coda in Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds and is featured in the 3rd edition of the book.

    Oya urged us to take more time to consider the vast similarities between Codas and expat TCKs, immigrant children, and so on, to avoid the trap of feeling “terminally unique,” a sense of feeling that one is “so different no one else in the world can understand them” (from Third Culture Kids, 3rd ed.).

    She suggested that the experiences of Codas from culturally or ethnically diverse backgrounds may shed more light on the ways in which Codas are similar to other groups that experience that interstitial, third culture in childhood.

    Marilyn Gardner, a public health nurse and writer, asked a question that further highlighted the intersectionality of many of these third culture experiences. A Russian family known to Marilyn immigrated to the US several years ago. She asks: “The parents are deaf and the children are hearing, but the parents only understand Russian and Russian sign language. The children end up being their primary interpreters in social settings—how can we support them?”

    Clearly, there is more that we need to learn about new ways of living in the third culture.

    * Our thanks to Erin Mellett for funding the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for the seminar and to the Rhode Island Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (RICDHH) for providing the interpreters.



    Hoffmeister, Robert. 2008. “Border Crossings by Hearing Children of Deaf Parents: The Lost History of Codas” In Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking, edited by H-Dirksen L. Bauman, 189-215. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

    Mellet, Erin. 2016. “Cochlear implants and codas: the impact of a technology on a community,” Boston University School of Medicine.

    Pollock, David C. and Ruth E. Van Reken. 2009. Third Culture Kids: The Experiences of Growing up among Worlds. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

    Preston, Paul. 1994. Mother Father Deaf: Living Between Sound and Silence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Preston, Paul. 1995. “Mother Father Deaf: The Heritage of Difference.” Social Science Med 40(11): 1461-1467.

    Preston, Paul. 1996. “Chameleon voices: Interpreting for deaf parents.” Social Science and Medicine 42(12): 1681–1690.


    Photo of Erin MellettErin Mellett, MS, is a PhD candidate in the Anthropology department at Brown University. She obtained a Master of Science in Medical Anthropology from Boston University School of Medicine in 2016. Erin's research interests include Deafness and the Deaf community, disability studies, language, and belonging. Erin's current and ongoing dissertation research with deaf immigrants in the United States sits at the intersection of a number of fields including medical anthropology, Deaf studies, disability studies, linguistic anthropology, and immigration studies.

    Photo of Alexander Laferrière Alexander Laferrière, MPA, is a third-generation American Sign Language user within a large Deaf family. Alexander’s background and passion have led him to work professionally with the global Deaf community in the intersection between government, policy, and media through CODA International. His expertise in interactive media, coupled with his master’s studies in Public Affairs has allowed him to create films and policy recommendations for various communities around the world, from Providence, Rhode Island, to Moyobamba, Peru.

    Photo of Sarah Gonzales Sarah Gonzales is Director of Graduate Programs at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Law. She also serves at NAFSA: Association for International Educators, teaching Intercultural Communication in Practice, Admissions and Placement of International Students, and Assessment and Evaluation for International Educators. Sarah is currently pursuing doctoral research on the intersection of cultural intelligence and mediation skills of TCKs. She is Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network.

    [Edited by Danau Tanu and Ema Naito]

  • 17 Aug 2020 12:45 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Globally mobile people experience privilege in myriad ways. Change agent Ezinne Kwubiri challenged us—at FIGT's first Conversation for Change—to face up to social injustices and to “keep the conversation going!”

    Blog title: global mobility and organizations

    On 14 July 2020, FIGT held the first of its Conversations for Change, with guest Ezinne Kwubiri, North America Inclusion and Diversity Manager at H&M, and hosted by FIGT Treasurer, LaShell Tinder, who is also a colleague of Ezinne’s and is the North America Global Mobility Manager.

    These Conversations are part of FIGT’s efforts to examine our privilege and to explore how our community might respond to racism, inequities, disparities, and discrimination around the world—particularly focusing on our globally mobile and cross-cultural community.

    Reflecting on our labels

    In our daily lives, we come across different words that point to people on the move. LaShell started by asking what we think of when we see/hear the following labels:

    • Refugee
    • Migrant
    • Immigrant
    • Expatriate

    Most likely, we make assumptions about each “type” of mobile person, such as by associating them with a particular socioeconomic status. For example, a refugee might conjure up an image of someone who is in need, often from a lower socioeconomic class.

    But we also recognize that those assumptions can be wrong. A refugee may have funds, be educated, have their networks. They may have been heads of companies or professors in their countries but because of their displacement, are working in low-skilled jobs for which they are overqualified.

    Terminology: definitions of a Refugee: someone who is unwilling to return to their home/passport country out of fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership of a particular social group or political group. Migrant: person who moves from place to place in search of better living conditions. Immigrant: person who moves to a foreign country to live there permanently. Expatriate: individual who lives outside their native or passport country

    [Note: Asylum seeker = someone who is seeking asylum. Refugee = an asylum seeker who the UNHCR has officially recognized as a refugee.]

    It’s not always easy to classify ourselves with just these four words. You may ask: “If I’m locally hired and not on a big expat package, am I still an ‘expat’?” “I’m a TCK but is that different from being an immigrant kid?”

    Other terms like “trailing spouse,” “accompanying spouse,” and “lovepat” reflect how terminology can convey different kinds of assumptions—and how the words we use can change.

    The realities are not as clear cut as the terminology may suggest. Ezinne and LaShell reminded us to think about what other references people are thinking about when using these words.

    “We may be creating social, racial distancing with the words we use,” says LaShell. Ezinne concurs: “We have to be cautious with our words, that we’re not excluding or idolizing particular groups.”

    Reflecting on privilege

    Privilege—or lack thereof—is an inherent part of our assumptions for these labels. Just think about the word “expats,” which many of us probably call ourselves. To be an expat hints at a relatively privileged economic status, even if we know individual circumstances can be quite diverse.

    Privilege: There are many faces of privilege – accessibility to opportunity is but one of them. English – predominate language directly influences economic opportunity Internet penetration and availability of technology – comparison of virtual learning classroom during COVID-19 for under-served school districts and way of life for children in underdeveloped nations

    Privilege doesn’t only refer to economic status. It may come from our ability to speak English fluently or from easy access to the Internet and technology. Having dual citizenship could be another form of privilege. Growing up in Nigeria as a white child could mean always having the soccer ball—a small but real form of privilege for a child. 

    The ability to choose or to exercise control over our circumstances, having the confidence that our voices will be heard—these are all forms of privilege. 

    Not having to think about our privilege is, in itself, a sign of privilege.

    Ezinne notes that even people from marginalized groups can have a sense of privilege. Ezinne immigrated to the US and she’s a black woman. So in these aspects—especially in corporate America—she’s part of the marginalized population. But she also went to an enabling university and has had great jobs, she’s able to travel around the world, and she’s in the position to advocate for other people. These are her privileges.

    What can we do with our privilege

    Ezinne explains: “Identifying one’s privilege is the core of breaking inequality and social injustice and shaping a space for diversity and inclusion. In order for you to support and advocate for others, you have to recognize how you are different from them and how you’re benefiting from that difference.”

    Having someone suggest that we are privileged can be uncomfortable. This is why FIGT hopes these Conversations for Change will help bring people along to step out of our comfort zones and to go on this journey together.

    Once we acknowledge our own privilege, we can then think about what we are doing with the privilege that we have. We can then ask, as LaShell did, “If we are in the privileged group, how can we be part of the change?”

    As an example, Ezinne refers to the reopening of schools under the COVID-19 pandemic. Some families may have the choice to keep their children home. But for other families, that’s not a viable option: the parents may need to work full time and cannot pay for childcare at home; some children may count on school for meals.

    The response then needs to take into account all these differences, with an awareness of what privileges we may be taking for granted, and come up with a model that supports the underprivileged.

    If you want to use your privilege to educate others, Ezinne suggests that we continue:

    1. Having courageous conversations

    2. Sharing our stories. Give clear examples because people can relate to those stories better.

    Other thoughts: Gender and freedom of mobility agility

    LaShell leaves us with two more aspects of mobility and privilege to ponder.

    Privilege: There are many faces of privilege – accessibility to opportunity is but one of them. English – predominate language directly influences economic opportunity Internet penetration and availability of technology – comparison of virtual learning classroom during COVID-19 for under-served school districts and way of life for children in underdeveloped nations

    Gender equality and mobility

    How often do we pull ourselves back, as women? Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to take a chance and let everyone support us.

    Freedom of mobility agility: How do we think about equity of employment and the freedom of mobility agility – whether it is staying in one’s home, working remotely, or being a frontline worker?

    Freedom of mobility agility

    How do we think about equity of employment and the freedom of mobility agility—whether it is staying in one’s home, working remotely, or being a frontline worker?


    We conclude with some words from Ezinne:

    “We need to call [social injustices] out and face the change. If we don’t talk about it, we won’t feel like there’s anything to be done. Let’s keep the conversation going!”


    [The video of the discussion will be posted at a later time. Please join us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter to receive updates.]


    Photo of Ezinne KwubiriEzinne Kwubiri is a change agent, diversity leader, innovator, and ally. Her career began in the financial services industry and quickly moved to media and entertainment, including 11 years at Viacom Media Networks (MTV), where she worked on change management, diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement.

    She is now North America Inclusion and Diversity Manager at H&M, the first in this role. As a board member of the organization She’s the First and a volunteer for other non-profit organizations that serve underrepresented communities, Ezinne uses her influence to empower these groups.

    Her world view is one that upholds the values that mandate equality, access, and opportunity for all humanity. Ezinne was scheduled to be a Keynote Speaker at FIGT2020.

    Photo of LaShell TinderLaShell Tinder has both personal and professional experience in relocation that spans three decades. As an accompanying spouse for 11 years, LaShell raised three TCKs who were born in the US, Belgium, and Venezuela.

    She began her work in mobility helping accompanying spouses/partners as a career/transition coach before moving into relocation management for relocation management companies and corporations.

    LaShell lived in Sweden for 8 months while on a short-term assignment. This experience gave her new insight into saying “yes” as a woman to promote one’s own career.

    Currently, she is the North America Global Mobility Manager at H&M. LaShell has served on the FIGT Board as Treasurer since October 2019.


    “Conversations for Change” is a short series of virtual discussions, open to all in our community. Each meeting will begin with a short presentation to stimulate our thinking and will then open for conversation. Our goal is for each discussion to be a starting point for individuals with a heart to work towards change.

    [Written and edited by Ema Naito with Sarah Black]

  • 14 Aug 2020 1:50 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT Patron Sponsors Insured Nomads, International Therapist Directory, and SundaeBean tell us why they choose to support FIGT and its community.

    Blog title: Thank you, renewing Patron Sponsors!

    Families in Global Transition is deeply appreciative of all of its sponsors. We asked Patron Sponsors who recently renewed their digital sponsorship to tell us a little bit about themselves, and why they choose to support FIGT and its global community.

    Insured Nomads

    Insured Nomads is the first insurtech in global benefits. They are empowering the international assignee, family, and traveler through the powerful insurance they need combined with the technology, informatics, people, and service that restore the confidence and efficiency called for in international insurance plans. 

    As a social impact venture, they generously fund the work of Not For Sale in combatting human trafficking around the world. 

    Together, they can protect the traveler and the most vulnerable. Bring your group into Insured Nomads.


    “We support Families in Global Transition because we firmly believe in the work the organization does in the chapters around the world, the webinars, and the annual conference. The voice and generational impact of the subject matter experts in this tribe are essential for the new nomad community that has formed in this world in transition. Thank you FIGT for the great work you do!” 

    —Andrew Jernigan, CEO & Co-Founder of Insured Nomads (2015 Pollock Scholar)


    International Therapist Directory

    The International Therapist Directory is an online global listing of professional therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists interested in providing culturally sensitive cross-cultural treatment and care for today’s international TCK and expatriate community. 

    Over 250 therapists in at least 40 countries are listed. The directory is intended to be a resource for internationally minded people looking for a culturally sensitive therapist and for therapists themselves to identify and connect with one another for peer support and professional development. 

    Most therapists listed speak English. For a nominal annual membership fee, therapists may list their practice in the directory and access a private ITD Listserv to build relationships.

    The FIGT community is a brilliant example of internationally minded people cooperating between sectors as it has been providing rich opportunities for connection, listening, and learning from one another for over two decades. My experience with FIGT over the years has been deeply encouraging. I am so pleased to be a sponsor of this thoughtful and engaging organization.

    —Josh Sandoz, Founder & Curator, International Therapist Directory



    SundaeBean 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. 

    She is the founder of Expat Coach Coalition and Facebook community Expats on Purpose. Her podcast Expat Happy Hour has been rated number one in Places and Travel on iTunes. 

    “If you live a globally mobile life, being part of Families in Global Transition feels like coming home. The caliber of the professional expertise in the group, coupled with the members’ openness to learning, collaborating, laughing and connecting is unparalleled.”

    —Sundae Schneider-Bean, CEO & Founder, SundaeBean


    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.

  • 24 Jul 2020 3:44 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As we all try to better address inequities in our mobile world, a group of FIGT Members who founded the public forum “TCKs of Asia” had a frank conversation on privilege and diversity. 

    Title: TCKs of Asia on privilege and diversity

    For many Third Culture Kids (TCKs), having their experiences and commonalities named and described in Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds was life-changing and affirming.

    Now, as FIGT Founder Ruth Van Reken recently said, we are in the “next stage” of developing our understanding of TCK-hood, where we acknowledge the diversity of TCK experiences and how they are shaped by privilege (or lack thereof) in its myriad forms and manifestations.

    A group of FIGT Members who founded the public forum “TCKs of Asia” had a frank conversation on privilege and diversity as TCKs who (in this particular discussion) were ethnically East Asian. 

    The TCKs of Asia forum grew out of a gathering of adult TCKs and expats who connected at FIGT2019 in Bangkok and who shared “a passion for…draw[ing] out the hidden voices among TCKs” (from their website). Isabelle Min, one of the founders, says: “We wanted to explore how the culture of Asia impacts the TCK experience. That was the conversation that was missing.”

    Wanting to be inclusive, the founders decided to call the forum “TCKs of Asia,” instead of “from” or “in” Asia. “’Of’ means, you could have spent a short time in Asia and you could be of a totally different nationality and race and still be included,” says Isabelle.

    We asked four of the founders to talk about what “privilege” meant to them, how it relates to diversity, and how to keep the conversation going.

    [The following are highlights from a video call held in July 2020. It has been edited for clarity with the consent of and inputs from the participants.]

    What has “privilege” (or lack thereof) meant for you as a TCK? And how is talking about privilege related to diversity?

    Danau: I personally think about socioeconomic privilege because that’s what I have. Globally speaking, if we can afford to fly, then we are part of the 1% and there’s no denying that. 

    Jane: If your parents had the capability to work or study abroad, if their struggle and sacrifice provided a stronger financial starting point for you, that’s privilege. 

    Aiko: The FIGT [community] in general is privileged, we need to acknowledge that for sure. It’s not about race or where we were.

    Jane: Not to deny that as TCKs we have our own challenges. We know that. Just because we acknowledge our privilege, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have our challenges.

    Danau: We need to recognize our own privilege [before we can] talk about diversity. Acknowledging your privilege doesn’t make you a bad person.

    How do these play out in the context of TCKs of Asia?

    Danau: For example, all of us here [in this call] are ethnically East Asian. East Asia is economically more developed and that’s privilege right there. Southeast Asians, Africans, and others from the Global South may have an entirely different story.

    The fact that we all speak English fluently means we’re already part of the privileged group among TCKs of Asia. As Aiko often says, there are many TCKs who aren’t fluent in English.

    ...privilege can be in something as subtle as a sense of entitlement

    [Note added to elaborate: Privilege can come in many different forms. There are variations in privilege even among TCKs of Asia. For example, some have more “privileged” passports than others. Another form of privilege is fluency in English, though how much currency this carries after repatriation may differ from one context to another.]

    Jane: Asians educated abroad back in Asia are an immediate elite!

    Danau: Especially in developing countries!

    Aiko: Well, to some extent. In Japan, becoming an elite is not immediate. It's only when you can speak English AND Japanese, as well as meet the Japanese standard [of being “Japanese” enough], then you’re an elite.

    Just because we acknowledge our privilege, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have our challenges.

    Isabelle: I’ve been on both sides in many ways. I went to an American school in Brazil in the 70s and as an Asian from Korea, which was a poor country at the time, I felt very, very underprivileged and ashamed for not speaking English and for my race, for the disdain with which teachers would look at me.

    Ruth [Van Reken] pointed out to me recently that privilege can be in something as subtle as a sense of entitlement. Some people believe that if there is an injustice, they can talk to somebody and rectify it. I didn’t and don’t have that sense of entitlement in white spaces that I would be heard, that my voice matters—which is the epitome of “underprivileged” for me.

    Then I repatriated to a country where I’m very privileged in terms of class (as a diplomat kid), language (speaking English), manners (I knew how to eat properly in a Western restaurant)…. I would say something and people would listen the moment I spoke. 

    I felt so confused: if I was inferior at an American school for not being a native speaker of English but am now treated as “special” in Korea for speaking English at all, then does that mean Korea is inferior to the West? This did not sit right with me.

    Aiko: Within the TCKs of Asia group, I’m aware of the privilege I have by being Japanese. When I talk about my TCK experience, I try to be aware of what I say and how I say it because there are so many differences within the Asian context.

    Growing up as a Japanese expat child, I know I’ve been very privileged, even compared to Japanese TCKs growing up now, because Japan was in a bubble economy back then. And my experience of being a Japanese in the US [in the 80s] is different from what Isabelle experienced [as a Korean in an international school in the 70s]. I find that really interesting.

    [We should all] stick to talking about and acknowledging [our] own privilege

    Isabelle: Every country is different in terms of economic development and how they perceive and receive TCKs, what sort of challenges TCKs face going back home… Some Asian countries are more accepting; others are more resistant so TCKs have to almost hide their TCKness to fit in.

    [Through the TCKs of Asia forum,] we found so much diversity! We are acknowledging the privilege and the non-privilege. We are recognizing it the more we peel back the layers. We are realizing Asia is not one Asia, and to be mindful of that.

    How can we better understand where privilege comes from?

    Jane: Modern history matters. It’s because of our countries’ histories that some of our parents left at all, that’s part of the narrative. 

    Isabelle: When the conversation is geared towards TCKs of Asia as opposed to—say, Latin America or Europe—there’s a lot more tiptoeing around because we have a lot of countries within Asia that fought with each other and colonized each other. There’s a lot of pain there.

    Danau: It feels as though the reason we’re having difficulty having these conversations is that most people have gaping holes in their knowledge of history.

    ...we have to understand the history to understand the context [of privilege]

    Jane: Colonialism [as it relates to] why we are TCKs is another aspect that can be uncomfortable to talk about, but if we’re going to talk about TCKs of Asia, about diversity, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. It’s a sensitive topic, but colonialism is part of the context [why some of the diversity among] TCKs exist.

    Danau: Colonialism is seen as  bad, so there’s a strong desire to insert a historical break between that and the modern expat life but we need to acknowledge that the current global economy is  a legacy of colonialism. 

    It’s why there are so many immigrants from the Global South or the former colonies in countries like the US, while a lot of expats are from white settler countries and Western Europe. 

    And why are there more East Asian expats compared to Southeast Asian expats? Again we’ll need to look at history and its impact on the current global economic and political structures.

    Where do Asians fit in the conversation about Black Lives Matter (BLM)?

    Danau: In this group, we all recognize we’re privileged—we don’t have to worry about being shot when walking down the street. And as Asians, we experience racism but we participate in [perpetuating racism too]. Just because people are racist towards us, it doesn’t mean we’re automatically not racist or that we don’t have racist biases ourselves. Everyone contributes to structural racism.

    Aiko: The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in Japan has been so confusing for me. People say “we support Black lives!” but I feel like they say it because they think it’s cool. I've seen some public figures saying “I love Black hip hop” “I love Black fashion” and therefore “I support Black lives!”

    Jane: It’s complex because BLM is a slavery-induced issue in the US, specifically, though it has resonated worldwide. But we have to understand the [specific] history to understand the context [of privilege in that particular setting]. 

    So is it time to shut up and listen?

    Aiko: I think the safest way to have this conversation is to stick to talking about and acknowledging your own privilege. In the TCKs of Asia group, talking about the historical and economic contexts within Asia has helped me understand my own privilege that comes with being Japanese, because of our history of colonialism. It's hard to acknowledge your privilege if you don't start talking about it.

    About the TCKs of Asia

    photo of a group of mostly Asian TCKs at FIGT2019 conferenceTCKs of Asia is a group of adult Third Culture Kids and expats who met at FIGT2019 in April 2019 and discovered a shared passion for drawing out the hidden voices among TCKs. What began as casual online FIGT reunions turned into a series of online public forums, which was launched in August 2019 over six months with the support of Dr Ruth Van Reken.

    But given their TCK jitters about making long-term plans, they only committed to running three forums initially—the last of which was titled “Language & Power” and delved into the issues surrounding the privilege that comes with speaking English fluently. The group is hoping to launch another series later this year. If they do, it will be announced on their make-shift website and Facebook group.

    Participant bios

    Isabelle Min is CEO and Founder of Transition Catalyst Korea (TCK) Institute. She combines her TCK upbringing with 30 years' experience as a public broadcaster, adjunct professor, and intercultural trainer to coach, facilitate, and mediate individuals and teams. Isabelle has been leading FIGT Korea Affiliate since 2010.

    Aiko Minematsu is co-founder of FIGT Japan Affiliate and lecturer at the Center for Language Education and Research at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. She holds an MA in TESOL from Teachers College Columbia University and a secondary school teaching license for foreign language education in Japan.

    Danau Tanu, PhD, is author of Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia and was recently awarded a Japan Foundation Fellowship for postdoctoral research at Waseda University for 2021. Danau is Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network.

    Jane W. Wang is taking TCKs and CCKs on multicultural hero’s journeys, developing multicultural leaders with the expanded self-awareness, empathy, and resilience to realize their full power and purpose. Now living in San Francisco, she’s a TCK hailing from Taiwan and the US, with Japan being her third home.

    [Interviewed & edited by Ema Naito]

  • 10 Jul 2020 2:05 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT Research Affiliate held a virtual webinar with Dr. Mari Korpela on 26 June to reflect on how socioeconomic differences may impact the TCK experience.

    Speaker photos and event title: Do class differences matter for TCKs

    The FIGT Research Network (FRN) Affiliate held an online seminar on 26 June 2020 with Dr. Mari Korpela to reflect on the impact of socioeconomic differences on the Third Culture Kid (TCK) experience. Dr. Sachiko Horiguchi and Dr. Danau Tanu joined as discussants and Sarah Gonzales, Chair of the FIGT Research Network, hosted the event.

    The diversity among TCKs

    The prevailing image of TCKs and expat kids is of privileged, globe-trotting children who take pride in feeling at home in airports. While there is some emerging awareness of the diversity in the experiences of TCKs, much has been left unsaid about differences among TCKs. 

    In reality, some TCKs are not as privileged or well off as others. Many grow up under circumstances very different from those of the globe-trotting image, depending on their home or host countries and why and how their families move across borders.

    Mari, an anthropologist studying transnational mobility, had been working with the mobility literature throughout her career. She came across the term “TCK” when she was already conducting her research among “Western” children in India. 

    She pointed out that the widely used definition for “TCK” implies—but does not necessarily spell out—that the TCKs are relatively privileged. However, TCKs are a much more diverse group than is usually acknowledged, as she is finding through her research in India, and Finland.

    “Western” children in Goa, India

    Mari conducted ten months of ethnographic research among 4-12-year-old lifestyle migrant children in Goa, India (2011-2013). Lifestyle migrants are people who move abroad to find what they define as a better quality of life, namely, a more relaxed and more meaningful life (Benson & O’Reilly 2009). 

    These children fit well the definition of a TCK because they are spending a significant proportion of their developmental years in a culture other than their parents’ culture and they are relatively privileged. However, they are different from the “typical” TCK whose parents are career expatriates or representatives of their country or organization abroad.

    The children are privileged in having passports that enable them to easily cross international borders. The families can also afford a higher standard of living in Goa—an important reason why they prefer living there instead of in their passport countries. 

    At the same time, these families are vulnerable because their incomes based on the (informal) tourism industry are susceptible to circumstances, and their residence statuses are insecure as the families need to renew their visas frequently and can never be sure which kind of a visa will be given each time. 

    TCKs in Finland

    Since September 2019, Mari has been conducting ethnographic research on TCKs in Finland. Finnish companies recruit highly skilled professionals from abroad to work temporarily in the country and many are accompanied by their spouses and children. 

    Finland is unique in that many international schools are free municipal schools. These schools host a diverse student population: some children are from much more affluent families than others, and there are observable differences among TCKs in their economic and material circumstances. 

    The experiences of these TCKs can differ depending on the family’s situation, motivation and background. Some families invest money and resources in their lives in Finland; others view their stay in Finland as temporary and do not aim to have the same material standard of living in Finland as they did in their passport countries, to which they intend to return. 

    Differences in TCK families’ situations

    Mari pointed out that nowadays, many families move internationally as career expatriates but without luxurious expatriate packages from their employers. That is, they are skilled professionals who work in relatively well-paying jobs but whose employers do not pay for all, or any, of the families’ travel and living costs. 

    The situation of each expatriate family depends on many variables such as the parents’ work contracts and affiliated benefits, the privileges allowed in a particular country, and each family’s economic situation. Moreover, race, ethnicity, and nationality affect the expatriates’ position in complex ways, shaping the experiences of the TCKs.

    Mari stressed that we need to pay attention to such differences among TCKs and to examine what the position of assumed privilege means. One can be both privileged and restricted or marginalized at the same time. 

    Mari advised researchers to be careful to avoid making a priori assumptions on the TCKs’ status and position when formulating interview questions or questionnaires. 

    She also emphasized the importance of long-term ethnographic research; only with time can one gain insights into the subtle differences among TCKs. 

    Mari ended her presentation by noting that it is important to include young children in TCK studies. They may not be able to reflect on their identities in the same way as teenagers or young adults do but there is much more to the TCK experience than identity issues. Young TCKs are living as TCKs here and now, and therefore, their views and experiences on their international lives are highly valuable. 


    Benson M and O’Reilly K (2009). Migration and the search for a better way of life: A critical exploration of lifestyle migration. Sociological Review 57(4): 608–625.

    Speaker bios

    profile pic of Dr Mari KorpelaMari Korpela, PhD, is a social anthropologist and an Academy Research Fellow at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Tampere University, Finland. She has extensive research experience among lifestyle migrants and expatriates. Mari is also the President of the Finnish Anthropological Society and the Director of the Lifestyle Migration Hub hosted by Tampere University (research.tuni.fi/lifestyle/). Her current research project is titled, Expatriate Childhood: Children's Experiences of Temporary Migration.

    profile pic of Dr Sachiko Horiguchi, discussantSachiko Horiguchi, PhD, is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Temple University Japan Campus. She obtained a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Roger Goodman, a leading scholar on the kikokushijo (a Japanese term for returnee children). Sachiko’s research interests lie in social and medical anthropology, focusing on youth mental health issues, education, and emerging multiculturalism in contemporary Japan.

    profile pic of Dr Danau TanuDanau Tanu, PhD, is the author of Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School and an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Social Sciences of the University of Western Australia. She has published ethnographic studies on Third Culture Kids and mixed-race identities and was recently awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at Waseda University by the Japan Foundation. Danau is a Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network.

    profile pic of Sarah GonzalesSarah Gonzales is Director of Graduate Programs at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Law. She also serves at NAFSA: Association for International Educators, teaching Intercultural Communication in Practice, Admissions and Placement of International Students, and Assessment and Evaluation for International Educators. Sarah is currently pursuing doctoral research on the intersection of cultural intelligence and mediation skills of TCKs. She is Chair of the FIGT Research Network.

    FIGT Research Network aims to bring together producers and consumers of research that promotes cross-sector connections to support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world. Its first 2020 webinar was on “‘Third Culture Kids’: The History & Future of the Term in Research.”

    If you would like to connect or join our future events, please visit our FRN webpage

  • 03 Jul 2020 11:02 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT outlines the steps we plan to take to explore how our community might respond to racism, inequities, disparities, and discrimination around the world. We start out with two ‘Conversations for Change.’

    FIGT: Talking about equity, image of many colorful people figures holding hands

    In the weeks since George Floyd’s death, many were spurred into protesting, listening, and learning about racism, not just in the United States but around the world. During this time, FIGT’s leadership has also been considering how we as a community might respond, not just to racism, but also to inequities, disparities, and discrimination—and the many ways they appear around the world. 

    Like all of you, we have been listening and learning. We are grateful to everyone who has shared their experiences and passion with us, and our community of members.

    At our most recent Board meeting, which was devoted to this topic, we agreed to the following steps. We believe that these are in line with our commitment to being an opening and welcoming forum for all, and supporting the growth, success, and well-being of the globally mobile community.

    We will:

    • Form a small task force of FIGT Members who would like to help us think strategically and longer-term about disparity, and our response as the FIGT global community.

    • Host two virtual meetings on these issues, open to all in our community to attend.

    • Include a Focus theme on expat privilege & equality in October.

    • Share resources from a wider range of racially diverse voices on our social media platforms and run regular checks on the diversity of voices reflected in our blogs and other content.

    • Gather data regarding the racial and ethnic diversity of the expatriate community.

    ‘Conversations for Change’

    ‘Conversations for Change’ will be a short series of virtual discussions, open to all in our community. Each meeting will begin with a short presentation to stimulate our thinking and will then be open for conversation.

    Our goal is that each discussion will be a starting point for gathering together individuals with a heart to work towards change. 

    Introducing Conversations for Change - a message from FIGT President, Dawn Bryan

    Events details and registration

    Flyer of event with Ezinne Kwubiri

    Working for Equity – Global Mobility and Organisations

    July 14th at 9.30 am New York / 4.30 pm Athens / 8:30 pm Bangkok

    To find the time for your location, click here.

    Conversation Host LaShell Tinder with Ezinne Kwubiri.

    As well as being Treasurer for FIGT, LaShell is the Head of Global Mobility for North America at H&M. Her colleague Ezinne is the Head of Diversity and Inclusion and was scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers at FIGT2020.


    Flyer for virtual event with Danau Tanu

    Working for Equity – International Schools and Education

    July 29th at 8:00 am Perth / 7:00 am Bangkok / 8:00 pm New York (July 28th)

    To find the time for your location, click here.

    Conversation Host Trisha Carter and Danau Tanu.

    Trisha is the Executive Secretary for FIGT and an Organisational Psychologist, Danau is an Anthropologist who has written the book, Growing up in Transit - The Politics of Belonging at an International School. Danau was scheduled to be our opening keynote speaker at FIGT2020.

  • 26 Jun 2020 3:19 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Finding friendships as expats can be challenging. But friendships abroad are essential to make our expat experience more joyful and fulfilling!

    Decorative image of women blowing confetti together

    By Gabriela Encina 

    Finding friendships as expats can be challenging. We struggle in search of people we can feel attached to and connected with. Sometimes we find “prospects” and then have second thoughts (or the other way around). But friendship abroad is essential to make our expat experience more joyful and fulfilling.

    The dilemma: Finding “new friends”

    Meeting new people and establishing deep attachments—it's not always easy. It can happen like magic, an instant hookup. But often, it needs time, energy, patience, and assertiveness.

    A strong and deep relationship needs time to develop: time and regularity, especially at the beginning. Most likely we have little of both to spare, as family and work demand a lot of our energy and time. 

    And when we finally have some time for ourselves, we want quality—ergo, no time to lose on “waiting” for friends.

    What I mean by waiting is having patience. We need opportunities to show vulnerability, open ourselves, build trust, and get to know the person.


    Why are expat friendships important?

    Having our own friends can give us a sense of independence. It can help create our own space and social life, necessary for our self-esteem and confidence.

    When we become expats, we often don't have a strong support network, except maybe our partner and/or our company (colleagues). No wonder loneliness is one of the top-three concerns of expats. It's challenging to find and maintain deep connections in a new country.

    Feeling lonely doesn't mean being alone. It has to do less with being surrounded by people and more with how willing we are to show ourselves as vulnerable and flawed.

    When you let yourself be vulnerable with someone, you develop skills like empathy and compassion and discover inner resources to cope with the challenges of life abroad.


    How to find meaningful expat friendships & maintain them

    So here are some tips on finding and maintaining expat friendships—proven by my clients and me!

    1. Spend time in the places YOU want to hang out

    Clubs, cafés, parks, gym...whatever YOU love doing. If you meet someone there, it will probably be a great conversation starter, and you already have something in common.

    2. Give a second and even a third chance before “saying no” to someone

    Bear in mind that the people you are meeting have probably similar dilemmas as you. Maybe they are nervous. Some people are “not so good” at first impressions. Give them (and yourself) the chance to feel more comfortable after meeting up two or three times.

    3. Allow yourself (in fact, I encourage you) to be vulnerable

    Deep connection can only develop if you show yourself and your nuances, the lights and the shadows. Have the privilege to know people and give them the chance to know the real vulnerable you!

    4. Take the initiative (and be persistent)

    You have an interest in finding friends and acquaintances abroad. If you meet and say, “let's do this again sometime,” then be intentional about contacting the person. Suggest things that you've wanted to do where you're currently living.

    5. Don' t focus on how long you are going to stay in this country

    You will surely miss the opportunity of meeting new people if you worry about that. Create and cultivate deep bonds and interactions, it doesn't matter for how long. Besides, you never know when you may meet again!

    6. Accept that sometimes it just doesn't work

    We can't click and connect with everyone, even when we try real hard. Maybe that person was not the best one for you at this moment in time. There will be other people willing to share their time and friendship with you. I know it!


    What about your friends back home?

    Despite trying to keep in touch, we sometimes have the feeling that we are “losing” the people we left in our home country when we live abroad. If you are dealing with this fear of losing your friends, you can:

    1. Be honest with them about your fear of growing apart 

    Ask them what they think about it.

    2. Share what you are going through, the lights and shadows of your expat life

    They appreciate your honesty, and even if they worry, they prefer you to be sincere.

    3. Be intentional about keeping in touch

    Organize virtual (and regular) dates via video conferences. Take time for it, at least one hour every time. Remind them a couple of days before. It might seem a little “unfair” always to take the initiative, but you know it brings you joy!


    Please, never forget to stay true to yourself and what YOU want for your life. I know there are loads of tips about finding friends. They usually recommend going to meetings, meet locals, be open-minded, go outside, etc. But if you are an introvert, perhaps those tips are not ideal for you. 

    Be aware of what you are feeling, what your needs are, and what YOU want for your life abroad.


    By your side,



    Gabriela, psychologist and expat coach, is originally from Chile, became an Austrian citizen because of love, and currently lives in Spain. She provides online counseling and coaching since 2019 and has more than 7 years of experience working with expats and their partners so they feel at home, wherever they are! 

    A version of this article first appeared on Gabriela’s blog.

  • 22 Jun 2020 2:11 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition appreciates the generosity of our sponsors, each of whom supports and sustains our globally mobile, cross-cultural community.

    Earlier this year, American Psychologist / Burdick Psychological and Placement Services, led by founder and adult Third Culture Kid Dr. Mark Burdick, renewed their Silver Sponsorship yet again! 

    American Psychologist is a family-based, concierge psychological services provider, consultancy, and education and treatment placement agency. 

    Some children have emotional or learning issues, some are bright and need additional challenges, some need a different educational fit, and some have addiction issues. American Psychologist serves families worldwide, and provides continuing support during and after placement.

    Mark is a dual-credentialed educational and licensed psychologist in the US, serves in the capacity of EU Agent and Independent Educational Consultant touring and regularly communicating with schools/programs domestically and internationally, and is also a UK Chartered Psychologist. 

    “Whether it’s for assessment and expert recommendation for treatment or education, we’ve been providing solutions to expats for over 30 years,” Mark shared. “American Psychologist travels the globe – yes, making house calls – to help support expat families at risk, including with one of our unique services of addiction support.” 

    This time, Mark is joined in sponsoring by Steven DeMille, Ph.D. LCMHC, a colleague and Executive Director of RedCliff Ascent, who specializes in wilderness-based family therapy. Steven has contributed a chapter on the practical use of that therapy in Family Therapy with Adolescents in Residential Treatment.

    We welcome back American Psychologist as a returning sponsor, thank Mark and Steven for their continued support of FIGT, and look forward to seeing and hearing more from them in the year ahead!

    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.

  • 16 Jun 2020 4:53 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT Research Affiliate kicked off a series of virtual webinars with Dr. Danau Tanu leading a discussion on the concept of “TCK”—its history and its possible future in research.

    The FIGT Research Network (FRN) Affiliate kicked off its online seminar series on 29 May 2020 with Dr. Danau Tanu and guest discussants, Dr. Gertina J. van Schalwyk and Dr. Mari Korpela, on the term “Third Culture Kids”—its history and future in research.

    The session, hosted by Dr. Anastasia Lijadi, FIGT Research and Education Director, with the help of Sarah Gonzales, Co-Chair of FRN, was joined by an audience of over 75 people that included researchers and practitioners.

    It encouraged researchers to rigorously consider the analytical usefulness and pitfalls of the concept “Third Culture Kid” and addressed questions such as:

    • “How do I convince my graduate supervisor that ‘Third Culture Kids (TCKs)” is a valid research topic?”
    • “Why has the concept of TCKs taken off in the public realm but not in academia?”


    Tensions, divisions, and silos

    Danau, an anthropologist, began by pointing out an underlying tension surrounding the use of the term “TCK,” between a desire to be inclusive of other experiences—a wider circle that includes other “cross-cultural kids” (CCKs), so named by Dr. Ruth Van Reken, co-author of Third Culture Kids—and the desire to clearly define the boundaries of what constitutes a “Third Culture Kid,” especially when it comes to research.

    Another peculiar phenomenon Danau highlighted was the way those researching “TCKs” rarely engage with the broader body of knowledge on mobility and experiences of feeling “in between” and “growing up among worlds,” just as researchers in other related fields don’t tap into the growing knowledge and insights on TCKs since the term first entered the public consciousness in the 1970s.

    Figure 1 TCK studies & other fields have many commonalities


    The history of the “third culture kid” concept in research

    In an attempt to explore these tensions and get us thinking about how best to use the “third culture kid” concept in research and translate that knowledge into practical use, Danau took us back in history to the origin of the term (see the bibliography at the end of this article).

    Danau began by sharing excerpts from the publications of Dr. Ruth Hill Useem, the sociologist who coined the term “third culture children” in 1973 and who then modified it to “Third-Culture Kids” in a 1976 publication co-authored with Dr. Richard D. Downie.

    Going further back to 1955, Danau then showed excerpts from the first work published by Ruth and her husband and fellow sociologist Dr. John Useem on western-educated Indian men and their experiences of crossing culture, some as adults and others as children.

    What was most striking about these original works was the deftness with which the Useems handled the diversity of backgrounds and experiences among those who practiced the “third culture” as adults, as well as those who were socialized into it as children.

    The Useems (at times with a third colleague) in the 1960s also explored the notion of the “third culture,” whose diverse incarnations can be seen in the motley set of adjectives that the sociologist pair attached to the term including: “colonial third culture”, “paracolonial third culture”, “binational third culture”, “global third culture”, and so on.

    Disentangling the “third culture” concept from the “Third Culture Kid” identity

    So, what were the key takeaways?

    Given that concepts are merely tools to help us understand sociological phenomena, Danau encouraged future scholars to consider disentangling the concept of the “third culture” from the increasing use of the term “Third Culture Kid” as an identity label.

    She suggests that this may allow for more flexibility in how we study this growing population. When we realize that scholarly fields have much more in common with each other than we currently acknowledge, it may bridge the gulf that currently exists between those studying so-called “TCKs” and those studying other people crossing culture.

    Figure 2 Differentiate between the identity label & the analytical concept


    Advice for young scholars

    Following Danau’s talk, the discussants contributed their pieces of wisdom. Both Gertina, a psychologist, and Mari, an anthropologist, encouraged younger scholars to keep in mind that even the notion of “culture” is not set in stone—it is fluid, eternally changing, and hard to pin down—and to not lose sight of the fact that their boundaries are socially constructed.

    Gertina warned researchers of different disciplines to avoid working in their own silos and recognize that humans are complex beings who need to be understood from different perspectives—psychological, anthropological, sociological, etc.

    Mari also advised graduate students to learn to frame their research proposals using concepts that are familiar to their supervisor’s study disciplines to ensure that the proposals are understood.

    The session concluded with a general agreement that thinking more critically about the terms is important to both researchers and practitioners.

    As Dr. Ruth Van Reken once advised Danau on how to work through issues that may seem contentious:

    “Start with the similarities—with what we share—then work through the differences. That way, you’ll be able to find your way back to the similarities.”

    If you would like to join future events organized by the FIGT Research Network (FRN) Affiliate, please go to the FRN webpage to find out how you can stay informed. 

    How to cite this seminar

    Tanu, Danau. (2020) “Third Culture Kids”: The History & Future of the Term in Research. Families in Global Transition Research Network Affiliate. [Inaugural virtual seminar, 29 May 2020.]


    A bibliography of publications on the history of the term “Third Culture Kid”

    Cottrell, Ann. (n.d., circa 2007) Dr. Ruth Hill Useem – the sociologist/anthropologist who first coined the term “Third Culture Kid”. In TCK World: The Official Home of Third Culture Kids. [Retrieved from http://www.tckworld.com/useem/home.html on 27 May 2020.]

    Pollock, David, Van Reken, Ruth E., & Pollock, Michael V. (2017) Appendix A: History and Evolution of Third Culture and Third Culture Kids Concepts: Then and Now. In David Pollock, Ruth E. Van Reken, & Michael V. Pollock, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. [See FIGT's online bookstore.]

    Tanu, Danau. (2015) Toward an Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Diversity of “Third Culture Kids”. In Saija Benjamin & Fred Dervin, Migration, Diversity, and Education: Beyond Third Culture Kids. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Tanu, Danau. (2018) Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School. New York: Berghahn Books. [Note: A discussion of the history of the term “Third Culture Kids” can be found in the “Introduction”, which is downloadable for free from the publisher’s website. The book itself is an anthropological application of the postcolonial perspective on the study of Third Culture Kids. See FIGT’s online bookstore for a discount code for the paperback to be released in December 2020 and a link to the publisher’s website.]



    Speaker bios

    Danau Tanu, PhD, is the author of Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia. She is also the Co-Chair of the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Research Network Affiliate.

    Gertina J van Schalkwyk, DPhil, is the chief editor of the International Journal of School and Education Psychology, and a former Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Macau. 

    Mari Korpela, PhD, is a social anthropologist and an Academy Research Fellow at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Tampere University, Finland. Mari is also the President of the Finnish Anthropological Society and the Director of the Lifestyle Migration Hub hosted by Tampere University.

    Anastasia Aldelina Lijadi, PhD, is a psychologist and a research scholar in the World Population Department at the International Institute of Applied System Analysis in Austria. She is also the Research and Education Director of FIGT.

    [Written by Danau Tanu; edited by Ema Naito]

  • 27 May 2020 4:55 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As a therapist and digital nomad, Dr. Sonia Jaeger finds her lifestyle and identity challenged by the global pandemic. While acknowledging how hard these times can be, she still finds joy in life, especially in her online community of colleagues.

    By Dr. Sonia Jaeger

    Being a therapist in times of COVID-19 is hard. We might not work on the front lines, but we aren’t that far behind, really. 

    Being a digital nomad in times of COVID-19 is hard. Traveling freely and often is at the core of our lifestyle and identity. 

    Yes, these were my first thoughts when invited to write about “finding joy in challenging times.” While I spend a lot of my time these days finding joy and focusing on the good, I do want to start by acknowledging how hard these times are. 

    Challenging times are called challenging for a reason. I see it too often: people are so intent on finding the positive aspects of a challenge and on the growth opportunity that they forget to make space for all those negative feelings, for the uncertainty, the fear, and so so much grief. 

    Once we give ourselves that space, then we can, and should, focus on the things that bring us joy—and there are so many things, from the very small to the very big, that can bring us joy even in the most challenging of times. 

    But, again, it’s ok if you don’t use a worldwide pandemic to start a new side business, freelancing career, or hobby. It’s ok if you keep going through all the emotions, sometimes multiple times a day.


    ... people are so intent on finding the positive aspects of a challenge ... that they forget to make space for all those negative feelings ... and so so much grief.

    So, to get back to the initial question, where do I find joy in these challenging times? 

    I find joy in my work and in my online counseling clients who use their skills to survive and sometimes even thrive in these times. I find joy in the shared laughter and the moments where something just clicks and things start to change. I find joy in the fact that yes, we are all in this together. 

    I find joy in the fact that as a digital nomad and psychologist working online, the transition might have been a bit easier for my clients and for me. I have been providing online counseling for years now, so while everything else might have changed, I did not also have to reinvent or transition my professional life. 

    I find joy in nature. I was lucky enough to happen to visit the French countryside when things started to evolve very quickly with COVID-19, and I was lucky enough to be able to stay as long as needed. 

    I find joy in the coffee I hand grind every morning, I find joy in the birds and insects I watch and listen to while drinking my coffee.

    Sometimes, all it takes is a shared space to acknowledge how hard this is.

    But overall, my biggest joy and lifesaver in these challenging times has been my international community of Location Independent Therapists. Having these colleagues by my side every step of the way, catching up multiples times a week in our business meetups, virtual coworking sessions, book club, happy hours, and peer-supervision calls and in writing in between. 

    I find joy in seeing their faces and hearing their thoughts and feelings. I find joy in connecting across countries, continents, and time zones and hearing more about what it’s actually like right now in so many corners of the world. 

    I find joy in helping each other work through these challenging times, taking care of ourselves, our families and friends, taking care of each other and of our clients. Sometimes, all it takes is a shared space to acknowledge how hard this is. And to take a deep breath together. 

    Our location-independent therapist community has also been a great reminder that yes, while we are all in this together, each of our experiences is absolutely unique, and vastly influenced by the country and region we live in, who is stuck at home with us and how big of a disruption to our lives this is, how many plans we had to put on hold and how well equipped we are to handle uncertainty and restrictions of freedom.

    ... there are so many things, from the very small to the very big, that can bring us joy even in the most challenging of times

    I find joy in all those colleagues who got to experience how well counselling can work online and in all those people, who suddenly realized that their job may actually be done remotely after all. 

    I find joy in seeing and hearing from all those who see this as a great opportunity to finally start their own online business. I find joy in those colleagues who also know that they don’t have to do it alone.

    I find joy in all those friends and relatives who got a crash course in digital life and suddenly related a bit more to how I live. 

    Finally, I find joy in knowing that all feelings are welcome and that anxiety, sadness, and joy are never really far apart, especially in challenging times. 

    Photo of Sonia Jaeger by Zsanett Kovacs PhotographyA German-French psychologist, psychotherapist and PhD, Sonia has been living a location-independent life as a digital nomad for the past five years while providing online counselling to expats and other globally mobile clients in German, French and English. Sonia is the co-host of the podcast “Mit Psychologie und Laptop um die Welt” where she and her colleague Carolin Müller talk about the reality of digital nomad life and their work as digital nomad psychologists. 

    In early 2020 Sonia co-founded the Location Independent Therapists (LIT) Community with fellow FIGT member Melissa Parks, PhD, connecting mental health professionals across the globe, helping them grow their location independent business. LIT will be opening up their community 1-5 June 2020, so keep an eye on their space!

    (Photo credit for Sonia's portrait: Zsanett Kovacs Photography)

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