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.

  • 21 Mar 2020 9:35 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Dr. Iris Hertz, FIGT Member and psychotherapist, describes some of the characteristics of adolescent TCKs and the challenges they face in forming social relationships.

    An interview with Dr. Iris Hertz, who was scheduled to present at FIGT2020.

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

    I am a psychotherapist and expressive therapist (PsyD, MA DMT), holding a doctorate in psychology specializing in family and couples therapy from the Professional School of Psychology, USA. 

    I have been practicing psychotherapy since 2003—in Israel, Singapore and, since 2014, Thailand— working with clients from different age groups and cultural and social backgrounds. My services range from diagnosing and treating personality disorders or emotional and behavioral disorders to working with couples and families on improving their relationships. I aim to support people through the stages of relocation and cultural adjustment to a new country.


    Please tell us about your research on international mobility and young TCKs’ interpersonal relationships

    For my PhD dissertation, I undertook qualitative research on the implications of international mobility on the interpersonal relationships among adolescent TCK who had relocated to Bangkok, Thailand, and who were undergoing therapy. I looked at the nature of interpersonal connections between adolescent TCKs and (1) their peers and (2) their families, as described by the young people themselves.

    The research was conducted through semi-structured interviews with five adolescent girls and four adolescent boys whom I see at my clinic. All of them were high-school students between the ages of 16 and 18. I also analyzed five counseling sessions with each. 

    Before participating in the study, all interviewees and their parents were fully informed about the study and signed a consent to the use of information collected in the interviews and documentation from the counseling sessions (see Declaration of Helsinki).

    Why are you interested in young TCKs and their interpersonal relationships?

    Over the past ten years, I’ve been working as a Western foreign therapist in Asian countries. Over the course of my work, I meet TCKs on a daily basis and see that they need emotional therapy to help cope with day-to-day pressures and the challenges—in and outside their homes—that result from recurrent moves and separations. In particular, I found a gap between the way adolescents described their relations with their family members and that in which they described their social connections.

    I wanted to look into this phenomenon further because I believe it will be of use to the global community of therapists who support globally mobile families with adolescent TCK and, ultimately, for the young people and their families themselves.

    What are some things that you’ve found?

    Adolescent TCKs often have difficulties creating and preserving interpersonal connections. They experience loneliness, stress over their studies, and lack of control over their lives. Sometimes these pressures become unbearable and the adolescent may face depression, resort to self-harm, or become suicidal. Emotional therapy can be a lifeboat for these adolescents. 

    Through the study, I’ve found that adolescent TCKs

    • Build confident, stable, and strong connections with their families: It appears that, in most cases, the relations in the nuclear family were stable and meaningful. The young people demonstrate confident and stable feelings in their relations with their nuclear family, and the families were unified and spent a lot of time together.

    • Have difficulty in creating meaningful and good social connections with their peer group: Most of the adolescents who come to me for help report loneliness and great difficulty in creating social connections with their peer group. 

    Noting that this was based on a small group of adolescent TCKs who were undergoing therapy and that they are not representative of all adolescent TCKs, here are some dynamics that came through the research.

    Family dynamics

    For this group of participants, the division of roles between the parents was dichotomous: the father was the provider while the mother was the ‘dependent’ (as defined in her residence permit).

    • Mothers: While the mother–adolescent relationships were generally good, empathetic, and healthy, the mothers were at times seen as interfering. The adolescents, aspiring to be independent, may be reacting to their perception of their mothers as dependent (as a personal characteristic), while the mothers may be moved by their sense of exclusive responsibility for the kids. Mothers’ lack of paid employment may also play a role, although this needs further study.

    • Fathers: Among the study participants, the connection with the father tended to be distant and hostile. The adolescents often saw the father as the main cause for the moves and blamed him for their feelings of alienation and loneliness. 

    • Siblings: In most cases, there was a close connection with the siblings, especially when they were of the same gender. It may be that the moves and life in a different country magnified the feelings and experiences shared by siblings, which, in turn, strengthened mutual understanding and the feeling of partnership. 

    International school setting

    • The competitive academic demands of international schools may be making it more difficult for TCKs to adapt. Adolescents in their last two years of studies may not be free to invest in social connections, let alone new connections, making socialization extra difficult.

    The most important thing to remember is: TCKs and adolescents gain a lot from their life experiences through relocation, but they also pay a price. The price is usually their ability to connect in a close and intimate way with others around them. We need to recognize that TCK youth need professional support and guidance from their parents and teachers. 

    Therapists working with TCKs need to be culturally sensitive and intellectually flexible and show unconditional acceptance of every client. The therapist also has to make sure that their client understands what happens during the therapy process, even if they come from a completely different culture. Establishing a positive therapeutic relationship is especially important for TCKs because if that relationship is good, the TCK clients have a better chance to replicate it and establish close, trusting relationships with other people.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    My research focused on the difficulties and negative influences experienced by Third Culture adolescents as a result of recurrent moves. It was conducted with a small group of interviewees who came to me for therapy. Future research could look into areas such as:

    • Experiences of specific segments of the TCK population. TCKs are not a homogenous group: families come from different regions of the world, parents may be of the same origin or not, TCKs may study in international schools or single-culture schools, etc.

    • Long-term effects beyond the adolescent period

    • Quantitative research with a much larger group of TCKs

    • TCK experiences in other countries, to compare with these results from Bangkok

    • The positive effects of global mobility and TCK development, such as cultural exposure, high-quality education, and the sense of safety and independence in a foreign country.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION: Iris’s paper is due to be published in early April 2020. Please visit her website to read the full dissertation.


    FIGT’s focus for the month is on TCKs. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publicly available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website).

  • 14 Mar 2020 3:13 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    On 28 February 2020, the global community lost Caleb Meakins. The FIGT community mourns the social entrepreneur and global poverty ambassador, who as FIGT2019 Keynote Speaker inspired us to “change the world”.

    By Ginny Philps, Communications Co-Director

    Caleb Meakins was an outstanding human being. The kind of person you would most fervently have voted for if he had ever gone for office. He exuded a calm, a humility, a presence, and a passion for life that was palpable. How shocking then that his life on earth has come to an end.

    I first ‘met’ Caleb during our pre-conference interview. He was seated in the café in his entrepreneurial hub in Addis Ababa. The place was bustling, sparky, alive. It was the kind of environment that many would have found distracting. Yet Caleb remained totally focused. He was sitting in the beating heart of his mission – doing everything he could to support Ethiopian business, innovation, and progress, and you could see how it fuelled him.

    At FIGT2019, people seemed to part when Caleb walked through the corridors. They seemed to stop and just absorb when they were fortunate enough to get some time with him. It was as if everyone just wanted a part of Caleb. As if everyone felt his energy and positivity and realized what a rare human being they were sharing space with.

    The beauty of Caleb’s Keynote at FIGT speaks for itself, as do all of his witty and meaningful challenges. As of course does the TedEx talk where he describes his faith and how he dealt with losing his father. In essence, everything that I saw Caleb do came from a place of deep gratitude, clarity of faith, and purity. 

    The global and extensive FIGT community reeled when they heard the news of Caleb’s passing. Some had lost a very close friend. Others had lost one of the most inspiring young men they had had the fortune to meet. Without a doubt, everyone who knew Caleb would have felt a deep sense of loss for humankind.

    I tuned into the livestream of Caleb’s funeral and spent over an hour connecting, floating through deep emotion. I happened to hear his sisters speak. The grace, power, and beauty with which they described their brother was enough to stop me in my tracks, make me sit down, draw breath, listen closer. 

    May we be grateful for having met and known Caleb. We send his family all of our love and support for the years to come.

    MORE: Caleb talked with us in the lead-up to FIGT2019. His FIGT2019 Keynote Speech is below.

  • 11 Mar 2020 2:40 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    2020 David C. Pollock Scholar and international educator Jacob Daniel Huff shares some insights on TCK identity development from some interviews with a multigenerational TCK family.

    2020 David C. Pollock Scholar and international educator
    Jacob Daniel Huff is currently interviewing members of a multigenerational TCK family to look at TCK identity development over generations of a globally mobile family. We asked him about the project and to share with us some initial insights.

    Please tell us a bit about your project

    I’m looking at a specific group of TCKs — the multigenerational TCK family — through collecting oral histories in a series of case studies. By ‘multigenerational TCK family’, I mean a family in which more than one generation has experienced a globally nomadic life and more than one of these generations fit the TCK definition.

    Currently, I’m interviewing a family with French nationality and Asian ethnicity who have been living an internationally mobile life over four generations. Each generation has moved at different ages to different countries, but all have a strong connection to France (with different generations having lived in France at some point in their lives) and carry the French passport proudly.

    The interviews have been with the second-generation patriarch (now living in retirement) and his four children. This third generation is now in their prime and live in three different countries, having lived in four to six countries while growing up and in more countries as adults.

    I started this project out of personal interest while working on my doctoral degree at the Liberty Graduate School of Education. My plan is to complete the interviews with this family, do supplemental research and analyze the histories, and have a paper for publication ready later this year. Eventually, I would like to repeat this process with four or five more families, but will likely begin in about a year when my doctoral dissertation is complete. 

    Why are you looking at multigenerational TCK families?

    According to the UN International Migration Report (2019), more families are living internationally than at any other time in history. We can infer that the number of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are also on the rise. More families are also globally mobile over multiple generations, but so far, we don’t know much about the dynamics of TCK identity development for such families. This is what I hope to shed light on through my project: How do the globally mobile generations of one family develop/maintain their personal and family identities? What does that mean for TCK identity development?

    What have you found so far?

    While I am still conducting interviews and hope to talk to more families, the members of this family shared some common messages — much of what confirms what David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken elaborated in Third Culture Kids: Growing up among Worlds.

    >A sense of culture inherited through close family ties

    The members I interviewed expressed a deep respect for the family, both as a unit of support and as an inculcator of culture. When talking about how the kids learned their culture and developed a sense of who they were, storytelling played an important role. One sibling shared: “For us, it was that everything came from my parents. All of it. There was no internet, there were no history books; it was just my parents, ...what they told [us], and what they did. That was our culture.” 

    Another referred to family activities and the time spent together as a family as sacred. (For more on how family can be a “place” that helps create a sense of stability and of belonging, a “home,” see Anastasia Lijadi and Gertina Van Schalkwyk, “Place Identity Construction of Third Culture Kids: Eliciting Voices of Children with High Mobility Lifestyle”, 2017.) 

    They felt the experience of a “third culture life” has ingrained in them a deep appreciation for time together and the enjoyment of one another. They referred to this as one of the great gifts of third culture life. 


    Another element of this family’s experience was that they all spoke of being able to adapt to any situation. As one sibling put it, she had always felt like she was a chameleon, that she could always become the person she needed to be in that situation. This concept of feeling like a chameleon is not uncommon for TCKs (researcher Agnieszka Trąbka talks about the use of the word ‘chameleon’ by TCKs in her 2014 paper “Being Chameleon: The Influence of Multiple Migration in Childhood on Identity Construction”).

    The father spoke of the changes in his life and how he was able to adapt, first as an adolescent leaving his homeland and learning new languages to communicate, then in a university settling into a French identity, and finally taking on the international life in what he called the third civilization.

    This, I think, is the key to how this family sees the world around them and the relationship they have with it. It is a life of growth and a life of change while always remaining the same person. That is what they say life is “living overseas and in different countries where we adapt, we even adapt our names”.

    >The need to move

    Mobility is one of the gifts of the TCK life that can sometimes also be a curse. Many TCKs report feeling a “call to move”, perhaps because TCKs often only feel a true sense of stillness when they are on the move (as discussed by David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken in Third Culture Kids. I also found interesting Laia Colomer’s 2017 article “Feeling Like at Home in Airports: Experiences, Memories and Affects of Placeness among Third Culture Kids”). This family is no exception to the rule.

    One sibling spoke of the joy he feels when he moves to a new place and feels the sense of discovery. Another spoke of the idea of staying in one place as inconceivable, comparing himself to a shark: “if I stop moving, I die”.

    However, it was their father that had the most beautiful statement about mobility. He said, “We used to say that we are like a turtle. We carry our home on our back. So the home is where I have my kids and my wife. That is my home”. 

    >A desire to share the international experience with the next generation

    The final insight that I would like to leave with is that when asked what they hoped for their kids and their grandkids, the dominant theme was an intense desire to make sure that the next generation experiences a continued international life, “this life full of mobility.”

    “I hope for my children that I'm able to pass on everything that has been passed on to me, through my grandfather, my parents, my own experiences….I wish that I am a guide for them and [I] want them to take their own journey,” one brother said.

    One of the sisters put the entire multigenerational TCK experience together:

    “I wanted my children to grow up being open-minded, being able to think out of the box, and being multicultural and multilingual (like I) was....I think that those were the biggest positive points of who I am today. And I wanted my children to have that”.


    Jacob is looking for potential participants as he expands his multigenerational TCK study. If you are an adult TCK with one or more parents who were also TCKs and would be interested in participating in a series of interviews about your experiences, please contact Jacob (mrjacobhuff@gmail.comLinkedIn). Jacob would like to continue this study with TCK families of many different backgrounds. Families with multiple members who would like to participate are most highly preferred.  

    ALSO: Read more about Jacob Daniel Huff

    This post is part of this month’s FIGT focus on TCKs. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publically available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website). 

    [Edited by Ema Naito; reviewed by Anastasia Lijadi & Danau Tanu]

  • 05 Mar 2020 3:41 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This month, we focus on Third Culture Kids (TCKs): persons who have “spent a significant part of their developmental years outside the parents’ culture.” Many of FIGT’s members are TCKs or adult TCKs, are parents to TCKs, or work with and support TCKs as educators, counselors, and other professionals.

    Where would FIGT be if not for Third Culture Kids (TCKs)? Many of our members are TCKs or adult TCK (ATCKs), are parents to TCKs, or work with and support TCKs as educators, counselors, and other professionals.

    And of course, FIGT Founder Ruth Van Reken is co-author, with David C. Pollock, of the “TCK Bible”, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, which is now in its third edition.

    The term “TCK” was originally coined by researchers John and Ruth Useem in the 1950s, and is now typically used to define:

    [A] person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. (Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. 1999, 2001, 2009, 2017.)

    TCKs often share such characteristics as an expanded worldview, adaptability, language and cross-cultural skills, as well as the not-so-positive restlessness and rootlessness, confused loyalties, and a lack of a true cultural balance.

    (FIGT members: log in and get a refresher on TCKs with this FIGT2007 presentation by Ruth Van Reken and Libby Stephens: “Third Culture Kids: The Experience Of Growing Up Among Worlds” or watch “Third Culture Kids 101” with Tanya Crossman.)

    Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring some of the issues facing today’s Third Culture Kids (TCKs). This is a vast topic and an area that is the focus of a great deal of exciting and interesting research. 

    While we cannot promise to touch on every aspect of TCK life, we hope to touch on topics and themes that will promote further discussion.

    To access the content: Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Video content will be available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website.

    If you would like to add your voice to this conversation, please contact Sarah at social-lead@figt.org

    There are a vast number of presentations and resources on TCKs on this site and we introduce a few here. You're invited to also explore our Free Articles and Information and TCK/CCK Resources.

    (Items with * require FIGT member log-in.) 

    From this month's social media

    From the FIGT archives

    From FIGT conferences

    > TCKs and school


    > Different groups of TCKs

    From the FIGT Bookstore

    The FIGT Bookstore features publications written or recommended by FIGT members. Purchasing through the affiliate links below supports the David C. Pollock Scholarship at no extra cost to you. (Descriptions are from Amazon.) 

    There are many more titles in the FIGT Bookstore — so please do explore!

  • 25 Feb 2020 2:45 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    2020 David C. Pollock Scholar Tracy Oyekanmi is dedicated to helping professionals working abroad. She was scheduled to talk about the growing group of globally mobile African professionals who are contributing to their communities, both in the West and their original local areas.

    2020 David C. Pollock Scholar Tracy Oyekanmi is a marketing communications professional who aims to improve the career visibility of foreign professionals and global remote workers through intercultural competency training and coaching. She is also host of Visible At Work podcast, where she and her guests share actionable insights and discuss their experiences of working abroad. 

    Tracy was scheduled to talk at FIGT2020 about African professionals embracing differences to unlock opportunities. She shares a bit about herself and the topic.

    How did you hear about FIGT and what inspired you to apply for the Scholarship?

    I made a new friend, Karin Tischler from Germany, who lives in Canada. We started talking and laughed about similar cultural experiences, as I had worked with a lot of German clients, plus she had moved from the US to Canada, just like me. 

    After a few laughs, I mentioned my consulting plans and podcast Visible At Work, about helping foreign professionals with intercultural and workplace communication skills training, to which she immediately advised that I check out FIGT. A few days later, I visited the website, saw the call for Scholar applications, and was motivated to apply.

    What are your areas of interest/expertise related to global mobility?

    I’m interested in improving the career visibility of foreign professionals and global remote workers through intercultural competency training and coaching, while they deal with the realities of a new work environment/routine.

    How did you get into this field? Why are you passionate about it/why is it important to you?

    While working in global PR & communications for over 10 years, I helped several senior executives adapt to a new environment, fine-tune their leadership style, and deal with the media. Then I moved to two countries in three years and had a baby while working on my master’s degree. Now, I understand the realities of transitioning! 

    I’m passionate about helping others, especially self-funded expats and global remote workers who may not have access to employer-provided training or those who do but need continuous coaching beyond the pre-departure and one-time arrival debrief. Research has revealed that such professionals often face issues of isolation and dismissal of their experience which could affect their confidence, mental health and ultimately their performance and productivity.

    Can you tell us a bit more about what you were going to talk about at FIGT?

    African foreign professionals are often portrayed in mainstream media in refugee stories. But there’s a new breed of professionals who are using their expertise from their home country to earn more through global mobility and give back to their communities, both in the west and their original local areas.

    What do “diversity and inclusion” mean to you?

    Diversity and inclusion to me mean different initiatives around recognizing diverse individuals and including them in places/opportunities that they are less likely to access on their own. However, what makes it most meaningful is that such people have through their personal lens a sense of belonging, above all else. 

    I believe that it is one thing to be selected for a diverse thought or narrative, but it is another to make meaningful contributions in that space.

    Finally: Can you share a random piece of info about yourself please?

    I’ll describe myself as a foodie. I am very open-minded about trying new foods from different cultures. This has helped me start up conversations with any foreigner I meet. Once I ask about their food, their eyes light up. I either try it if they have it there or collect the recipe.

    ALSO: Read Tracy’s full bio and learn about the other 2020 Scholars.

    FIGT social media is focusing on “diversity and inclusion.” Please join us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publicly available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website).

  • 15 Feb 2020 10:34 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    “Twice-exceptionality” describes students who are experiencing both giftedness and disability, inclusive educator Sue Prior tells us.

    Interview with Sue Prior

    Note: Sue was scheduled to present at FIGT2020. This article was written before the cancellation of FIGT2020 was announced.

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

    I am an Australian-born daughter of British immigrants (a Scottish mother and an English father). A parent, wife, sibling, friend, and published academic author, I originally trained as a primary school teacher but quickly detoured into special education when I became fascinated with the diversity and personalized approach to learning. 

    With my husband I spent 20 years in Western Australia where both our children were born. We lived in England for a year, researching our genealogy and spending time with extended family across the UK, Europe, and the US. Through traveling, I connected with family, some of whom I had never met except in the stories of my parents. This yearning to trace family outside of Australia gave me insight into my story and increased my sense of “wander.”

    In 2006 we moved to Thailand and spent three years in an international school community in Bangkok. We then moved to yet another state of Australia, where our children eventually finished high school and moved on to further study/work. 

    I have a special interest in giftedness and twice-exceptionality, which developed after further Master’s degree study into gifted education.

    Currently, I am an executive committee member of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and a trained parent group facilitator with SENG (Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted). I worked as a gifted education consultant for 140 schools in Brisbane, and more recently taught in international schools in Hong Kong. 

    I am a constant traveler who loves being home, wherever that may be! 

    Please tell us more about “twice-exceptionality.”

    Twice-exceptionality or “2e” describes a relatively small but very diverse group of students who are experiencing both giftedness and disability. For example, a child might be gifted academically yet have a physical disability or may be gifted in maths yet have a reading disability.

    There is no universal definition of giftedness or twice-exceptionality but there is international legislation regarding disability, although definitions may vary. 

    In twice-exceptionality, the giftedness and the disability may mask each other in school, particularly if there are no opportunities to display the giftedness, so that a student may appear “average” or only be seen to have difficulties. There are cases where the giftedness is demonstrated but the difficulties are hidden/not identified. It can be a paradox!

    If neither exceptionality is identified or only one is identified, leaving the other issue unacknowledged/unaddressed, a student’s learning and wellbeing can be significantly affected. Twice exceptionality can be more intense than either exceptionality alone. 

    As international schools grow rapidly across the world and especially in Asia, I am looking at 2e in an international school context and its potential contribution to bridging differences.

    What are the challenges specific to an international-school setting?

    International schools are independent of the national education system. Their curriculum is different from that in the host country and they do not usually operate within the same government requirements as a local school. 

    Students with disabilities in an international school may not receive the same support available or indeed required in a government or local school. Structures, governance, and other teaching guidelines may not apply as they do in local schools.

    Why are you interested in twice-exceptionality?

    I am interested in the 2e students’ diversity and paradox/possibility of boundary-crossing or shapeshifting. In education, there is a tendency to group students by somewhat arbitrary definitions. The nature of 2e challenges these definitions and borders.

    In international schools, students grapple with many layers of identity. So this is a fascinating topic to me, having worked in education most of my life and still learning about diversity in contexts and how to nurture the best in people.

    I’d like to make more people aware of the existence of 2e, both its paradoxes and potential, and understand how we can shape environments — curriculum resources, equipment, teacher education, culture and social support — that either support or hinder growth. And that we sometimes find hidden gifts in people.

    What do “diversity and inclusion” mean to you? 

    Diversity and inclusion to me are about equity. It means valuing differences and nurturing strengths while creating an enriching environment — so that we each can belong and contribute to the greater good.

    I learned about diversity, interdependence, learning in context, and valuing student voices (and found my vocation!) in my first job as a social educator in an innovative community residential special-education school program in New South Wales. There, I worked with students aged 15-18 on developing their independent-living and community-access skills. 

    In the early 2000s, my husband, our two then-young children, and I took part in a 6-week school pilgrimage through India and Nepal to work as volunteers with some of the most disadvantaged communities and people. This journey was transformative for us and for me professionally.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I am so glad to have found FIGT. It offers a great mix of research, belongingness, diversity, and understanding across the world

    We are focusing on “diversity and inclusion” this month. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publicly available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website).

  • 09 Feb 2020 1:55 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Globally mobile accompanying spouses often grapple with self-identity, insecurity of legal status due to visa type, and the search for community. It’s the same for same-sex couples, says World Bank Family Network Regional Champion Scott Cowcher, but it comes with unique challenges as well.

    Interview with Scott Cowcher

    Note: Scott was scheduled to present at FIGT2020. This article was written before the cancellation of FIGT2020 was announced.

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

    I am an Australian who has lived in my home country for only one year out of the last 20. I didn’t plan this lifestyle — I had seen myself settled in Australia and continuing my work as the manager of a community mental health service in Melbourne.

    But in 1998, an opportunity came up for my partner of 30 years and now husband to work on HIV/AIDS in Thailand at the Thai Red Cross. A break seemed to make sense with my goals and further study plans as well...and the rest is history: 20 years, two children, and four relocations — and we are now back in Bangkok. Our son is about to graduate from high school and start university in Australia and our daughter is turning 14 years old. 

    It’s been quite a journey, not always smooth-sailing, with frustrations, depression, the surrendering of goals, compromises, new experiences, wonderful friendships, and the continued need to reinvent myself. 

    Originally, I went to art school and majored in hot glass and ceramics, having exhibited in Europe, China, and Australia. For the sake of a more balanced lifestyle and living wage, however, I decided to pursue a career in mental health and education. I now have degrees in adult education, psychiatric nursing, and psychology, as well as master’s degrees in public health and health management.

    My journey to FIGT commenced with my recent role as Regional Champion of South East Asia and Pacific for the World Bank Family Network. My role is to develop support networks for members and their families, and to support our dedicated country-based Connectors and Champions. 

    How many times have you been to an FIGT conference? 

    I attended the 2019 FIGT conference and immediately felt a sense of affinity with other spouses who have had to compromise their own careers and to reinvent themselves again and again. The conference was inspirational in the sharing of how families, children, and particularly spouses adapt to the challenges of living a more transient life across changing cultures. 

    Is this the first time you’ll be presenting?

    This is the first time I will present. I’ve identified with and shared many of the experiences spoken about by those who’ve accompanied their spouses in the pursuit of their career. I understand the experience of losing one’s professional and human identity and virtually becoming an accessory to your spouse. I felt that as a same-sex spouse with children, some of these issues presented different challenges, equally as difficult, with the added concerns of acceptance and acknowledgment of my family. 

    Please tell us a little of what you’ll be talking about at FIGT2020.

    Following your partner overseas presents unexpected challenges, which can be magnified if the relationship is considered “unconventional”. LGBTQ accompanying spouses experience many of the same struggles as all accompanying spouses: career sacrifice, loss of identity, loss of community, and fragmenting of family ties. 

    However, when you are relocating internationally as an LGBTQ family with children, the challenges and anxieties can be amplified. Different legal and social acceptance in different geographical locations can swing the experiential pendulum from positive to negative. 

    My session reflects my experiences over four relocations in three different countries with my partner/husband of 30 years. My journey began with our first relocation to Bangkok 20 years ago and the loss of professional status, identity, and friendships whilst being under a vague visa that stated I was “invaluable to my partner’s research”. 

    The journey continued in Cambodia, with our then-14-month-old son; then another child joined us as we moved to Washington DC. Washington was a rollercoaster ride: I was on a tourist visa for the first five years, unable to work, renewing my visa every six months, and trying to build a new identity and community without the legal standing to even register my children in school. But Washington also gave me deep and enduring friendships, a rich community in which to raise my children, and a satisfying new challenge. 

    The latest leg of the journey was a return to Bangkok, 20 years later, with a 16-year-old and a 12-year-old. The challenges remain similar: lack of legal status, connecting with a new community, and my changing professional goals and personal reflections as I move through midlife.

    Why are you interested in this topic?

    The topic is a story of my life — from my perspective as a same-sex spouse who chose to accompany his spouse. The unique challenges of gaining acceptance of your family, coming out in each relocation, seeking an identity as a male caregiver, dealing with a sense of failure, finding a professional role (if possible) all lead to a reflection of whether I’ve achieved my goals and am satisfied with my choices. It’s an opportunity to reflect on these issues, put a voice to my feelings, and receive feedback/validation.

    What is a message that you hope to convey in your talk?

    All globally mobile families experience the challenges differently and adapt in different ways. My experience is no more or less difficult than other families – it’s just (as the Thais like to say) “Same, Same but Different!”

    What does “diversity and inclusion” mean to you? 

    Diversity to me is about highlighting the differences between individuals and groups of people — whether it be gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other parameters used in our world. It’s about appreciating these differences as adding a positive value to our life experience

    As Families in Global Transition, this means that we focus on embracing the experience and learning from the diversity that surrounds us, which I believe — although not always easy at the time — leads to personal growth and enrichment. 

    Inclusion is the natural extension of diversity. It’s taking action to create environments where people feel respected, valued, and are encouraged to reach their potential. We achieve this through embracing difference, listening carefully to each individual’s experience, not judging or evaluating experience on a scale, and being agents of change — by seeking to understand experiences from an alternate perspective.

    Equality is often enmeshed in these concepts because it’s important to strive for equal opportunities to participate in our world, whether it be through legal recognition, social acceptance, or the embracing of cultural differences. Striving for equality ensures that everybody is treated the same and social, cultural, sexual, or religious differences are not discriminated against.

    After you present at FIGT, what’s next? Any plans?

    We have just extended our contract and plan to stay in Bangkok for a further two years. This will see our son into his second year of university and our daughter into the start of her junior year of high school. I plan to further deepen my relationships across the East Asia and Pacific region with the World Bank Family Network.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    The life of a family in global transition is like an endless roller coaster — fear, excitement, thrills, sharp turns, ups and downs, and shared experiences that make you cling to one another — but you’re never quite sure if you’ve enjoyed it completely! 

    Each time you get on the roller coaster you’re terrified. But at the end of the ride, you realize you are braver than you thought you were and you’re happy that you’ve had that experience as a family.

    We are focusing on “diversity and inclusion” this month. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to access more engaging stories and videos (publically available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website).

  • 07 Feb 2020 11:28 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Our third FIGT2020 keynote speaker is Ragil Ratnam, a strategic leadership advisor and executive coach, who uses his experiences of living and working across multiple cultures to help leaders guide their organizations to thrive in the new industrial age.

    Ragil Ratnam is a strategic leadership advisor and executive coach based in Bangkok, Thailand. Born in Sri Lanka, Ragil grew up in Zambia and is now a South African citizen. Through his career, he has lived in the US, the UK, and Singapore, and is now based in Thailand.

    With more than 25 years of global, multi-cultural corporate and academic experience on four continents, Ragil runs an independent leadership advisory practice and is an orchestrator with Duke Corporate Education.

    [Ragil tells us how being an ‘outsider’ is an advantage to be embraced.]

    He coaches executives to achieve high performance, working across Asia with recent projects in Bhutan, Indonesia, China, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Ragil also works with leadership teams on specific challenges such as developing and implementing strategy, managing organizational change, innovating, and leading across cultures.

    Ragil is a qualified clinical psychologist with training in neuro-linguistic programming, hypnotherapy, and a variety of assessment tools. Using his personal experiences of living and working across multiple cultures, he has developed tools and processes based on empathy and sense-making that help leaders guide their organizations through digital transformation, allowing them to survive and thrive in the new industrial age.

    Ragil’s list of clients span a range of industries: tech (Capgemini, Agoda, Pomelo), banking (Credit Suisse, JP Morgan), insurance (Prudential Corporation Asia), fast-moving consumer goods (Unilever), energy (Petronas, Bangchak), and manufacturing (Robert Bosch Automotive), as well as the government and international sectors (UNICEF, the World Bank Group, the Royal Thai Navy).

    ALSO: See our full lineup of FIGT2020 Keynote Speakers.

    Ragil plans to talk about how feeling like an outsider can be a huge advantage to be embraced. Join us at FIGT2020 to hear him in person!

  • 05 Feb 2020 12:07 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition is thrilled that our Anonymous Donor has chosen Summertime Publishing as our Platinum Sponsor. 

    Summertime Publishing was created by longtime FIGT member and supporter Jo Parfitt in 1997 as a way to get books by and for expatriates to print; this included her own Career in Your Suitcase, one of the earliest books about portable careers. 

    Today Summertime specializes in books “by and for people living abroad, with a particular emphasis on Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and issues affecting the global family.” Its sister imprint, Springtime Books, started in 2015, is run by expat author and Summertime Publishing business manager Jack Scott, focusing on books on travel, cross-cultural life, and other genres. 

    While authoring 30+ additional books, Jo has taught writing to many, helping over 300 authors get into print. These days she also runs a popular online writing program The Life Story Jar, born out of her FIGT Keynote speech about telling your life stories at last year’s conference, as well as writing “Me-treats” — short writing holidays for wordaholics — in exotic places around the globe.

    Jo has been an integral part of FIGT’s 22-year history. “I’m proud of what being part of the FIGT family has given me on a personal and professional level. I’ve attended the FIGT annual conference more than 15 times and am always keen to give back — as a presenter, forum leader, mentor to new writers, and keynote — to the tribe that has made me. This is where I am my best self and energized, and definitely where the magic happens.” 

    Jo is equally enthusiastic about the conference theme of FIGT2020 in Bangkok March 13-15: Embracing and Bridging Differences

    “This is exactly what FIGT is all about, isn’t it? Attendees always learn so much, both personally and professionally, about breaking down barriers, softening boundaries, and making real human connections despite differences. It’s the reunion of strangers, the meeting of minds, the people, and the relationships above all.

    FIGT is honored to welcome Jo and Summertime Publishing/Springtime Books as our Platinum sponsor and look forward to seeing her in March at FIGT2020!

    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 Feb 2020 8:04 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Meet Maddie White, a 2020 Pollock Scholar and archivist who aspires to document and preserve the histories of underrepresented TCKs—the non-white, disabled, LGBTQIA+, non-Western, and others. “We are far more diverse than the stories told about us.”

    Maddie White is an adult TCK who was born in the US and grew up in Fiji, Australia, Thailand, and South Africa, before returning to the US as a teen. She currently works at Smith College Special Collections as their Processing Archivist.

    Maddie is particularly interested in documenting and preserving the histories of TCKs who are non-white, disabled, LGBTQIA+, and/or non-Western. She believes community archiving could help foster a sense of belonging in the TCK community, through storytelling and a connection to our history. 

    How did you hear about FIGT and what inspired you to apply for the Scholarship?

    I'm pretty cut off from the expat world where I live in Massachusetts, so a few months ago, I was looking for a gathering or conference for TCKS/ATCKs. Of course I found FIGT in my search. When I was reading through the conference website, I found the Pollock Scholarship.

    I had been thinking for a long time about how hard it is to get at the history of TCKs and how great it would be to have a community archive, so I decided to apply. I didn’t think I’d get the scholarship since I have ideas but no concrete project yet. But it sounded like such a great opportunity to meet people, to develop my ideas, and to listen to other folks’ ideas, I decided to apply anyway. I feel so lucky that I get the chance to come to the conference!

    What are your areas of interest/expertise related to global mobility? 

    Right now, I am gathering information for a TCK history project. Ultimately, I'd like to collect and document the history of TCKs to create an archive. The history of TCK childhoods and adulthoods can give us a clearer understanding of who we are, our similarities and differences, and the changes to our community over time. It brings forward issues like mental health, lack of support from schools and colleges, racism, homophobia, and sexism. 

    Telling our history exactly as it happened and telling how we saw the world reveals the strengths and failures of our community and of our support, and allows underrepresented people a voice in the narrative. 

    By listening to marginalized TCKs and amplifying their voices, we can show marginalized and underrepresented A/TCKs that there are others like them who have come before, and who have survived, struggled, and succeeded. Listening to each other and sharing our histories can help build a sense of belonging that embraces our struggles, failures, successes and differences.

    How did you get into this field? Why are you passionate about it/why is it important to you?

    I am an archivist (someone who takes care of historical documents) at Smith College Special Collections. 

    When I was getting my master’s in library science, I focused on outreach to under-served communities. I asked: How do we collect and preserve the history of communities who have been largely ignored by archives in the past, and how do we make archives that continue to have a life in the community? 

    I created a project to document the history of LGBTQ2IA+ rural Wyoming by going out into rural communities to interview LGBT people about what they would want from an archive, what important parts of their history should be documented, and their concerns about donating their personal records to a public archive. 

    I would like to do a similar project for TCK history, but push it past information gathering and planning into actual collecting of historical material. 

    The project is important to me on a personal level, since I wish I knew an older generations of ATCKs who could tell me the history of our community. The history of TCKs is difficult to find at all, and when it does appear, it is often told by our parents, psychologists, and educators. 

    I want more than that. I want to know stories of our successes and failures in adulthood. I want to know stories similar to mine, and ones that go against my expectations. I want a history that includes more than the British Empire and US expansion. I want to learn from TCKs who are non-white, or disabled, or LGBTQIA+, or non-Western, or a combination of these identities. 

    We are far more diverse than the stories told about us.


    What do you look forward to at FIGT2020 in Bangkok?

    I'm really excited to be in a space dedicated to talking about the issues facing expats. 

    I'm also really hoping to connect to anyone who is already looking at the history and stories of TCKs/ATCKs, and to listen to the community about what they would want in an archives project. I am interested in doing an oral history project to collect the stories of TCKs, but I want to listen to the people and their needs/dreams first. 

    I know any archival project would need to be very accessible online so it could be reached anywhere in the world, would need to take the privacy and safety of current minor TCKs into account, and would need to include our schools/clubs/caretakers. 

    However, TCKs know what their own community needs better than anyone, so I also want to hear other concerns and ideas. I am especially interested in hearing ideas on how to have an archive reflect our true diversity and go out of its way to expand our understanding of what it looks like to be a TCK.

    Besides the actual conference, I'm also very excited to explore my old neighborhood and school, since ISB was where I went to middle school. 

    Can you share a random piece of info about yourself please? 

    The most embarrassing TCK mistake I ever made was when I moved back to the US (my passport country) as a teen. I asked my teacher for a rubber (i.e., an eraser), but I didn't know that in the US a “rubber” is slang for a condom. 

    My teacher looked at me horrified, and I just rephrased the sentence and moved on with my day. It wasn't until a year later when I found out what rubber meant that it clicked and I finally realized why she had looked so horrified.

    ALSO: Read Maddie’s full bio and learn about the other 2020 Scholars.

    Every year, the David C. Pollock Scholarship brings new voices to the FIGT conference and it's kept alive with your support. If you will be at FIGT2020, we hope many of you will participate in the 2020 Lucky Draw!

    We are also happily accepting donations such as books, coaching sessions, and workshops. The Lucky Draw provides a great platform for people to hear about your services and raises funds to continue the Pollock Scholar Legacy. Please contact Matilda Criel-Ewoldt, Scholarship Chair, for further information at scholarship@figt.org.

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