Looking back on the Families in Global Transition Conference which I attended just over a week ago, 3 things struck me in particular:
I heard several attendees say that hard facts are what they need; both in their own work and in order to convince others of its value. So it was good to see that there was a strong focus on research this year. The opening keynote speech was given by Anne Copeland, a leader in the field of intercultural transitions (many of her research findings are freely available on her website). There was a special workshop for members of the FIGT Research Network to discuss best practices and their current projects. And on Friday the afternoon’s sessions were clustered around 5 different research presentations on various aspects of support for globally mobile families.
Resiliency is definitely the new buzz word. I heard it over and over again. The cynical side of me might say that this is code for “you’re on your own, buddy” when it comes to organizations supporting expats at a time when most are looking for ways to cut costs. But in truth expats do need to be resilient, no matter how much assistance is provided. Duncan Westwood described it as “the ability to bounce back” and that’s a life skill we could all use, expat or not.
We expats do seem to be compelled to write about our experiences whether it’s blogs, books or bylines, as Jo Parfitt’s presentation was entitled. The bookstore did a brisk trade and many of the authors were there in person. Over dinner, Tina Quick and I traded repatriation stories and when she mentioned that many tips in her book “The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition” applied to adult repatriates too, I decided to buy it. Having read excerpts of Alan Paul’s story of his life as an accompanying spouse, “Big in China,” I took advantage of having him sign a copy for me. And I was so inspired by Joanne Huskey’s closing keynote that I also purchased her book “The Unofficial Diplomat.” An exclusive pre-release copy of Expatwomen.com’s new book “Expat Women: Confessions” was a tucked inside our registration packs when we arrived. And as if that wasn’t enough, I WON a Kindle from one of the sponsors, Clements International and am now anxiously waiting for it to arrive.
FIGT is something of a unique group in that most people who attend (including the service providers and representatives of sending organizations) are expats or former expats themselves. As a result there is a common bond and instant sense of understanding between them. As a first time attendee said to me “It is nice to feel there is a sector of the population that “gets it”, isn’t it?”