During the first week of March, together with seven other MKB members, I attended the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) annual conference, this year arranged in The Hague in Netherlands. FIGT is a forum for globally mobile individuals, families, and those who work with them, and the conference, now in its 20th year, is renowned for its welcoming atmosphere. Now read our members’ reflections from the conference:
Reflections from the Families in Global Transition Conference
The Piri-Piri Lexicon
Meeting people who understand and share your struggles to live mobile and cross-cultural lives is what Families in Global Transition is all about. Your normal is their normal. And this is very refreshing.
Annabelle was one of the recipients of the coveted Parfitt-Pascoe Writing Residency scholarships, which meant that her tasks started the day before the conference. During it, she had to take careful notes, as the scholars together write a book summarising all the presentations.
‘A Reunion of Strangers’ is the title of a small book given to all attendees at FIGT last week. And this is exactly what the conference was. I had been eyeing this conference for a while but could never justify the cost. A writing residency opportunity knocked on my door a few months back and with the encouragement of Mariam and Olga (fellow MKBers) I applied and got in!
The conference was everything I expected and more. Much more.
I am an introvert. Networking does not come easily to me. I have attended countless academic conferences in the past and never felt at ease. Always intimidated.
FIGT was different. I feel like I have found my tribe. Parents, coaches, researchers, passionate expats and displaced people from many walks of life sharing and supporting each other. We cried (look up Alien Citizen), laughed so hard (thank you Robin Pascoe) and even sang (with Sean Ghazi).
As part of my Parfitt-Pascoe writing residency, I will co-write a book about the conference. I cannot wait to share more. Watch this space!
At the Families in Global Transition conference, strangers become friends and the exchange of worthy ideas become a celebration of the best of the human spirit. I felt right at home and hopeful about our rich and diverse future.
During Dania’s Kitchen Table Talk: “Cultural Diversity: A key ingredient for the new global identity,” Dania gave practical tips to foster dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds. She talked about the tangible benefits of diversity in local, regional and global settings and gave advice on how to raise children to embrace cultural diversity and develop a global mentality.
My first Families in Global Transition conference exceeded my expectations on many levels. However, what I was most satisfied about, was the organization’s commitment to look towards the future and become more diverse and inclusive. The conversations on the sessions were engaging and educational, as well as the one-on-one interactions I had the opportunity to participate in. A definite highlight was to meet the women of my blogging community of Multicultural Kids Blogs who supported me and showed me friendship. I highly recommend attending the Families in Global Transition conference for anyone that uses social media for spreading cultural, diverse and inclusive ideals, and for those who are parents raising Cross-Cultural Kids, like myself. This was my first, but definitely not the last!
Meeting so many people that share my passion for diversity in one place was life-changing.
Flor focused her Kitchen Table Talk on the importance of raising global children also within non-expat, non-immigrant families. Her little suitcase is a great tool for bringing up kids to be tolerant of different cultures, even though the children may not have had the chance to travel abroad.
One accurate indicator of how comfortable I feel in a host country is to travel and then go back to it with the sentiment that I am coming back home. It took me seven years to feel like this in the United States and almost four in Germany. But what happened when I arrived to the FIGT18NL last week? I felt at home right away! In one morning I experienced this “coming back home” feeling that in other places took me years to achieve. I found myself at ease, motivated, and supported by people with the same goals. ¡Enhorabuena!
Knocked Up Abroad
Families in Global Transition is an organization that tirelessly promotes inclusiveness, tolerance, and the understanding of other cultures.
Lisa was busy! Not only was she a member of the hard-working program committee, with the organisation of the impactful Lightning sessions as her main task, but she also worked behind the scenes to organise the bookstore. In addition, she sat on the Early Bird Entrepreneurs Forum and answered questions on how to create a small successful and location-independent business.
My first Families in Global Transition Conference was exhaustingly emotional in one of those I’m-so-glad-I-came-here ways. After attending my third FIGT conference in 2018, I now understand the future challenges that face my Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and our responsibilities as a multicultural family — we must be more tolerant, more empathetic, and more understanding. Ruth Van Reken said it best, “When the world is fractionating on what is different, it is so wonderful to come to this community of togetherness.”
The FIGT Conference is a place where it seems everyone you meet has lived in at least five countries and speaks multiple languages. It is a place where diversity is encouraged, and where attendees are challenged to open their eyes and arms in new ways to include more people each year.
Mariam Navaid Ottimofiore
And Then We Moved To
Families in Global Transition is where I come to be inspired. It’s the place I feed my global soul.
“How do race, class, and privilege affect our mobility experience?” was the topic of Mariam’s informative session on the ‘other expats’ in Dubai: the migrant workers. The audience participated in an exercise which effectively highlighted how big a role privilege plays in shaping our global experiences.
As soon as I heard the theme for this year’s FIGT conference was diverse voices, I knew I had to be there! It was my second year attending FIGT and the highlight was to see the voices of refugees and migrants added to the voices of expats and TCKs. One thought that struck me while hearing the experiences of pioneers such as Ruth Van Reken and Robin Pascoe, was how far we as a globally mobile community have come, but also how far we need to go. It filled me with a renewed sense of passion as an expat writer writing on raising multicultural, multilingual and multi-mobile children.
In no other place does meeting people you’ve never met before feel like you’ve known them forever.
Presenting during one of the Early Bird Writing Forums, Olga spoke on how to tell, sell, and publish our stories, giving lots of helpful tips and ideas to both budding and experienced writers.
This was the third Families in Global Transition conference I’ve attended and by far my favorite. This year, I took special care to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. The workshops and speeches I attended taught me a lot and made me think about issues I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
Expat Since Birth
The most important thing we have to tell our children and ourselves is that we’re not only… but also – we don’t have to choose.
Ute used her Kitchen Table Talk to discuss with the participants about how many international families struggle to maintain their heritage language. Ute offered the participants suggestions on how to make sure their heritage languages will not be lost along the way.
We’re all not only… but also…! Once again, the full immersion into the Families in Global Transition community filled my cup. Focusing on the unique skills and strengths we gain, the way we reinvent ourselves over and over again, our flexibility to deal with many different situations, the open-mindedness that makes us see the unfamiliar seem familiar is our trump card. – We’re all not only… but also…! The golden thread of this conference was that we all need an anchor: whether it is our faith, our routine, our core family or friends, our international community, or a place that feels home-ish.
The Families in Global Transition conference welcomes you with open arms, then enlightens and challenges you to equal extent. This is the only conference I know which both starts, stays and ends on a high!
In his keynote speech Sean Ghazi reflected on the different music and theater groups he has been part of in Asia, Europe and America: “The most diverse and international teams create the best results” was his conclusion, and I could not agree more! I am fortunate to be part of two such fantastic groups: one of them is of course Multicultural Kid Blogs and the other the board of FIGT as the current vice-president. Once again, the magical FIGT conference atmosphere emerged instantly, from the morning of day one and I would love to be able to share this experience with many more of you at next year’s conference!
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