Families in Global Transition, March 2017 Conference
I Went to FIGT and All I Got Was this Totally Supportive Global Community
Close your eyes. Imagine you are in a large conference room with more than 200 people, in The Hague, Netherlands. You are a complete stranger. Yet. Every one of these people – you included – are experts in ‘being new.’
By nature of this accidental or intentional expertise, the folks in this room have an unusually high level of empathy compared to most groups of strangers. Messages are flying around pre-conference on the #FIGT17NL social media pages: “There’s a dinner tonight with a bunch of us who’ve attended the conference before. And please! Feel free to join us if this is your first year. We are meeting at x time at x restaurant tonight.”
There is no ‘in’ group, no ‘out’ group. Everyone is ‘in’. Not to mention: inclusive, inquisitive. You already belong. You already feel known.
Now open your eyes.
You are at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference.
Although the conference is in its 19th year, I’d never heard of it until last year. And here I am. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Last fall, I stumbled upon a social media call for writers who focus on growing up global. I applied. I was accepted. Part of the ‘requirement’ was to attend the Families in Global Transition conference in The Hague, Netherlands, in March 2017.
“Woe is me! That sounds grand!” thinks the woman who spent the first 18 years of her life living in Africa, Europe and Asia. I miss that part of myself. I miss ‘Creating My Tribe on the Move’ (this year’s conference theme).
Heck, I miss moving.
Then I began to have doubts. When I logged on to figt.org, I found myself looking at the FIGT logo on the homepage. No, I stared into it like a crystal ball looking for answers… wondering about my place. How do I fit in to this community? I’m not living the overseas life. I’m not in global transition. I’m raising my kids in a monoculture. My kids are fine and it’s me who is missing something. It lives below the waterline of a good life. How do I find it?
Turns out, there’s room for everyone in the FIGT world.
You may be a former Third Culture Kid yourself, or former expat, living now in your passport country. You may wonder – if you are not currently in global transition, or if you are not a family, or if you are nowhere near your next trip – how you would fit into a conference like Families in Global Transition.
Now that I’ve attended a conference, with much pre-anxiety about not ‘belonging’, I’m here to tell you: this conference is for you.
Also a first-time FIGT attendee, writer and expat entrepreneur Lucille Abendanon says of her time at the 2017 conference,
“The spirit of this conference was unlike anything I have experienced. Academics, transition coaches, trailing spouses, psychologists, councilors, career coaches, authors, bloggers and teachers converged from far and wide to share a space for three short days in which we talked and learned, listened and shared, safe in the knowledge that although we were all different on the surface, we were inextricably linked by our experiences as ‘people who move.’
Former Families in Global Transition
Turns out, the room is also filled with former families in global transition (like me). Some, like me, are living in their passport countries. Some have young children, some are grappling with empty-nester issues (with the added layer of cross-continent separations), some are grandparents. A quote from Dr. Ruth Hill Useem’s study of TCKs flashes on screen during a presentation: “The answer to the question of how long it takes them to adjust to [their passport countries] is: they never adjust… they adapt. They find niches.” Strangely, that thought reassures me. It’s not just me.
Current Families in Global Transition
Of course, FIGT is filled with, well, FIGTs. In as many forms as you might imagine: cross-cultural families, multilingual families, mixed race families, expats from a monocultural childhood now raising their kids multiculturally, adult TCKs raising their own TCKs, adopted TCKs, domestic TCKs…
Supporting Families in Global Transition
Many who attend FIGT are therapists, school counselors, intercultural consultants, expat coaches, cultural trainers, transition specialists. Some are researchers, studying specific phenomenon within these global subgroups. All of them are experts in understanding and supporting the global experience. The bulk of them are adult TCKs and/ or expats themselves.
There is room for us all to belong to the global family. Thank you, #FIGT17NL, for making room for me at the table.
I already have FIGT 2018 on my calendar. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. See you next year!