Published Article – Families in Global Transition Conference

I know it has been quite a while since my last post, but I’ve been kept very busy with articles to write following the Families in Global Transition conference I attended in Washington D.C. several weeks ago. As we are preparing a book on the conference, there has been a lot of writing to do and a looming deadline!

In addition to the many individual topics I am covering for the book, I also managed to write an overview of my experiences that has just been published in the May/June Issue of Global Living Magazine!

If you’re an expat or Third Culture Kid, or even if you’re simply curious about the conference and other global happenings, please check out the magazine!

Hopefully I’ll be ready to put up a new blog post soon – stay tuned…

Cover

Advertisements

Pascoe/Parfitt Resident Writers Introduced at FIGT2014

Today I am sharing a blog post by Linda Janssen, author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures, and blogger at http://www.adventuresinexpatland.com. After the Families in Global Transition conference, Linda decided to interview the four ParfittPascoe writing scholars: Cristina Bertarelli, Justine Ickes, Sue Mannering and me!

“One of the highlights of the 2014 FIGT Conference – and believe me, there were many – was the introduction of the first ever group of Pascoe/Parfitt Resident Writers. This illustrious group is named after Robin Pascoe and Jo Parfitt, two luminaries in the field of writing and publishing books which speak directly to the experience of living and raising families across cultures in a globally mobile world.

As an expat author and writer myself, I’ve devoured every single book by Pascoe (including a couple no longer in print) as well as at least a half dozen by the prolific Parfitt, my writing mentor and publisher, learning about everything from culture shock and raising global nomads to finding the humor in sometimes difficult cross-cultural situations and creating a location-independent career. Individually and together they have contributed greatly toward the genre that is now expat literature, from which so many can glean so much.

Knowing these two talents, it is only fitting that the benefits to the writing residents are not limited to a splashy title, new entry on their resumé and attending the FIGT conference sessions at a reduced rate. As conceived by Parfitt, founder of the expatriate press Summertime Publishing, the residency offers much more. The four recipients – Cristina Bertarelli, Dounia Bertuccelli, Justine Ickes and Sue Mannering – received in-depth training on writing articles and getting them placed for publication in an online course developed and led by Parfitt prior to the conference. Once there, they hit the ground running – or note-taking as it were – working nonstop. The residents split up and ensured press coverage of all joint conference and concurrent speaker sessions, which they will write about for the inaugural FIGT Conference Yearbook, due out later this year. The Yearbook ensures anyone interested in the 2014 Conference can immerse themselves in the panels, presentations and discussions of the cutting edge issues addressed.“… READ MORE

If you’re interesting in learning about the writer’s residency or about us scholars, please head over to the FIGT blog to read more!

I am a Writer

Lately I’ve been having trouble getting my thoughts onto paper. I thought I would be overflowing with inspiration after the Families in Global Transition conference (FIGT) and I would be able to write endlessly. Instead, I find myself struggling to express everything I felt. I am overflowing with inspiration, emotions and thoughts, but I am unable to translate them into written words.

I’ve wanted to post an entry about being a writing scholar and what that brought me, yet every time I write something it feels forced. Then I realized I was too focused on just the time at FIGT, without looking at the bigger picture. My journey as a writer didn’t start there, so why was I starting there? So I thought about how I felt at the conference and traced backwards from there…

Learning to Call Myself a Writer

Something I loved very much at FIGT was being surrounded by people who didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or out of place. My background wasn’t an issue, my experiences didn’t make me odd, people even knew how to pronounce my name and what it meant! But it wasn’t just my personal story that felt accepted – my professional story was as well. No one judged me or looked down on me for not having a 9-5 corporate job. So many others at the conference were freelancers in their own domain, or had started their own companies; but even those who do work in corporate environments weren’t judgmental when they knew I was a freelance writer. They showed interest or curiosity, wondering what I wrote about and what led me to writing. Everyone I spoke with at the conference was following their passion, and they also understood the need for a portable career. They understood me.

Outside of the conference, in the “real world”, I often find it hard to be accepted for what I am. I felt like being a freelance writer and trying to pursue my passion wasn’t good enough, so I rarely told people that’s what I do. I usually said I was looking for work and that I sometimes did some writing in the meantime.

But that’s not entirely true.

I have been looking for work – both writing/non-writing related; that part is true. But I don’t ‘sometimes write in the meantime’ – I write all the time. And that’s what I want to be doing. I want writing to be my job and my career.

Over the past few months I had started accepting this realization and was trying to push myself to say, “I’m a freelance writer”, when asked what I do. It’s not easy to make myself believe that. Even though I had published a couple of articles in a magazine, I still couldn’t fully convince myself.

Being a Writing Scholar

Then at the beginning of this year, I saw the ParfittPascoe Writing Residency for FIGT:

If you long to turn your writing hobby into a portable career and want to be published in blogs, magazines on and offline, websites and maybe even books, this might be for you.

If you have already proven your desire of turning your dream into a reality with maybe a blog, a few articles published in newsletters and online (not necessarily for money), then you are definitely the kind of person we want.”

It felt like an opportunity tailor-made for me. I wanted to apply but I was scared. Scared that it was too big a commitment and that I wasn’t good enough to do it. There was so much to do, both before and after the conference. There were lessons and articles to prepare beforehand and after it was a whole other story. There would be articles, blog posts and book reviews to publish; interviews to prepare and write-up; and the articles/chapters for the FIGT book. If I applied and was rejected, I would be devastated. If I applied and got accepted, I would be elated…and terrified. I was scared of failure and of success. But I couldn’t NOT apply. It was exactly the chance I was looking for.

While waiting to know if I had been selected, I remember checking my email on my phone before heading off to sleep. And I never do that. I don’t even have my email set up on my phone. But I knew that the decision was probably made and I had to know. There was no way I could wait until the next morning to check. When I read the email telling me I was one of the four scholars, I was thrilled beyond belief. I couldn’t stop smiling. I even woke up my sleeping husband to let him know. The news was too good to keep to myself!

I was so excited about being a writing scholar; it felt like a dream come true. Nervous as I was, I knew I was capable of doing it. I had been waiting for this opportunity and I was going to make it count. It was my chance to prove that I am a writer and that I can make a career out of my passion.

From the very beginning of the conference I realized that I was in the right place – both as a Third Culture Kid and as a writer. The fact that everyone around me was part of a global community fulfilled the TCK side of me, and everyone’s endless encouragement fed the writer in me. But among all the inspiring words, a few stood out – probably because they spoke directly to me and attacked my doubts about being a writer. At the writer’s forum on the first day of FIGT, Shirley Agudo* told us that whatever you want to be, claim it”. Linda Janssen** echoed that thought, reminding us to own what we do and what we are. Sometimes the biggest step is saying those words: “I’m a writer”. Then we must learn to claim them and believe them.

Well, I am a writer. I don’t know if I fully claim it and believe it every day, but I know I’m on the right track.

DSC_1297


*Author, photographer and assistant editor of Global Living Magazine; ** Blogger and author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures

Book Review – The Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States: A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students

SUM002 Covers Visual.inddThe Stress-Free Guide to Studying in the States: A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students

Toni Summers Hargis | Summertime Publishing

$14.00

298 pages

If you’re an international student (or an expat returning home) planning on going to university in the U.S., then this is THE book for you. Toni Summers Hargis’ book is the comprehensive guide to studying in the U.S. compiling all of the information in one place. Hargis doesn’t simply cover the practical and logistical aspects (admissions requirements, SAT/ACT, financial aid, visa procedures…), but also provides advice about college life, living in the U.S. and culture shock.

What makes Hargis’ book so unique is that she thinks about the tiny, seemingly mundane details that can make a big difference. Her chapter on American language and customs can be a lifesaver to someone new to American English and life in the U.S. It covers pronunciation, spelling, euphemisms, texting abbreviations and a multitude of other useful information for living in the States.

Her book is straightforward and easy to follow, with excellent tips, warnings and further reading provided throughout every chapter. It’s ideal for anyone unfamiliar with U.S. colleges or those simply looking for a helpful guide. Applying to colleges can be very stressful and Hargis knows how to make it easier. If you’re thinking of attending college in the U.S., do yourself a favor and read this book. You won’t regret it.

Review by Dounia Bertuccelli

Alien Citizen: Laughter, Tears and Finding the Right Words

The Families in Global Transition conference held many surprises for me. I was surprised at how kind and generous everyone was. I was also surprised how we all truly connected to each other and how we all wanted to share our stories. As much as I hoped to find that sense of community, family and home, I didn’t expect it to be so present and strong.

What truly caught me off guard, however, was the intensity of my emotions at the conference. And nothing embodied that more clearly than Elizabeth Liang’s show – Alien Citizen, An Earth Odyssey. Her honest performance left us all spellbound from beginning to end. In a way, it was my story, our stories that she was playing up there. We all struggled at times to find the right words; we all felt a connection to people weaving in and out of our lives; we all remember feeling lost, alone and afraid. But we also remember the beautiful moments too – so we laughed with understanding as we recalled our own stories. And we also cried with very deep understanding as we felt those same emotions well up inside of us.

At least I know I did.

And I did not expect that.

I had heard wonderful things about Lisa’s show and I was really looking forward to seeing it, but I didn’t think it would impact me the way it did. I didn’t know it would reach deep into the core of my being and strike such a chord in my heart.

Lisa’s performance hit even closer to home for me because I’ve lived in Central America: I spent three and a half years of my childhood in Mexico. I not only understood the Spanish, but also the cultural aspects…As well as the orange Fanta – although that was my sister’s favorite, not mine. I also understood the Arabic since I’m of Lebanese origin. And I definitely understood Connecticut, because that’s where I’m living now and it’s been a tough adjustment.

I’m sure many others connected with different parts of her stories, recognizing their own experiences in her words. We all know that moving from country to country is not an easy thing to do. Saying goodbye, leaving a home and starting somewhere new is not a fairytale adventure. I didn’t realize just how honest Lisa had made her show – I had expected the laughter, but not the tears. And truth be told, they were as welcome as the laughter. Sometimes we’re so focused on only thinking of the positive that we forget to grieve. But Lisa reminded us that we have to give ourselves permission to feel our pain in order to really see our experiences and appreciate them.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to express those feelings. Lisa found solace in acting and I know I found solace in writing. Somehow we found the words, in our own way. Now I just need to find the right words to do justice to her performance.

But maybe our silence and glistening eyes at the end of her show said it all.

Our TCK Family

“The shock from being back from all the internationality is astounding.”

That was my TCK husband’s comment upon our return to CT after the Families in Global Transition Conference. If he says that without even attending the conference but only taking part in the many conversations happening in the evening, it gives you an idea of the impact of FIGT.

Norman Viss, treasurer of the organization, called us one big TCK family. His statement resonated with all of us. It may seem odd to call a roomful of strangers family, but we understand it and we do feel like family. You can see it and hear it in the interactions: we dive right into conversations, no need for small talk; hugs are given to old friends and new friends and people who are just meeting for the first time.

We are family because we understand without having to explain. For all our differences, there is a common thread holding us together. We all know what it means to live between worlds, whether we’ve done it as kids, adults or both.

We had keynote speakers who inspired us, moved us and reminded us of the importance of this global family. We heard stories from speakers from around the world, from different backgrounds and experiences. We learned, we laughed and we cried. We left the conference feeling inspired, motivated, encouraged and loved.

That is why we flock to FIGT and that is why we need to tell others about the conference. Having this family means never being alone and always having someone who understands. It means having roots in a community, no matter where we are geographically.

As Elizabeth Liang reminded us all at the end of her powerful and poignant performance: we are the luckiest people on earth.

We are lucky indeed.

Lucky to have lived such a privileged life and lucky to have gained such experiences. We are lucky to belong to such a wonderful community and to have our TCK ‘siblings’ around the world.

They are our family and our tribe.

And I’m proud to be a part of them.

Just a few of the wonderful TCK and expat 'siblings' from around the world.
Just a few of the wonderful TCK and expat ‘siblings’ from around the world. Thank you to Jo and the fabulous writing team!

Patience is a Virtue

Transitions are never easy, no matter your age or where you are. Times of change and going into the unknown will always be simultaneously scary and exciting. As third culture kids we have more experience with change and so we may understand the challenges better, but it doesn’t mean we have it all figured out. Sure, we have more practice with adapting and we know it gets better, but even we feel lost, lonely and confused. Even we question ourselves and doubt our capabilities when we’re thrown into a completely new environment. And surprisingly, we question ourselves even more when we are in a supposedly familiar place, and still struggle to adapt. We pride ourselves on being resilient and being able to settle in anywhere, so when we have a hard time doing that we doubt ourselves. We get frustrated and feel something must be wrong with us for not figuring it out.

This is something I’ve experienced during these past years since I’ve returned to my passport country. I wondered why it was taking me so long to adapt here and why, even years later, I was still struggling. I couldn’t understand and I was frustrated, questioning how I could call myself resilient when I couldn’t even settle here properly. I’ve written recently about my struggle to adapt, sharing my realization of something crucial: I was being so hard on myself because I kept viewing it as a re-entry, when really it was a new entry. This experience also helped me learn a very valuable lesson that applies no matter where you are or what you are going through: be patient and kind with yourself. I have read this before and my mom recently said it to me, but I had never truly understood its meaning or importance until these last few years. It is one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned, but also one of the toughest. You only learn it the hard way and it’s very difficult to stick by. It’s so much easier to doubt and question yourself, to get frustrated and feel inadequate… It’s so much easier to do that than to say, “Hey, this is tough and I’m doing the best I can. I just need time and I’ll figure it out.”

We can be so patient and understanding with others, yet we refuse ourselves that same kindness. We forget that what we are doing is no easy feat and that years of experience doesn’t mean we have everything figured out from day one. We (or at least I) also seem to forget that the challenges we faced as third culture kids are not exactly the same as adult third culture kids.

I’ve written this from my point of view as an adult third culture kid, but I believe this is a lesson that applies to everyone. The words ‘you are your own worst enemy’ or ‘you are your harshest critic’ ring so true for many us. But we should learn to not be so hard on ourselves and not be so quick to doubt what we’re capable of. Whatever transitions you may be going through, wherever you are in the world, however old you are… Remember to be patient and to be kind – not just with others, but with yourself too.

DSC_0611

Who I Am

I am a third culture kid.

Of that I will never be rid.

 

I’ve grown up among worlds,

Like many other boys and girls.

 

I am made up of one travelling heart,

Which is often spread worlds apart.

 

I am internationally grown,

But I have a hard time defining home.

 

I am made up of many places,

Like a dice of six faces.

 

The places I’ve lived and loved,

And those that run through my blood;

 

Each of them is a part of me,

Part of my story and my journey.

 

Much of it is yet to be told,

But to one thing I will always hold:

 

I’m an adult third culture kid,

Of that I never wish to be rid.

The Hidden Story

I started this blog to share my experiences growing up as a third culture kid and trying to navigate life as an adult third culture kid. Lately I had started wondering if I was still doing that or if my blog had moved away from its initial purpose and goal. I thought about all that and more for quite some time, not sure where to go from there…

My blog does have a whole mix of things: posts specifically on being a TCK/ATCK, photography, poetry, posts of simple observations and memories… It does not follow a simple straight line – it twists and turns, sometimes ending up in an unexpected place. Growing up as a TCK, I quickly learned that life does not follow an easy linear path. There will always be unexpected curves and surprises. I am learning that life as an adult third culture kid has just as many (if not more) challenges and hidden turns. That is what this blog has always been about, even when I didn’t fully realize it.

The blog posts that are not specifically about growing up as a TCK or adapting as an ATCK may seem out of place, but actually they are a very important part of my journey. They are how I see my current world and how I feel about this particular home. I realized that the posts I initially thought were deviations from my original purpose were, in fact, simply part of the story. They were just telling a different side of it.

To Enter or to Reenter: That is the Question

Recently I read a couple of blog posts written by an adult third culture kid about expats and reentry, and TCKs and entry. I thought the differentiation she made was very telling and made perfect sense to me. When you consider reentry, it means returning somewhere you’ve already been and that you can consider as home. For an expat who left his/her home country for a ‘mission’ elsewhere, coming back to their home base is indeed reentry. For a third culture kid however, moving to their passport country is not necessarily a reentry. They may have never lived in their passport country or only lived there as a child, or perhaps don’t return to the exact same location in that country. Some aspects of settling back in may be the same for reentry and entry, but the TCK often goes through more struggles to adapt.

Ever since I moved back to my passport country as an adult I’ve been struggling with the notion of entry versus reentry. When you’re living in a foreign country, people know you’re not from there so it’s acceptable to be confused, to grieve, to be lost, not know local customs etc… When we return to our passport country we can suddenly find ourselves feeling like ‘hidden immigrants’. We sound like others here, we’re technically “from” here, but really we’re not. But how do you explain that to non-TCKs? It doesn’t make any sense to most of them. How can we feel and act like foreigners in our “home” country? It sometimes feels like we have to hide our confusion, our grief and our disorientation. We might even feel like something is wrong with us for having such a hard time adapting when we’ve had to adjust to far more difficult situations. As third culture kids, we pride ourselves on our resilience and adaptability, but suddenly we’re struggling to find our way. That can be because we view this move like others might see it – as a reentry – when really it’s another new entry. If we consider it a reentry, then it’s no wonder we question why it seems so much tougher than other moves we’ve done.

Little by little I’ve been figuring out the difference between entry vs. reentry and understanding why it’s taking me so long to adapt here. Even now, 3 years later there are still days when I feel as lost as when we first arrived. Those blog posts I mentioned have helped me realize that there is nothing wrong with that and I am not alone in my struggle. These years of reentry have made me grow the most as an adult third culture kid. I’ve experienced a very different kind of move and adaptation from what I was used to. Some parts were easier than other moves – no new language to learn, no first day at school…But many things are much harder because I am “supposed” to know them and it is assumed that I do. We’re not afforded the luxury of patience and understanding that foreigners would receive. Sometimes it can be very difficult to navigate this complicated situation and find common ground with people here. Communicating with others here has definitely been a learning process and I’m still figuring it out, 3 years later.

Despite these struggles, however, there have been many good moments and there is a lot that I love here. Growing up all over the world taught me many things, but one of the most important lessons I learned is to enjoy every moment and make the best of every situation. And that’s what I’m doing. Although not every day is easy, not every day is a struggle either. And every year has been better than the one before. Every year I find new strength and new joys, which teach me more about myself. This past year I have felt the most at peace with myself since moving here, and the most in tune to what makes me happy here. That in itself tells me I’m on the right track to figuring out my entry.