Welcome!

reading.jpgWelcome!

My name is Tanya Crossman and I am the author of Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century. I am now returning to more regular blogging after a hiatus while going through a lot of transitions in all areas of my life – perhaps appropriate for someone who writes and speaks about transition a lot!

On this blog I discuss different aspects of international life, with a focus on children and young people: how they feel about, and are shaped by, their global experiences.

Perhaps you have come here hoping to learn more about raising children internationally, or teaching such children. Perhaps you were raised overseas yourself. Perhaps you have read Misunderstood and want to know more. In each case, a good place to start would be my post on Third Culture Kids, which lays a foundation for a lot of what is discussed here.

However you found your way to this blog, I’m glad you’re here. I would love to hear from you, hear your story, and your questions. We’re all learning, and we all have something helpful to contribute. Please add your voice to the conversation!

Tanya Crossman
Beijing, 2018

Recommended reading: April 17, 2018

I’ve read a lot of great expat and TCK related articles in the last week. Here’s a taste of some of my favourites…

Searching for a Motherland as a Black Latina
Huffington Post
I lovelovelove this beautiful piece about a woman searching for a place that embraces her multiple connections, a place that could be her home. The emotion of her search will resonate with CCKs everywhere.
For Afro-Latinx of the U.S., there is no place from which to return. We are like magical black unicorns no one knows exist or endeavor to acknowledge. Even the term Afro-Latino is contentious, a relatively new denomination heavy with the baggage of colonialism… Our plurality is not our deficiency — it is our fortitude and great fortune. As Americans, black people and Latinx, theory of true globalism is writ across our DNA. So let us leave footprints around the globe, accepting that home is everywhere and nowhere.

Moving your children abroad: tips for an easier transition
Multicultural kid blogs
This is an excellent post about preparing to move your kids overseas. So much good advice here, including practical tips. (A lot of this same stuff came up in a seminar for transitioning families I ran in Tanzania last week.) Highlights include: nurturing both the parent-to-parent relationship and the parent-to-child relationship; ways to get kids thinking about the new place; and ways to help kids farewell the place they’re leaving.

Saying goodbye to the little red dot
Megan Williams
Very sweet piece of nostalgia from a TCK preparing to leave her home abroad – Singapore. I appreciate the way she reflects on how difficult the initial move overseas was, but how thankful she is in hindsight for all that came with it.All in all, I count my blessings every day that I have had this opportunity, and can’t thank my parents enough for being brave enough to uproot our lives and start fresh out there.

10 things to know about teenage Third Culture Kids (TCKs)
China Family Blog
Simple but good. An accurate list of things that are true in most teenage TCKs. I write about a lot of it this in Misunderstood – these aren’t character traits, but rational reactions to the experiences of Third Culture life. I particularly appreciated point 9, about TCKs’ need for stability and routine, with suggestions for how this might be achieved even in the uncertainties of international life.

Stop blaming your host country for all of your issues
The Culture Blend
I know I linked to a TCB article last week as well, but I couldn’t go past this great piece. Jerry points out a common expat blind spot, gently but firmly, and explains why this is dangerous for us. Taking the easy way out and blaming a whole country for my bad day sets me on a path to a destination I don’t want to end up in.

What no one tells you about living abroad
Coveteur
Lovely little piece about reverse culture shock, the unexpected shock of feeling foreign in the place you used to call home. But the author also talks about falling in love with sleeps home all over again. We have to get to know our old haunts all over again when we come back.

How much otherness can we take?
Ute’s International Lounge
Interesting reflections on research showing that “living abroad affects the fundamental structure of the self-concept by enhancing its clarity“. This makes sense, if there is engagement and reflection upon the differences between cultural constructs: “living in other parts of the world encourages us to reflect on the various cultural values and norms that we encounter both at home and in the host cultures.

My visit to the International School of Tanganyika in Dar es Salaam

I spent last week working with students, parents and staff at the International School of Tanganyika in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I really enjoyed my time there. I was warmly welcomed and had interesting conversations with a lot of people.

I appreciated the school’s efforts to farewell each student who leaves, and welcome new students. The primary school has boards with photos of each student arriving and leaving, along with a little information. I loved seeing children’s handwritten notes describing what they would miss. I had conversations with teachers who described different cross cultural issues that arise and ways they are trying to understand and address the individual students involved. I spent time with librarians working hard to make diverse and helpful resources available for children of all ages. I talked with parents who see some of the difficulties that come with the international life their children experience, and are trying hard to understand and support their kids the best they can.

I particularly enjoyed spending an hour with the Tanzanian teachers aides at the primary school. We talked about culture, cross cultural issues, and how this works in a classroom setting. They offered great insights into the cultural differences they notice in the international school setting, and shared stories of ways they have seen young children wrestle with this. I was able to encourage in them the benefit their different cross cultural insights bring to a cross cultural classroom.

This is one of the things I love best about what I do. I love coming alongside – providing encouragement and resources to parents and teachers who are doing their best and trying to do better. I hope to offer comfort abc reassurance to parents who feel weighed down by guilt that they aren’t getting it right, or that they have burdened their children with the negative aspects of international life. Yes, there are difficulties, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad! As children grow and learn to integrate their experiences, to appreciate the good without ignoring the bad, the vast majority sure thankful for what they gained through a less ordinary upbringing.

I also love spending time with young CCKs – hearing their stories and giving them tools for the journey they’re on. I always feel the weight of their stories – what a privilege it is when a young person shares with me something that matters to them.

I spent time with all the grade 4-10 students at IST, each group doing one of three workshops I offer on storytelling, transition, and grief. In each group, through different questions, I was privileged to hear dozens of stories of these young people’s experiences with change, loss, and identity. Different groups reacted strongly to different prompts. One 8th grade group had a long discussion (almost a debate, back and forth) or whether it’s harder to say goodbye or say hello. Lots of groups really engaged with the question: “have you ever been unable to say goodbye to someone?” Stories poured out of them – about friends leaving without warning, of relatives or close family friends passing away in a different country, of thinking they had more time. One 5th grader spoke about a friend who left in kindergarten and how he never found out what happened.

These stories mark our kids. The regular loss of friends is part of the pattern of life they learn through childhood.

Rainbows and rivers by 7th grade students

Rainbows and rivers by 7th grade students

Hearing pieces of their stories through drawings and poems was another highlight. They brought different countries and languages and loves together into colourful rainbows, unique rivers, and evocative poetry. I’m always surprised at the depth of insight that can come from seemingly simple exercises. It was a delight to see these windows into their experiences. To hear a single poem with different verses written in different languages – the appropriate language for each place that is part of “home”. To watch children read with delight a poem in a mother tongue they rarely get to share with their classmates – and then watch them receive a warm round of applause. No one understood the words, but they all recognised their significance.

Rainbows and hearts by 4th grade students

Rainbows and hearts by 4th grade students

As I said, I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I’m still travelling and visiting schools, so stay tuned for more thoughts after I’m back in Beijing!

Recommended reading: April 9th, 2018

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Now that I’m getting back into the swing of thinking and writing in the TCK/expat space, I’m also doing more reading around the internets. Here’s some of the best stuff I’ve read lately.

Alone in a Crowd (Again) — The Second Wave of Expat Isolation
The Culture Blend
Such an important post by the always great Jerry Jones. I’ve seen this pattern in my own expat life and in so many friends’ experiences. There’s great advice here for the expat who feels alone after all their friends have left. Again. “The inevitable cycles of a cross-cultural life naturally bring seasons of deep connection and unexpected isolation — if you’re feeling stuck in that — try something unnatural. Intentionality moves the needle.”

Unresolved Grief – Hidden Losses of a Third Culture Kid
Jezmeralda
Poignant reflections on the hidden griefs that come with international life, especially as a child. “My lifestyle brings the wildest opportunities; nonetheless, unresolved grief has been one of my main challenges along the way.” I particularly appreciate that she addresses the difficulty of processing grief when “there are no recognized ways to mourn these hidden losses – primarily because most people don’t see them.”

Taking the Hypocrisy out of Home Ministry Assignment
A Life Overseas
This is an important discussion for the mission world, by fantastic MK advocate Michéle Phoenix. She tackles the pressure many missionaries feel to present a perfect face when visiting on home assignment – and the negative consequences this has for their TCKs.

An Overseas Assignment: Are You Doing the Right Thing By Your Kids?
Globally Grounded
Great piece by Jane Barron from Globally Grounded discussing lessons she’s learned from various greats as well as her own experience. She goes through three important things for expat parents to know/do in order to strengthen their families. The short answer to the titular question is that creating a strong family is what is best for your kids, wherever you are. A strong and healthy family unit who communicate well support kids through the difficulties of life – whether at home or abroad.

The Other Expats: Chukwudi Barrah – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Black Expat
Great interview with Nigerian expat Chukwudi Barrah in Malaysia, who started a platform for the “Other Expats”. I really appreciated his insights, and saw similarities with things African friends have experienced in China. It’s a good read, and always so important to remember that there are many different expat experiences out there.

The Hierarchy of World Language – My experiences from the expat trail
And Then We Moved To
An old post, but new to me. Linguistics is one of my fascination topics, and I love this post from the perspective of a multilingual expat family and how EIGHT different languages are part of their shared global experience. Mariam mentions the “majority language outside, minority language inside” rule which I’ve come across in other multilingual families and find a really helpful tool. She also learned German in a direct method classroom (where only the target language is spoken) which is something I found daunting but extremely when helpful learning Mandarin in China.

Even if you’ve forgotten the language you spoke as a child, it still stays with you
Quartz
Another post on language, this time from a few months back. The piece talks about first language attrition – losing full command of your mother tongue. The discussion ranges from the emotional consequences, to what’s happening in the brain, and the journey to recapture a language you were once fluent in.

Amphibians, Chameleons, and Cross Cultural Kids
Communicating Across Boundaries
A lovely little piece by the ever wonderful Marilyn Gardner, reflecting on “amphibians” and cross cultural kids: “Cross cultural kids can be active negotiators – taking both sides of a story and finding space for agreement. It can be a lonely space, but it’s a vital one.”

How knowledge about different cultures is shaking the foundations of psychology
The Conversation
Interesting piece pointing out the impact of culture on psychological studies, and our understanding of human psychology. “Clearly culture has a massive effect on how we view ourselves and how we are perceived by others… The question is to what extent it will inform psychology as a discipline going forward – some see it as an extra dimension of it while others view it as an integral and central part of theory making.”

The problem of picking prestigious universities

I shared a Time article on the Misunderstood facebook page last week, and decided it was worth taking time to write about why I think this is so important for TCKs.

It has a bold headline: “It’s time to tell your kids it doesn’t matter where they go to college“. Author William Stixrud makes the excellent point that there are many paths to success, and that telling kids this does not mean they will slack off.

The problem with the stories we’re telling our kids is that they foster fear and competition. This false paradigm affects high-achieving kids, for whom a rigid view of the path to success creates unnecessary anxiety, and low-achieving kids, many of whom conclude at a young age that they will never be successful, and adopt a “why try at all?” attitude. Many of these young people engage in one of the most debilitating forms of self-talk, telling themselves either, “I have to, but I can’t,” or “I have to, but I hate it.”

In Misunderstood I included sections about pressure to excel and fear of failure – two related attitudes that came up in many of the interviews I conducted with TCKs worldwide. I referred to the work of psychology professor Martin Covington. He describes four common attitudes toward success and failure which students commonly exhibit: success-oriented, failure-avoidant, failure-accepting, and overstrivers. The above quote seems to describe failure-accepting and overstriver students.

The “overstriver” attitude was overrepresented in the TCKs I interviewed. Overstrivers are motivated by fear – that one failure will be the end of everything. This attitude means a string of successes becomes a weight, rather than an encouragement. The more they succeed, the more they must work to ensure they keep up this standard.

The decision of where to attend university feels overwhelming for many TCKs; they feel their whole future hangs on this decision, and they don’t want to get it wrong. But there are many paths to success – and almost all involve failures along the way. That’s how we learn!

Giving TCKs a realistic picture of an the post-high all options available to them is very beneficial – but rare. Instead, most get the sense that they must get into the most objectively prestigious college possible. Different communities (and families) may have different ideas of what is considered prestigious (certain countries, certain religious connections, etc.) but students have an inherent sense of where they ‘should’ go. A 17 year old TCK I interviewed expressed it this way:

I watched my sister drawn to big name schools as she graduated. All her friends went to Yale, Pepperdine and NYU, but she got a wonderful scholarship to a wonderful school which nobody had ever heard of in Qatar. She felt as if she was letting herself down by going to this lesser known school even though she fell in love with it. I am experiencing this now as I formulate my list of colleges to apply to. I have found myself with an elitist mindset when picking schools.

Misunderstood, page 285

This mentality drives students to look for schools which others will approve of, rather than schools that will best fit their individual needs and desires. This is an extension of a common childhood experience. Many TCKs grow up driven by the need to do what makes others happy, often at the expense of learning what they themselves truly feel and want.

Honestly, I’m not sure it’s a right/wrong sort of decision. No matter what choice they make there will be opportunities to learn and to grow as a person. And they can always change majors, courses, and even schools later on. Many do just that!

To break this cycle, it is important for parents, teachers, and other adults in TCKs’ lives, to clearly articulate that there are many good choices available to them. That they will find a way to forward later no matter what path they take now. That they will be loved no matter what they choose. That it is their character that makes us proud, not merely their accomplishments.

Or, as William Stixrud says, : “It’s time to tell your kids it doesn’t matter where they go to college“.

Students sitting in lecture theatre making notes

Featured on Expat Files – my Classroom of Diversity

This week I’m featured on expat author Cinda Mackinnon’s blog, as the 19th instalment in her “Expat Files”.

I wrote about one key way that expat life has affected me. Living in diverse communities in my early twenties influenced my understanding of several things, among them: my concept on beauty, my values, and my path forward in life.

I had a literal “classroom of diversity” (my class at a Chinese university – with students from Columbia, Indonesia, Germany, South Korea, Thailand and the United States). I also had a wider classroom of experience that shaped me in many ways.

Read the full article here:

The Classroom of Diversity: Expat File #19

The unending season of transition

Miusunderstood was published in August 2016. The two years leading up to its publication were a crazy torrent of transitions – moving from Beijing, to Phnom Penh, to Sydney. Leaving the job I’d been in for four year to begin three years of graduate study. Going from expat to local – and my first time living in my passport country as an adult. Riding the rollercoaster of repatriation while studying an intensive full time program, living in community with a lot of new people, and completing my book. If you ever need proof that I’m crazy, that last sentence is basically it.

When the book came out, I thought I would finally relax. I could focus on study, get involved more in my local area, actually finish settling into my new life in Australia. Little did I know what the next 18 months held for me…

Shortly before Misunderstood was released, I visited Beijing for a week – a last minute, hardly planned trip. I expected Beijing to feel different, that it wouldn’t feel so much like home any more, that I would be able to let go. I had no intention of moving back to Beijing. I had a list of reasons I thought made it very unlikely, and possibily unwise. But as soon as I arrived I felt like I was home. I felt comfortable in a way I hadn’t in the nearly two years since I’d left. I was taken by surprise at my deep and almost visceral reaction. It wasn’t about the community I’d left, though I loved reconnecting with friends there. It was my connection to Beijing itself – its sights, smells, and other peculiarities. Instead of letting go of the place that had been important to me, I found it grabbing hold of me. I was completely unprepared for the strength of those emotions.

bejiing-sights-2017b

Amazing how simple scenes can have an emotional impact…

Another surprise was reconnecting with an old friend – someone I’d once been very close to, but hadn’t spoken to in years. I remember talking to him about the way I was reacting to Beijing, how I suddenly didn’t want to leave – and might have had trouble getting on the plane back to Australia if I didn’t have a good friend’s wedding to attend when I got there! But that I still considered this a “farewell tour” of sorts. I had no idea when I might be back again, but was fairly certain I wouldn’t live there again, certainly not any time soon.

Fast forward 21 months: we’re now married and living in Beijing.

Every time I think I have it down, the crazy twists and turns of life, the knowledge that the unexpected is the most likely to happen – nope! I’m still hopelessly unprepared for all the changes thrown at me.

After Misunderstood was published, I began an unexpected career as an international speaker. In the past year I’ve spoken to groups in Australia, China, Ireland, France, and in a few days I’m leaving for Tanzania and Sudan. This all happened while finishing my degree, including working on a thesis with more original TCK research. Somewhere in the middle of that I got engaged, adding international wedding planning and an international move to my list of transitions to plan and process.

Now, just to really throw me off course, I visited Beijing again. This time, instead of feeling at home, I felt off centre. In the year between visits I had finally started to feel at home in Australia, and now felt out-of-step with Beijing. More friends had moved away, and I stayed in a part of the city that was new to me. It was disappointing, and unsettling, but at least gave me warning of the magnitude of the transition I was embarking on. Leaving Australia was difficult, and arriving in Beijing felt uncomfortable. I never second guessed my choice, and I am feeling much more at home here now, but it wasn’t easy.

There has been so much change in my life in the past few months. I’ve stayed in 12 different places in the past 4 months, always moving my suitcases with me. Africa will be my 5th continent in 3.5 months – although this time I have a home to come back to afterward! Everything I’ve ever written and presented on transition (and change, loss, grief, and repatration) has become sharper and clearer for me. Keynoting a transition conference for high school seniors soon to graduate (and, for many, repatriate) while going through all these transitions myself was poignant – requiring me to stop, reflect, and address what I too was experiencing.

Transition isn’t fun, but it is part of the price we pay in order to move forward, to grow, to become.

Given where I am now, despite the bumps and uncertainties, it is most definitely a price worth paying.

One thing expat parents can do to help their TCKs

The last year has been crazy for me – a mountain of life direction changes and seemingly endless overlapping transitions. But more on that another time.

After all this, I’m finally starting to get my head back into the TCK space. To stretch my writing muscles and, to mix my metaphors, get the engine turning over.

Last week I wrote a guest post for mission blog A Life Overseas. I really appreciate what they do, and that much of their content is helpful for expats generally (and those who support them) rather than just missionaries. I’m planning to do a few guest posts a year for them.

My most recent post was titled “Making home an emotional oasis for your TCKs”. It was inspired by one of the questions I hear most often: “what one thing would you recommend parents do to help their TCKs?”

I suppose it should come as no surprise that the question I’m most asked is a request for a summary!

The short answer is that parents can do something no one else can: make home a safe space where TCKs can express all their cross-cultural influences: their languages, loves, and confusions. This isn’t easy, but it’s powerful – both for TCKs and also for their parents.

Read the full article on A Life Overseas:

Making home an emotional oasis for your TCKs

Recommended reading: October 17, 2017

I’ve read some great TCK/expat resources lately, so I decided that after a year of quiet (during which time I’ve been burying myself in studies and unexpected life complications) it was well past time for another “recommended reading” post!

Third Culture Kids: Tips on Belonging & Identity for Expat Children
Sassy Mama – Singapore
This is a helpful little post about a tricky little question – “where are you from?” This is the question that turns an eloquent TCK into an awkward stammerer. But in this post Sarah gives parents tips on helping children prepare to answer with confidence, walking through two different approaches. One particularly good insight: a child may feel most connected to a different country than their sibling or parent – which is not only perfectly okay, it’s totally normal!

From School Abroad to School Back Home
I Am A Triangle
A great little article about the transition to a new school in a new country – when that new place is the one you’re supposed to call “home”. Every school has a different culture, different norms and expectations. The difficulty of the transition for a TCK starting school in their passport country can be minimised or overlooked by teachers and school admin, but this post has great tips for parents seeking to better support their child’s re-entry transition.

Expat child – a gift or a curse?
Expat Child
Obviously I say “gift”, but there are corresponding difficulties connected with expat life that need to be mitigated. This was a great read, discussing the emotional impact of moving abroad and offering solid advice. Corporate families in particular often lack organisational support to guide them in the emotional consequences of an international move.

Why I don’t worry about multilingualism
The Piri-Piri Lexicon
I really appreciated this post, and it’s stress-less approach to developing multilingualism in children. The basic point is that if languages are part of daily life, they’ll be picked up, and if they’re not, it’s not worth the effort to impose them artificially. If multilingualism is important to you, for your family’s identity or any reason, then make it part of your regular life – and relax. A great quote that sums up a great post: “if multilingualism is to truly work, it needs to be natural. You cannot force anything. If you impose a language on your kids for whatever reason, it won’t work (not in the long run anyway). For me, it is just like forcing your child to learn to play the violin when all they want to do is play football. They might do it to please you but they won’t enjoy it and may resent it forever.”

5 Ways to Wellbeing for Expats
Cultural Intelligence Collective
A great little post with five simple things expats can do to increase their emotional wellbeing. Trish cites recent research that shows expats have significantly more struggles with mental health than their home country peers. The little things we do are significant – so this is a great encouragement/reminder.

What being stuck between two cultures can do to a person’s psyche
The Conversation
This post discusses ways those with bi-cultural influences (particularly mentioning immigrant families, but also applying to expats and TCKs) can feel caught between or rejected by the different cultural groups they identify with. A particularly helpful quote: “Research has found that people who have a more fluid sense of self are less likely to feel rejected from their heritage culture, compared to those who have an independent sense of self. This is because they are better able to reconcile both their cultural identities without experiencing conflict.”

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds – Third Edition
Not a blog post, but if you haven’t already heard – the brand new Third Edition of the classic “Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds” is now available! I’m delighted to have a copy, though I’ve only skimmed so far. (I’m not letting myself sit down with it until the semester is finished.) But I’m already particularly impressed with wider discussion on Cross Cultural Kids and advice for parenting TCKs.

Patriotism and TCKs

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My second year in China I was invited to a 4th of July party where a friend made a cake decorated much like this one from Spicy Southern Kitchen

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, which means the American corner of my social media accounts is awash in red-white-blue, fireworks, and food. And, of course, patriotism. Patriotism can be a touchy subject for TCKs. It came up many times during the interviews I did for Misunderstood, with TCKs recounting stories of tension or conflict they experienced.

 

A few months ago I had a guest post up on Travel Lite discussing the issue of patriotism, the emotional conflict it poses for many TCKs, and my suggestion of a more inclusive view of patriotism. I shared it elsewhere at the time but forgot to post it here!

“Whenever patriotism means loving one specific country, the multiple loves of cross-cultural living can pose problems and lead to conflict – whether that conflict is an argument with a family member, a misunderstanding with friends, or a sense of emotional upset in my own heart.”

Read the full blog post here

Travel Lite later ran a separate piece by David Campbell, an ATCK reflecting on his own experience with patriotism. While recognising the inherent tension TCKs may feel between their international experience and patriotism directed toward one country, he eloquently explains the benefits he sees in TCKs developing a deeper connection to their passport countries.

“Learning to love your country of citizenship is not always easy or simple, but it is worthwhile. Deep interaction with a nation’s history and culture can help you to better appreciate the ways that other cultures differ from one another. And your own cross-cultural experiences can give you valuable insight into the problems that your country faces. Thus, my hope for all my TCK friends is that they develop a sense of connection, not only to a local community and the global community, but also to a national community.”

Read the full blog post here

I really appreciate what Davis shares here. Yes – TCKs can learn to create a sense of home, to put down roots, to choose to connect to a place. There is a section of Misunderstood devoted to exploring this idea, with suggestions on how to work through this process, and why it’s worth the effort.

A TCK who spent their formative years abroad is never going to have the same connection to their passport country as a peer who has always lived there, but that doesn’t mean they can’t invest in and develop a geniunely meaningful connection of their own – at any age.

The TCKs who feel the most at ease with patriotism – their own and others – are generally those who have successfully integrated the different cultural influences in their lives. They are able to balance their loves for multiple places, or deliberately invest in a strong connection to one place. They choose to celebrate a place without denying the other places that are part of their story.

So, this 4th of July, I hope that all the TCKs who have a connection to the US – through passports, geography, or loved ones – are able to celebrate their connection tension-free.

Initial reflections on FIGT 2017

The Misunderstood blog has been very much on the backburner the last six months. I poured a lot of energy into it around the book’s release, which put me behind in my studies. I’ve been working hard to catch up and keep up – and 2017 has been jam-packed so far!

Attending the Families In Global Transition 2017 conference in The Hague (Netherlands) a few weeks ago reminded me that supporting TCKs and expatriate families is what I really care about, the field I want to work in. So despite the busyness of student life, I’m hoping to get into the expat headspace more often from here on out.

figtlogo

FIGT 2017 was an amazing three-day experience. It was my first time attending the conference, and I met a lot of incredible people with whom I had inspiring conversations. Some were people I had already “met” online – I had read their books and blogs, they had contributed to Misunderstood, or written reviews of it. I felt very lucky to have the opportunity to turn online connections into Real Life connections.

(I hung out on twitter a lot throughout the conference, reflecting on key moments as they occurred to me and to others in attendance.)

I was stunned to discover that some of the very authors I consider giants in my field (such as Ruth van Reken and Linda Janssen) were actively looking to meet me! One of several surreal moments was being asked to sign a copy of Misunderstood for Valerie Besanceney – an author I greatly respect and whose books I regularly recommend. There were also people at the conference I met for the first time and who turned out to have already bought and read my book, or had been hearing about it and bought a copy while at the conference. It was quite astonishing to me!

Also astonishing – my book selling out! Misunderstood was stocked in the conference bookstore, and the recommendation was to bring up to 10 copies. Those sold out in the first day, so I went through my suitcase and brought along the six copies I had with me – which sold out on the second day.

Beyond the Misunderstood connections, FIGT was a wonderfully enriching experience. I had the privilege of listening to a range of researchers discuss fascinating research they are conducting regarding various issues connected to expatriate life.

I was so encouraged by the work of SPAN to build networks of international schools who actively work to smooth transitions for students as their families move – to create safe passage. (Safe Passage is, not-so-coincidentally, the title of another book I regularly recommend, by another author I was delighted to meet in person – Doug Ota).

I had conversations which strengthened my convictions as to the importance of my work with TCKs and expat families, and conversations with prompted me to think further and in new directions. I listened to thoughtful talks unpacking different aspects of expat life – sometimes affirming things I have experienced and believe, other times challenging me to consider a new point of view.

There were three ideas which impacted me most deeply – which inspired me to think in new or deeper ways. The first was expat empty nesters; the second was dual careers for expat spouses; the third was the experience of being a twenty-something TCK. I’m still processing the things I heard and learned and the new ideas that have sprung from my time at FIGT, but I hope to write a little more about these things as I continue to reflect.

Right now I’m still in Europe, and over the next week I’ll have two opportunities to meet and share with groups of expat parents. I’ll be sharing with them some of what I’ve learned in 12 years spent working with TCKs, some stats and stories from Misunderstood, and taking time to listen to their stories and talk through their questions. I am really looking forward to both times.

After that I’ll be headed back to Sydney – and a pile of study to catch up on! But hopefully I won’t be quite so silent here anymore.