March 6-8, I attended the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference in Washington DC as a Writer in Residence.
As one of the four writing scholars for FIGT, our task was to interview two expat experts, cover the FIGT sessions, and then write articles about each presentation. (This writing residency was founded last year by Jo Parfitt. The articles written about the 2014 FIGT conference by the first team of writing scholars can be purchased here.)
I had the amazing opportunity to be in the company of expat and TCK authors and speakers. I was inspired to see their ongoing passion and desire to help expat families in transition. But what I was most impacted by was the personal connectedness that flowed throughout the conference. Everyone who attended FIGT related to each other in a powerful way. Many attendees called the conference their ‘home,’ because these three days generated the strongest sense of belonging that they would experience throughout the rest of their year. These people cherished the FIGT conference as a place where they ‘didn’t have to explain.’ They delighted in the fact they ‘fit in’ without having to change. And they resonated deeply with other expats, who welcomed their international experiences with interest and empathy.
I was a newcomer to FIGT, but I was quickly welcomed and included by each person I met. I talked with people whose experiences were vastly different than my own, and I spoke with others whose stories were almost identical to mine. By the end of the conference, I had connected with two women who both had lived in Japan for a short time. We reminisced over shared experiences and acknowledged the ways living abroad had impacted us. We affectionately called each other the “Japan Sisters,” knowing that despite our different outward appearances, we still felt Japanese on the inside.
I could never write about everything that I learned, every quote that made me think, or every FIGT attendee or presenter that inspired me. But there are a few quotes and ideas from the conference that I want to share on my blog. These brief scribbles in my notebook made me think critically about how I relate to others, how I cope with change, and how I processed my own TCK experience. Over the next week, my blog will briefly take a different turn as I write articles about these takeaways from FIGT 2015. Here is a quick sneak peak!
Takeaways from the FIGT Conference
• The impact of vulnerability on relationships— I never realized how critically important vulnerability is in developing relationships before attending Chris O’Shaughnessy’s FIGT session. His presentation made me think critically about how I initiate friendships.
• The importance of healthy goodbyes— It’s common knowledge that healthy goodbyes are key components of thriving overseas. But Doug Ota’s closing keynote on goodbyes readdressed this issue in a unique way, helping me better understand how I process goodbyes.
• A different perspective on short-term friendships – A simple quote during a pre-conference writer’s forum I attended at FIGT helped me see short-term friendships through a different perspective.
• What not to forget when moving overseas— This question was answered during a small group that I participated in at FIGT. I didn’t expect such a simple answer. But thinking back over my family’s move to Japan, I realized that this is what many TCKs forget to bring with them as they attempt to ‘fit in’ overseas.