Last month, from March 8 to the 10th, I spent three wonderful, life affirming days at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) annual conference. As a first time attendee, before going, I wasn’t sure what to expect nor was I confident in my decision to take valuable time out of my working schedule and away from my family to travel to The Hague and spend time with virtual strangers; it was all so unknown. Although I had been given glowing reports about previous years from contacts I’d known online and also from my friend Stephanie Ward who I had met a few years ago in Amsterdam, I was still very unsure about committing to it. It was Stephanie who inspired me to truly consider going and also to put myself forward as a speaker. The timing felt right too, there was a persistent ache in my chest urging me to re-connect with my life as an explorer and connect with others like me.

The build up was immense – so many people I had come across from my contacts from Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs and of course from Bringing Up Brits, many of whom I’d read their books or have collaborated with within the third culture, cross cultural or global entrepreneurship space were going to be there. It was a golden chance to meet, in person, this global community I had been on the periphery of for so many years.

FIGT is an organisation with an online membership forum for globally mobile individuals, families, and those working with them. It originated from a discussion around Ruth van Reken’s (co-author of Third Culture Kids along with David Pollock) kitchen table in 1998 and at the time, the focus was primarily geared towards families who are continuously relocated by the companies they work for. Since then, it has grown to encompass people from all walks of life who are leading or support globally mobile lives.

Our current conferences are three day events bringing people from across cultures and sectors: corporate, small business entrepreneurs, international schools, relocation, diplomacy, not for profit, academia, media and the arts. The three day event is designed with a variety of presentations, workshops, interactive discussions and keynote sessions. Interspersed with the activity are opportunities to meet, connect and inspire. – https://www.figt.org/About_FIGT

Although I’m not a Third Culture Kid, I consider myself to be a ‘third culture parent’ and am raising cross cultural kids in a foreign country and have lived most of my life outside of my home country in three different foreign countries. Finding FIGT has been hugely important for me. Life abroad, away from family constantly learning a new culture, trying to find your ‘place’ and raising cross cultural kids in a foreign land can be challenging and incredibly lonely. Meeting and talking to the other attendees (who were either all living outside their home countries or were repatriated) meant so many things for me. Sharing my story was met with an inherent understanding and empathy and learning the stories of others was inspiring and interesting to me on both a personal and a professional level. Many of the people I met were running their own businesses and/or were authors writing about topics I was all too familiar with; cultural misunderstandings, raising cross cultural children, integrating with a new culture – to name just a few. The synergies were overflowing, the excitement was overwhelming in the best way possible, the talks and sessions were a mixture of intense learning and emotional roller coasters; some caught me by surprise at how much I could relate to them and also contribute by sharing my thoughts, observations and my own experiences. It was like being able to speak a special language for three days that we all automatically understood. There was also so much respect and friendship that I found leaving was far more difficult than deciding to take part.

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll discuss some of the sessions I attended and share my main takeaways so that you can learn from them too and connect with some of the people I met there. I was impressed with the quality of speakers and the topics, was very happy to support friends by attending their talks – although because many happened simultaneously, it was impossible for me to attend all the sessions I would have liked to. My talk was part of the Lightning series and was on race and raising mixed race children. I will also share the books I bought and new authors discovered.

For now, I’ll leave you to discover FIGT for yourselves, search through #FIGT18NL on Twitter to see snippets and read other people’s blogs about the conference. Happy discovering! I hope you like it and maybe I’ve inspired you to consider coming along to the next FIGT 2019 conference? Let me know!

Friends at dinner during the FIGT 2018 conference in The Hague

Four American power women: Dana Nelson, PhD, clinical psychologist living in France, Carolyn Rizzo, Certified Child Life Specialist living in Italy and Jodi Harris, coach and author living in Japan. All of us were presenters at the 20th annual FIGT conference in The Hague.

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Meghan Peterson Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits, co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs, co-founder and Director of Design and Web at Shake It Up Creative. And, she is an award winning expat blogger and mother of three.

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