As always the Families in Global Transition conference sparked a lot of ideas in me, including ideas for future blog posts, but to start with, here is some straight reporting on the conference itself.
One thing everyone comments on about FIGT is the friendly atmosphere. Those of us who arrived the night before met up in the hotel lounge and it was impossible to tell who was a newcomer and who was an old-timer as the small group quickly fell into animated conversations over drinks and snacks.
You will never be short of something to do at an FIGT conference. Even discussions over breakfast are organized by topics of interest to the community. I hosted one such “Early Bird” on HootSuite, one of my favourite social media tools, which morphed into a short workshop when I found most people at the table had never used it and wanted to learn. Other topics were Parenting from Afar, Close Neighbours (moving to a neighbouring country), Uplanned Repatriations, The Multicultural Self, Setting up an FIGT Affiliate and Adult TCKs/CCKs.
As soon as breakfast was over the conference was officially opened and we were entranced by Pico Iyer, the keynote speaker for well over an hour. He is one of that rare breed of successful authors who are also eloquent speakers. Modest, humorous and very perceptive he rolled from one engaging anecdote to another, all pointing to his central theme that even in our increasingly connected world the distances between us remain and in some instances seem to be increasing.
During the break prior to the first session, I headed straight to the bookstore. Is it just me, or are more and more good expat books being published every year? The photo above is of the authors who attended this year’s conference and books by many more were available for sale.
For my first session I chose “We Are a Family Case” presented by researchers Debra Miller, Dr Rebecca Powell and Becky’s cousin, Abigail Thornton. The write-up sounded a little dry, but the topic of adult Third Culture Kids was of interest and the session itself didn’t disappoint. Research on Becky Powell’s extended family was the topic, comparing those who had been mobile with those who hadn’t and how they formed and maintained relationships. Fascinating stuff as I really enjoy content that is based on solid research.
After a buffet lunch (excellent food this year!), we gathered in the main ballroom for a new feature in 2013, 7 Ignite sessions. Similar in style to short TED talks, these presenters were strictly timed to 6 ½ minutes and I’m hoping their presentations will soon be up on YouTube, so stay tuned for the link.
For my second session I chose Building Cultural Intelligence with Trisha Carter, an Intercultural Psychologist who had travelled all the way from Sydney, Australia. Having followed her for quite a while via Twitter and her newsletter, it was a thrill to meet her in person.
By now my knees were seriously knocking as I was presenting a third session on expat blogging. Not only was this my first time as an FIGT presenter but the conference microphone I’d requested for my Skyped-in panelist, Maria Foley, had failed to materialize. Fortunately the rest of my panel of expat bloggers, Linda Janssen, Norman Viss and Rachel Yates didn’t so much as blink at the prospect of huddling around a spindly desktop microphone so that Maria could hear their contributions. Expat resiliency won the day! A post dedicated to this presentation will follow soon.
Sorely in need of a stiff drink, I headed off to the last event of the day, an evening reception and was delighted to find that both the drink and canapés were complimentary. I have to admit that I’m no good at mingling in large groups, but again the organizers had planned an image-matching activity to help us break the ice and meet new people without feeling intimidated or foolish.
Buoyed by the warmth of my favourite expat tribe and not having fainted with fear during my session, I headed off for dinner with friends. More about Day 2 in a future post.