Coming down to earth after the FIGT conference

Coming down to earth after the FIGT conferenceI’m still flying.

Technically, I landed back on home turf late Saturday night. But after three days at the amazing FIGT Conference, my feet still haven’t touched the ground.

I’ve written before about how I feel at home at FIGT. I learn so much at the conference — sometimes as much from the attendees themselves as from the presenters. Here are a few snippets of information I picked up over the course of three exhilarating days:

  • There’s a new contender in the ongoing battle over what to call those who move abroad for a partner’s career: STARs (Spouses Trailing And Relocating.) (Should I be worried from a branding perspective? Somehow doesn’t quite have the same ring!)
  • Constructing a Personal Model of Resiliency can help expats (and anyone else) bounce back from setbacks.
  • Volunteering fulfills the top 3 of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: love/belonging, self-esteem/group-esteem, and self-actualization, and shouldn’t be discounted by expat spouses who aren’t able to work in their host country.
  • Those who feel it’s important to plan far in advance have more problems with adjustment than those who fly by the seat of their pants.
  • Spouses who receive cross-cultural training are better prepared for expat life, but are also more worried about making faux pas with locals. (So I’m not the only one who stresses about this!)
  • The UN estimates there are 214 million people living outside their passport countries.

Because I was on the Social Media Committee this year (thanks to Committee Chair Judy Rickatson, aka Wife in a Suitcase), I spent most of the breaks between sessions interviewing attendees, presenters, and sponsors. (You can see the results on FIGT’s YouTube channel.) I deliberately volunteered for the task because I knew it would force me to meet more people, and it worked:

After an entertaining session with Allan Paul on “Reinventing Yourself as an Accompanying Spouse,” he and I chatted about how his life has changed since the publication of Big in China. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this memoir of his journey from expat spouse to the darling of the Beijing R&B scene, and I can’t wait to dig into the book.

I had a brief but fruitful discussion with keynote speaker Anne Copeland about adding a creative writing component to my Friday morning K-Talk meetings. (K-Write? K-Kreate?) Anne has been running an international writers’ club with expat spouses from the Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese communities for years, and after spending five minutes with her, I was bubbling with inspiration.

Jo Parfitt was warm and funny — she could easily add “stand-up comic” to her long list of careers — every time we talked. Jo was enormously busy during the conference: she sat on a plenary panel, led three informal “kitchen table” discussions on memoir writing, and conducted a concurrent session called “Blogs, Books and Bylines.” I’ve added her book Release the Book Within to the “must-read” pile beside my bed.

The conference is “all go” (as I used to say in my Australia days), and I wasn’t expecting to set foot outside the hotel the entire weekend. That changed thanks to my new friend Heather, who took me on a whirlwind tour of the Capitol Hill area of DC. An ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid) and former MK (Missionary Kid) who now lives in Washington, Heather gave me an all-too-short primer on how the missionary sector completely smokes the corporate sector when it comes to preparing its expats to go abroad and come home again. I’ll be writing more about that in the days to come.

I really didn’t want this weekend to end. In fact, I was so busy having fun on the final day that I missed my flight! But the extra booking fees, the indifferent service from airline staff at every turn, the re-ticketing error that got me bumped off my connecting flight out of LaGuardia, the stress of standby — these were all worth it. THAT’S how good the FIGT conference was.

I’m looking forward to next year’s conference already. 😆


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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9 Responses to Coming down to earth after the FIGT conference

  1. Sounds like you had a great time…even these little snippets are highly instructive. Makes me think about going.

  2. Crystal says:

    Is the conference always in DC? If not, did they say where it would be next year?

    I’m not surprised to hear that those of us with an anal retentive need to plan things out have a tougher time. My biggest hurdles in the past few months feel like they’ve been the moments where I just didn’t know what to do (power outage, needing an ambulance for my broken ankle) when I felt like I should. I’m still far too irritated by service people’s refusal to come at a specific time (aka Saturday afternoon…I’ll sms you). It has certainly occured to me that it’s one of the reasons I struggle…and I might be a little more easy going this year than I was last year, but it’s a slow process.

    I can’t wait to hear more!

    • Maria says:

      This was the first year in DC; it was held in Houston for several years. My understanding is that it’ll stay in DC for a while. (Not too far from Boston!)

      I found that fact about planning ahead very interesting as well. I’m not one for making detailed plans, but one of the things that I found hardest about living abroad was not knowing where we’d be living the following year — although I think that’s more about not being comfortable with ambiguity than overplanning. In your case, Crystal, I suspect the second year will be easier because you’ve already more or less figured out how things work (even if you’re not always happy with it.) The first year is definitely the hardest.

      If you’re interested in that sort of research, you’ll find several free reports on Dr. Anne Copeland’s site.

  3. Heather says:

    I’m already looking forward to next year!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Heather! Thanks again for driving me all over Washington DC (including that looong haul out to the airport!) Next year I’ll make smarter transportation choices, I promise. (Ronald Reagan National Airport, here I come!)

  4. Lois Bushong says:

    I was at the FIGT conference and also jotted down that statistic that the UN made the statement that there are 214 million people living outside their passport country. I am wanting to quote that reference in a publication, but I don’t remember who made the statement during a plenary session nor can I find anything to back up that statistic on the UN’s website. Did you do a better job then I did at taking notes on that particular point? Can you help me out. I was so blown away by the statement, that I forgot to put down the details.

    • Maria says:

      Anne Copeland mentioned it during her keynote speech, but I don’t have any notes to indicate she mentioned a source. If you find it, Lois, can you let me know?

      • Lois Bushong says:

        I will let you know. Am tracking it down. Do you know that I tried the UN website and could not find it. So I googled the statement and your website popped up. Isn’t that amazing. I love Google.

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