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 iwasastar.com 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. 😆