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Families in Global Transition conference

20140321_223955The FIGT conference is unique. Correct me if I am wrong, but it is probably the (only?) largest gathering of people who know that the question ‘so, what’s your journey?’ is far more valuable than ‘where are you from?’

A place of birth is but one moment in a life: it is but a minor detail in understanding the complex identity of those of us who have lived in more than one country.

The conference brings together students, researchers, mobility service providers, international school professionals, writers, and social and psychological support specialists. Every single one of them has lived abroad at some point in their life: for most, ‘home’ is more than one place at any given time (

To the 140 attendees of the 15th annual conference, the waypoints along the journey of someone’s life provide far more interesting information than their national identity. The places someone has lived indicate which cultures have influenced them, and whether you both have common roots (roots as defined as a set of values obtained from living in a specific culture: A person’s journey gives you an indication of their world view: whether they started travelling as a child or as an adult, and whether they are currently back ‘home’ or if they are still on the globetrotting path.

I knew no one at my first session at the conference, but as each individual introduced themselves I found that I was among people with whom I had more in common than if we had been born in the same country. For one thing, we have all had to defend our multi-cultural, multi-geographical experiences in a world where isolated nations believe that mono everything is the ‘right’ way to be.

But what ‘they’ don’t know is that the world has changed:

  • Members of the mobile tribe are now so numerous that we could form the 5th largest country in the world;
  • No nation will be able to avoid multiculturalism in the 21st century;
  • Multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-national individuals have the skills, flexibility and open-mindedness required to thrive in this increasingly interdependent world.

The FIGT conference is a necessary forum for discussing the issues of global mobility because:

  1. We need to gain individual strength in the knowledge that we are not alone in our experiences, struggles and insights;
  2. We need to increase our communal strength by understanding how best to help each other through some of the difficult aspects of our lifestyle;
  3. We need to assert the role we can play in the globalising world today.

4 Responses to “Families in Global Transition conference”

  1. Dounia says:

    This is a fantastic post and it really captures the essence of FIGT and the global tribe. I love this sentence and I can relate completely: “I knew no one at my first session at the conference, but as each individual introduced themselves I found that I was among people with whom I had more in common than if we had been born in the same country.”
    And it’s so true that “what’s your journey” is a question we all understand and know how to respond to…Which would seem strange to mono-cultured people, for whom “where are you from” is the norm.
    I could go on citing all the great sentences you have in here because it’s such a well-written post, but I’ll just leave you with a sincere ‘thank you’ for sharing this.

    • Thanks for commenting Dounia! And for making me blush :-). It was wonderful to have the opportunity to attend and meet so many like minded individuals. Maybe we should start an FIGT thread ‘This is my journey’.

  2. Katia says:

    I read this post when it was published and re-read it today and both times it struck me how you capture one of the fundamental dimensions of our nomadic life by suggesting that instead of ‘where are you from?’ it makes more sense to ask ‘what’s your journey?’ We need to make this the new standard. I, for one, am planning to do my part 🙂 Thanks, Diane.

    • Thanks Katia, I’m really glad it resonates. To me it makes perfect sense – even if someone has never moved out of their home country, they have a journey that could include moves inside their nation. But more than that, our journey includes many milestones that are far more important and interesting – a therefore far better conversation starters – than a birth nation. Can we start an international trend? Asking ‘what is your journey is a shift in perception. It reminds me of Robin Pascoe’s shift when she defined a ‘career’ as the path we take rather than a horizontal climb up a ladder.

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