Claudiaexpat shares her impressions on the FIGT conference that took place in Amsterdam last March.
The Italian translation of the article is on Claudia’s blog
The Families in Global Transition conference I attended in Amsterdam from 10th to 12th March has come and gone very fast, but what I took away will stay with me forever.
I met so many beautiful people, listened to new ideas, got a lot of inspiration, bought many interesting books, and sat on an awesome panel with women I have admired for years. I could also proudly talk about Expatclic, both in the kitchen table conversation I ran, and in general with the conference attendees. First and foremost, for three consecutive days I could walk around and talk to people without the need to explain anything at all: mobile life, its richness, pain, implications and nuances, was the real protagonist of the conference.
You have shared my enthusiasm before and during the event, and I want to tell you about some of the moments, emotions and feelings of the conference.
Christopher O’Shaughnessy’s keynote speech opened the conference and it was just amazing. Not only because he made us all laugh non-stop for about 30 minutes, but because of the conclusions he drew. He made us reflect on how our world of today is dangerously heading towards a void of empathy, and how instant and through screen communication turns our human relationship into disposable ones. He left us with a big message of hope: as expats, we arrive at our destinations feeling vulnerable and powerless and we must learn how to deal with our new environment. We are therefore ultimately in a privileged position to develop empathy and understanding towards all people forced to leave their homes and countries.
That same day, I held a kitchen table conversation about “What has gone right in 11 years of Expatclic”. It was packed with people of all nationalities, women and men, and they were all interested in Expatclic. They wrote down a lot while I spoke, and asked me many questions. We also had a little fun activity to break the ice.
At night a group of attendees went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Before the conference, when I introduced myself on the FIGT Facebook group and said I come from the beautiful country of Dante, enthusiasm arose, and many Italian-speaking participants decided to get together for dinner. I was so happy to see the spirit of Expatclic in place. At our table we had so many nationalities – Italian, Spanish, French, American, Polish… – and we all communicated in Italian. That’s what we do at Expatclic – nationality does not matter, we focus on languages and communicate with any language we are able to express ourselves in.
It was such a privilege to meet many people I had worked or been in contact with virtually, I want to mention them one by one:
Magdalena Zilveti Chaland is a French-Bolivian psychologist and coach who lives in the Bay Area. She has written extensively for Expatclic, and you can see her articles here, and here, and here. I saw her drinking a coffee in the conference hall, and immediately recognized her – such a treat!
Ute Limacher-Riebold of Expat Lounge had gotten in touch to congratulate us on Expatclic and we had exchanged a few emails. She is such a charming mixture of cultural experiences and speaks so many languages.
Ana McGuinley had written an article for us, and when she published her “Parental Guide: Long Distance Care for Aging Parents“, she sent us a copy to read and present on Expatclic. It was moving to see her in person (she is so beautiful!!!) and exchange a few words.
I was also moved to meet some of the staff of Femmexpat, the biggest website for francophone women, whom I briefly collaborated with before we launched Expatclic. Sabine and Alix were there, and it was such a pleasure to exchange our experiences and chat about expat life, Italy (where Alix lived for some years) and websites.
I also met Olga Mecking, of The European Mama, who had written an article for us, and Sara Coggiola, a charming Italian lady who had contacted me through Expatclic to get some advice on coaching and intercultural training. Sara was also part of a group of people who had attended Anne Copeland’s training on intercultural communication at different times, and then met up at the FIGT.
The “ignite” sessions were the highlight of the second day : six presenters took turns in speaking for exactly 6.40 minutes, backed by 20 slides, and they talked about so many different stimulating topics. All the presenters were interesting, but I was particularly captivated by some. Emmy McCarthy, founder of Amsterdam Mamas, who gave a superb presentation on creating a global village, and Stephen Davies, an English psychologist who lives in the Netherlands, and introduced us to the concept of “father post-natal depression”. I was grateful to Jodie Hopkins who talked about refugees, because I felt during the conference that the current situation of refugees should have been discussed more.
I also want to mention a Spanish woman whose kitchen table conversation unfortunately I could not attend (she was in the same room as us when we gave the Expatclic one), but whom I found incredibly interesting. Laia Colomer Solsona is an archaeologist, and she made an observation after a presentation on Third Culture Kids, where she shared her views on not underestimating the power of objects in mobile life. I looked for her after that because I wanted to share the results of our photographic round robin on “transitional objects”, but could not spot her…I’ll reconnect online.
On Saturday, Melissa Dalton-Bradford touched us all deeply when she shared the story of her life as an expat, and the terrible loss of her 18 year old first-born while her family was moving from Paris to Munich. Melissa is an amazing human being for many reasons, and during her generous presentation she shared what she has learnt from this tragic experience, and why a community is important in times of loss. It was a moving account, which she ended by singing us a song. The whole audience was moved but also extremely grateful, and I really felt I walked away from that moment with more than one lesson learnt, and feeling richer.
Actually, I did not walk away because right after Melissa it was the turn of our panel on “Growing a Global Business with a Community”. We were all still shaken and did our best to shift our minds to a topic that we all hold close to our hearts. Colleen Reichrath-Smith and Jo Parfitt are the heart and soul of Career in Your Suitcase Way, and after introducing the project and its development, we all shared our experience in dealing with communities (you can read a summary here).
I am very grateful to everyone who presented with me on the panel, they have done so much for the professional identity of the expat woman. Each one in their own way and with their projects, have recognized the complexity of the role of expat women in time, and effectively offered tools and spaces to progress. Colleen and Jo with their concept of portable career, Emmy with her Amsterdam Mamas, a project that has built a warm community in support of expat mothers arriving in the Netherlands, Louise Wiles with her Thriving Abroad, Jacinta Noonan and her innovative coaching approach. There is nothing like sharing the passion for mobile life, but mostly for building something meaningful out of it.
See you next year in Amsterdam!