We are so happy and proud to host Lynn Kogelmann on Expatclic. Lynn is a US citizen who lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She is the adoptive mother of a Chinese TCK girl, and has created an important survey on TCKs adopted children. In the interview we talk about this and much more. If you are a TCKs adoptive family, please fill up Lynn’s survey! Thank you Lynn for your time and for being such a positive and inspiring person!
What is your background and what took you to Tanzania?
I am currently in my 16th year as a school counselor. For the first 10 years I was working in public schools in the US. From there my daughter and I moved to Beijing, China for our first three years abroad and loved it. Tanzania has always been a heart pull country for me, I can’t begin to explain it, it just has always been there. So when the opportunity presented itself to work in an international school in Dar es Salaam I knew we needed to try and go. This is our third year here now and we love it.
What (if any) are the challenges of working in a different culture from your own?
I think there are always challenges working in a culture different from the one you grew up in and that is your comfort zone. As a school counselor, I have to be particularly sensitive to different parenting/discipline norms with young children, the doing things a “different” way that I am used to things being done. It is important to step back, consider the pros and cons of a variety of cultures rather than just imposing my values and thoughts onto everyone I work with in the school setting. This requires constant self-evaluation and mindfulness.
Can you tell us a bit about your adoption?
Ruth was adopted from China at the age of 2.5. I adopted her as a single parent which was a bit of a challenge. The adoption laws in China were changing at the time of our adoption process, so as a single parent I was required to submit all of my paperwork by May 1, 2007 or I could not adopt from China.
Due to difficulties with one adoption agency I was switching to another agency and had 6 months to complete all the paperwork that typically takes 18-24 months. We beat the deadline by two weeks due to much support from friends, family, and adoption professionals. Six months later I was on my way to China to pick up my girl! We celebrated our 10 year family anniversary in November 2017.
You wrote a wonderful article in support of the use of kindness in international schools, could you tell us a bit about this? What can kindness and empathy do for these international settings and how can they be of benefit to the expat child?
I truly believe kindness connects us across cultures and barriers. No matter what language we speak or where we come from, we all recognize and appreciate kindness. In the international school setting, kindness combats the entitlement mentality and helps us think about others. When we are able to focus on positivity and kindness rather than the rampant negativity around us, we can make a difference to one person and in turn make a difference in the world. Children who are supported in being kind learn to be assertive, they learn to stand up for others around them and encourage the world. I love the quote “In a world where you can be anything, choose kind”.
Tell us about your survey.
As the parent of an adopted TCK, I want to make sure I provide my daughter with every support I can, enabling her journey to be the best one possible. As such, I thought, I will just look up resources on adopted TCKs and add these to our tool kit. What I found though is that almost nothing exists on this topic. I thought, how can this be? I must just be not searching correctly. But then I kept looking and talking to other adoptive families and friends who had access to university databases and found that, no, this information just doesn’t exist. At this point I felt compelled to do something. There has to be information for families such as ours, it has to exist somehow, and if it doesn’t, I guess I need to make sure it does. As an international school counselor, I believe it is important that other school counselors have tools to support families and children in this specific area. So, my initial thought was to provide a workshop for other international school counselors. I began the survey with adoptive families with this in mind. I feel an obligation to honor the stories that have been shared with me through this survey, so although the workshop will be presented the first weekend in March, it will really only be the first step. The bigger goal is to create resources (somehow!) for adoptive expat families.
…if we focus on reaching the people in our circle with kindness and love, we are changing the world every day.
What is the biggest lesson life abroad has taught you so far?
There are SO many lessons to be learned by living abroad, but I think the biggest one for me is the confirmation that people need and want the same things all over the world. They want love, peace, a sense of belonging, safety, and a positive future for their children. While we can get overwhelmed by the enormity of the world, if we focus on reaching the people in our circle with kindness and love, we are changing the world every day.
How do you see your and your child’s future?
Our hope is to stay abroad – at least until my daughter graduates from high school and quite possibly even longer than that. We love Tanzania and our school, but unfortunately work permit issues will necessitate a move elsewhere within the next couple of years. I very much hope to be able to continue the work with adoptive families that has been started as well. It is exciting to think about the future and wait to see how it unfolds.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Interview by Claudia Landini (Claudiaexpat)
Photos ©Lynn Kogelmann