Tag Archives: conference

Why Going to Conferences Pays

Or ‘The Remaining 6 Things I learnt at the Washington conference of FIGT’. (For details of the Families in Global Transition organisation, see this website: http://www.figt.org/).  This is Part Two from yesterday’s blog and I couldn’t resist this beautiful image of the cherry blossoms, although they did not quite look like that last week, more like a hesitant pink mist. *

Spring in Washington DC

7.  No matter how many coffee breaks, working lunches and dinners there are, you will never get a chance to meet all the interesting people you want to meet (including all your Twitter friends).   I keep looking at the attendee list and saying: ‘Oh, no, he was there too?  Oh, no,  how could I have missed her?’

8. One group of expats that was under-represented are the academics.  So, Ph.D. students,post-docs and lecturers from different cultures who meet abroad, get married and then move on to the next position.  They do represent a different kettle of fish than diplomats or missionaries or army personnel, because in many cases the spouses want to continue their research careers as well, so the ‘trailing spouse’ scenario is even more unacceptable.  On the other hand, I wonder if there are differences in how these highly-educated parents are talking to their children during these global transitions. 

9. You go there for the big ideas, but you come back with lots of little practical tips.  I now have a clearer understanding of how to add the pesky Twitter button on my blog, where to find excellent stock photos and what refreshments to serve to your international writers’ group.

10. You might even find yourself a job.  Having exchanged business cards and kept in touch, a number of participants at previous conferences were top of mind when companies were looking to recruit specialists.

11. Don’t forget your camera !  I did and was cursing about it daily.  It would have been an excellent opportunity to capture images of all the friends I made, to conduct short interviews with the numerous experts there… and perhaps to have my own pictures of cherry blossoms.

12.  Take a little bit of time off.  No matter how passionate you are about your subject area, the long days in an enclosed space, overdosing on caffeine, will wear you out.  Do recharge your batteries and see something of the town you are in, especially if you are as fortunate with the weather as we were last week.  I used to work a few months a year in DC, so I didn’t feel the need to go to all the museums this time, but I did reconnect with some dear friends, go for walks in old favourite haunts and enjoy authentic Mexican food (which is a bit harder to find in the UK).  It felt like a mini-break and I am sure helped with the digestion of information!

What do you like best about international conferences?  And what annoys you most about them?  Perhaps next time I will talk about that.

*  For the original image and more details about the cherry blossom festival in DC, look at this website  http://chuvachienes.com/2010/03/28/the-national-cherry-blossom-festival-in-washington-dc/

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12 Things I Learnt at the Washington Conference

Just back from the wonderful FIGT (Families in Global Transition) Conference in Washington DC http://www.figt.org/2011_conference and I am sitting in groggy but rapt contemplation of all that I have seen, heard, encountered and learnt.   I feel somewhat like a boa constrictor who has just swallowed a very large animal and now needs a bit of time to digest.

Conference logo

Washington DC. March 17-19

Here are just a few of the small and big revelations of the past five days, in no particular order:

1) American conferences are slick, well-organised and colour-coordinated, even when run by volunteers.  But yes, the air conditioning is fierce…

2) With concurrent sessions, there will always be clashes between two or even three or four sessions that you really, really want to attend.  Resign yourself to the fact that you cannot possibly see them all.  Or, even better, go with a friend, divide up the sessions and ensure both take copious notes.

3) Interculturalists love to talk and meet people!  It was the friendliest atmosphere I have ever experienced at a conference.  The emphasis seemed to be upon collaboration rather than competition (which, having been to some academic conferences, is not always the case).

4) Despite your good intentions, you will come home loaded with books.  Yes, I could have bought them afterwards on Amazon and had them delivered to my house, but what would I have read on the plane?  And how else would I have got the authors to sign them?  Expect some book reviews shortly.

5) You’ll get a lifetime’s worth of memorable quotes.

6) Everyone hates the term ‘trailing spouse’.  Thanks to Jo Parfitt, writer,  publisher and global nomad http://www.joparfitt.com/ ,who suggested that maybe we should refer to this category as STARs (spouses travelling and relocating) and STUDs (spouses transitioning under duress).

Now, excuse me while I settle back to digest some more….

Ah, I hear you say, but where are the remaining 6 things you have learnt?  There will be another blog post later this week about this, I promise!

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Mini United Nations of Parenting

Only a couple more days to the Families in Global Transition conference in Washington DC and my excitement levels are already up in the attic and threatening to break through the roof!  If you don’t know about the FIGT organisation and its annual conferences, here is the link:  http://www.figt.org/2011_conference

My talk will be about how to combine and harmonize different parenting styles when you are a bicultural family living in a third or even fourth culture.  For instance, what happens when the grandparents come to help out with the childcare but have quite different values from the parents, the children and the society they are currently living in?  In an ideal world, we would be able to choose the best bits of each culture and its approach to discipline, education, self-esteem and communication strategies.  But in real life, things can get messy, overwhelming, even openly hostile.

Are there any parenting universals?  Is it possible to simultaneously hold different values, even contradictory ones? Does this lead to cynicism or is the the opportunity to create something completely new, a global tradition?

I have borrowed liberally from my own family’s examples and from friends who are in similar situations.  I’ve created a pleasing taxonomy of parenting issues (which I expect will be demolished by the audience, because all taxonomies are reductionist and a little too neat for their own good).  I have lots of stories to share and hope to hear many more and learn from them.  And, in the process, I have realised that the issue is far too complex and there is too much material there for just one talk or one article. 

Uh-oh, I know that ‘ruminating cow’ feeling (as I used to call it in my teens whenever I was about to come up with an idea): I can feel a book coming on!

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