Monday, 28 November 2011

Who's Looking out for Expat Teens' Well-Being?

Most research, literature and resources, on the topic of Expats, provide examples of Expat Teens life after-the-fact, when these individuals have grown up and realize they are different as a result of life experiences. The majority of published resources are targeted towards parents and professionals. While going through the stages of adolescent development while living a transient life without being rooted to one’s extended family, school or community can be perceived as a very challenging way to grow up, there seems to be a ‘gap’ in both research and resources focusing on Expat Teens. Even though Recent statistics state there are 2,670,524 international students attending 5,689 English-medium International Schools around the world, with both numbers increasing on an annual basis ( retrieved on 16/12/2010). Most current research and resources available cite experiential evidence of the long term impact of ‘growing up globally’ after the fact, rather than authentic firsthand accounts of experiences during these critical years of development.

Gathering firsthand accounts, as will be found in our soon to be published “Expat Teens Talk’, will help Expat Teens develop a better sense of identity and well- being. Our book is full of first-hand accounts, as told by Expat Teens worldwide, of their challenges and support needs, and the responses - as voiced by Expat Peers, Expat Parents and Expat Professionals - provide the advice, support and solutions aimed to develop a greater understanding to be shared with their families, International School Staff, intercultural experts and, most importantly, Expat Teens themselves. This book, a first of its kind (to our knowledge), could potentially lead to inspiring others to develop more resources and tools that Expat Teens can access for support.

In the meantime, TALK to us via our “Comments” section and let us know what’s on your mind…

Friday, 25 November 2011

How The "Other Half" Lives...

The chart below compares the lives of an Expat Teen attending an International School with that of a local Canadian who grows up in the same house, neighbourhood and community for the period from birth to the end of high school. While these profiles are not representative of all Expat Teens or Local Canadians, they are representative of the profiles of teens with whom we have come into contact:
Growing up as a Swedish/Indian citizen in                  Growing up as a Canadian citizen in Canada
different International schools around the world
-Attends an International school with a varied                -Attends a local school with a national 
curriculum (PYP, middle school curriculum, IGCSE,          curriculum and graduating provincial certificate.
IB or an adapted national curriculum from an outside
country, or the local 'host' country).

-Grows up in a cultural melting pot of nationalities,      -Grows up in a monoculture environment; peers
with differing family values and societal norms.               relate to and identify with the same food, music,
Exposure to and knowledge of music, food, language,     movie/TV stars, politicians, schools, sports, 
family values, and religion, are often vastly different.       and language.
-Confronted by different cultural norms and values in    -Can identify with norms and values in home
the home environment, i.e., live-in maid/helper, and        environments; students attending local schools
different financial backgrounds.                                     live in the same district with similar socio-
                                                                                economic backgrounds. Public schools are not fee

-Influenced by home/parents/peers when making          -Influenced by home/parents/peers/community/
decisions.                                                               extended family/teachers/role models in direct
                                                                                 environment when making decisions.

-Confronted by more differences than similarities;         -Relates more to similarities than differences in
socio-economic status, cultural background, home         peer group.
language, can live anywhere in "host country."

-Growing up as "outsiders", unable to fully integrate     -Growing up fully integrated as part of a school,
into the local communities/neighbourhoods/schools     community, and family.
and centres (sports/social/community).

-Substantial differences in access to money and              -Variable access to money and financial freedoms.
financial freedom amongst peers. Very limited                 Opportunities to earn money independently
opportunities to have a part-time job and,                       through babysitting and/or having a part-time job
therefore, earn money.                                                 which, in turn, exposes students to new
                                                                                 responsibilities and opportunities.

-Different and sometimes-conflicting freedoms in          -The local laws consistently dictate the age when
deciding where to go and what to do - taxi access,           teens can engage in certain activities, which is
buying alcohol and cigarettes, gaining entrance              often reinforced by school, community, and 
into clubs/bars, direct exposure to older/mature               family.
and experienced crowds. Freedom and access 
differ from country to country.

-Sometimes have different/fewer responsibilities            -Cultural norms and socio-economic background
in the home as a result of having a live-in maid/              dictate exposure and access to household help, 
helper. This results in an impact on the teens and            which, in turn, impacts/influences responsibility in
on the roles/responsibilities of their parents.                     the home environment.

The lives of Expat Teens can be challenging as a result of being exposed to so much change, cultural diversity and societal norms. Stay tuned for our soon-to-be-released book, ‘Expat Teens Talk’, to learn more about what these challenges are. Read what the Expat Peers, Parents and Professionals have to ‘say’ in terms of providing helpful advice, support and solutions.

In the meantime, TALK to us via our “Comments” section and let us know what’s on your mind…

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Gracias...Merci...谢谢...Thank you...

This week, millions of Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving - a holiday that was initially established to commemorate the first dinner between those who settled on Plymouth Rock (Pilgrims) and those who were already living on the land (Native Americans). Nowadays, Thanksgiving is a time when families and friends come together as a symbol of gratitude for their role in each others' lives...and to eat too much and watch American football all afternoon!

In this scenario, you - the Expat - may feel like the Pilgrim at times, particularly if you have moved more than once. When you arrive in a new country, you may feel like you have to start all over again to understand and incorporate the cultural nuances of a place that you've never been to/lived in before. At other times, you may feel the need to find a way to "put your mark" on this new endeavor. However, there may be times when you feel like the Native American, who has established a certain set of expectations and values only to have them challenged (and possibly changed) as a function of moving to a new country or having others move to where you are. Regardless of which "role" you may fit into, many of you find a way to adjust so that you can fit in with your surroundings. Others of you, however, may find that to be difficult, and may resonate moreso with the traditional turkey that is served during Thanksgiving dinner - feeling as though you are sacrificing your happiness (for example) for the well-being of others (in this case, the "others" may be the parent whose job moved you in the first place, in particular, or your family's well-being, in general).

As we have said many times throughout our blog entries, Expat Life is full of many positive aspects. However, there are also times when you, as an Expat Teen, may find yourself facing situations that are less-than-ideal. In those situations, you may feel like there are some things that you are not thankful for, and you may wonder who you can talk to in order to find a balance within your life.

Expat Teens Talk is a resource that was written to help Expat Teens who may be struggling with feelings related to Expat Life and Adolescence. We encourage you to read this valuable resource so that you can receive some support for those moments when you do, in fact, feel like the aforementioned turkey - when you just don't see the benefits (for yourself) of the perceived sacrifice.

Our book will be on shelves in a few short weeks, so stay tuned to this blogspot for more details. In the meantime TALK to us and let us know what's on your mind...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Guest Blog Entry: The Importance of Friendship

So far, you have read blog entries from the authors of the upcoming book, "Expat Teens Talk". Now, we will share some entries from guest bloggers in an effort to provide you with stories, thoughts, and words of wisdom from those who have been where you are (or have been). It is our hope that these guest entries will provide you with further confirmation about some of the issues that are associated with Expat Life, as well as words of wisdom about how to manage those issues. After you read Eliza's story below, TALK to us and let us know what you think...

The Importance of Friendship by Eliza Love

A lot has changed since I was an American teenager living in Belgium, but I can’t imagine that the challenges of such a huge adjustment don’t still exist. My family moved to Brussels when I was 10 years old. I remember when I announced it to my 5th grade class in rural New York and my teacher asked me what language they spoke in Belgium and I said ‘Belgish’… Was I in for the culture shock of a lifetime!

Moving to Belgium was the biggest adjustment of my life. I had to adjust to a different environment, different language, different home, school, friends, and so on and I had no say in it! I felt completely lost.

I’ll admit that it took me about a year to get used to all of these changes and start to really like living abroad. Looking back on it now I think one of the major things that was missing was really understanding that everyone I was going to school with had gone through the same things. I was so angry with my parents so when they would try to help, I ignored them. What I really needed was somewhere I could go and talk with people my own age who had gone through these experiences and could support me- like Expat Teens Talk.

Cliques are such a big thing in International Schools. The Americans hang out with the Americans, the Dutch hang out with the Dutch, etc. It’s completely natural for us to find friends that we can relate to and identify with, but there are so many great people that we go to school with that have such interesting personalities. Expat Teens Talk is the best way to connect with people from all over the world who have been going through the same challenges that you have and need you just as much as you need them. It’s going to be the fastest, easiest, and most fun way to make friends and when you’re a teenager, friends are the most important people in your life!

Eliza Love
Expat Teen Alumnus
Colorado (USA)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Keeping it Real...

As adults, parents, and teachers - people working with and living with teenagers - we often forget the complexities of growing up. The stages of adolescence can be challenging, especially when experiencing physical changes: developing muscles; hair in places it never grew before; being confronted by acne; feeling no control over emotions, flipping from being really happy to being really angry and then wanting to burst out in laughter. Adolescence, the teenage years, are one of the most transformational times in ones life. You go through the process of growing and developing from a child to a young adult and it is not always easy.
Regardless of where you live, the teenage years are full of new experiences, experimentation, self-discovery, internal and external change, peer discovery, and growing, changing relationships. These can be (and often are) challenging years full of new decisions and expectations.
Major areas of change in the lives of teenagers can be catorgorized (but not limited to) the following areas:
      Physical/hormonal/emotional changes
      School/International schools
      Expat Teens-adapting to change as a result of transitioning to a new 'host' country (new home, school, country, language, culture, peers, teachers - this list is virtually endless)
So, if you're experiencing any difficulties in the aforementioned areas, take comfort in knowing that you are not the only one! And if you are a parent or professional who regularly interacts with Teens, please remember that a listening ear can go a long way.

Stay tuned to this Blogspot for more information about our upcoming book, "Expat Teens Talk." In the meantime, TALK to us and let us know what's on your mind...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Yes, it COULD happen to you...

As we have mentioned throughout our blog entries, there are quite a few issues that Expat Teens tend to be faced with as a function of their roles, both as Expats, as well as Teenagers. We have reflected on some of those issues, but want to take it a bit further with this entry by informing you of some statistics of sensitive  issues that are impacting Teens worldwide. Many of you may read these statistics and think “this is not relevant to me”, or “this couldn’t happen to me.”If you think that, you aren’t the only one who does…however, evidence indicates that thinking that way can be dangerous. Just ask those who said “this couldn’t happen to me”…and then it did. This entry is not supposed to be a scare tactic. It is a reality check, and is also a way to let those of you who have dealt with these issues know that there is a resource that you can turn to for support – Expat Teens Talk. So be informed, be safe, and TALK to us and let us know what is on your mind…

      Teen Depression:
     1/5 of teens will have depression before age 18;
     20-50% of teens with depression have a family history of depression or other mental health problems;
     30% of those with depression also have substance abuse problems.
      Teen Suicide: 2nd leading cause of death among teens 15-19 y.o.
      Teen Substance Abuse:
     Teenagers turn to  cigarettes and alcohol for the same reasons: curiosity, boredom, as a way to forget their problems;
     Girls and boys may start drinking because of a lack of communication, support, and monitoring from parents.
      Teen Pregnancy and Sexuality:
     One in every ten births worldwide is to a mother who is still a child herself;
     Homosexual teens are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to use alcohol or other drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviors, or run away from home.
      Teen STI’s:
     1/5 of people living with HIV are living in Asia and infection rates are increasing quickly;
                 --  People aged 15-24 accounted for approx. 45% of new HIV infections worldwide in 2007

Please be safe and make good decisions - your life depends on it...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

University transition…so much more than academics

Being told by your parents that it’s time to move again becomes almost as routine as your parents saying “brush your teeth before you go to bed.” But what happens when you reach one of those milestones that many Teens reach in their lives – graduating from high school/secondary school? For students in all contexts – Monocultural and Expat, alike – and their parents/guardians, the notion of “life after high school” is wrought with much excitement, worry, trepidation, and confusion. For an Expat Teen, it may initially appear to be just one more move in a series of moves. However, when you start to think about it in more detail, you start to realize how this move is so completely different from all of the other moves. For one, you’re (generally) moving by yourself and leaving your family behind. For another, you (generally) are the one who gets to decide where you are going next. So, how do you deal with all of the unknowns that accompany this phase of life? If you are still in your final year of secondary school, how can you make the most of your final year, both at school and at home? There are books out there to help you with the former (e.g., The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition, by Tina L. Quick), but there aren’t that many that address the latter. That’s where our book comes in.

Expat Teens Talk is a resource that addresses some of the concerns that Teens in all stages of adolescence have about their lives, both what they are doing now, and how they can prepare for the future. Their concerns are addressed via feedback from their fellow Expat Peers, as well as from Expat Parents and Expat Professionals, thus providing some support for them as they go through this ever-changing stage of life. Within the book is also advice and support from what we call Expat Teen Alumni – individuals who were Expat Teens at one time. So, stay tuned to this blogspot for more information on how you can get a copy of the book. In the meantime, TALK to us and let us know what’s on your mind…

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Needing Support is OKAY!

There are often times in life when we struggle to deal with what we are experiencing. We should not have to feel like we have to get through these difficult times alone. Asking for help is not a bad thing! Asking for help is often the solution we need to get through the challenging times in life.
Psychologists say the following are the most difficult and stressful things for people to experience:

      Illness of a parent or sibling
      Death of a parent or sibling
      Separation or divorce of parents
      Moving and adaptation difficulties

If you stop and think about the fact that ‘moving’ is on that list, take a moment to think of the impact an international move has on a person. You are confronted by endless change: new country, city, language, culture, job, colleagues, cultural norms, professional norms, house, neighbourhood, school, teachers, academic system, teaching methodology, peers, friends, sports, climate, arts, music, politics, religion, and the list goes on. How does moving from one country to another country impact a person? Should we be expected to deal with these changes all on our own? Is there something wrong with us when we find it difficult, when we find ourselves  struggling, regardless of whether we are an adult, a parent, a teenager? Below is a list of things that are difficult to deal with when moving around the world as an Expat, having a transient life that is more full of change than stable norms:

      Change in roles, responsibility, career, identity of parents and impact on teens;
      Peer relationship difficulties (peer pressure, friendship issues, romantic relationships, sexual identity issues);
      School related issues (academic pressure/stress, organization difficulties, homework/project difficulties, working independently, school expectations);
      Alcohol, drugs, sex related issues;
      Moving to a boarding school: developing independence, making decisions, finding balance with non-boarding friends (freedoms, time, independence, cultural differences);
      Reintegration issues: going back to an environment you no longer feel a part of (or never were a part of) or don’t identify with. This often happens when, for example, Expat Teens go to their passport country or country of birth for university studies.

Having problems, challenges, or some difficulty adapting to change as an Expat Teen, an Expat Parent or an Expat Professional is OK! Asking for support or finding the resources you need to have access to support can be, and most often is, extremely beneficial, as it helps support you in finding new directions, learning about solutions and being exposed to advice to make the transition easier.

“Expat Teens Talk” offers advice, support and solutions from Expat Peers, Parents and Professionals, to Expat Teens who have written in and shared the challenges they feel confronted by as a result of living a transient Expat life. In the meantime, TALK to us and let us know what’s on your mind…

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Top Things Expat Teens Find Challenging About Moving

“But I just started to feel settled!” “Do we have to move again?” “Man, I hate having to pack up my room!” “But I’m almost done with high school!” Sound familiar? You may have said something similar the last time one of your parents told you that your family was moving again. And you aren’t the only ones who feel this way, as you may know. While there are many positive aspects of being an Expat Teen, you can probably recognize the bittersweet aspect that comes with it, as the very thing that makes Expat Life fun and exciting is the same thing that makes it difficult and sobering.

In our book, Expat Teens Talk, we heard from some of you who are dealing with various issues that are related to Expat Life. Below is a list of the things that were identified as being the most difficult when it comes to moving:

      Getting on the plane
      Growing up in one country and having family (cousins, aunts, uncles, etc) in another requires a balancing act of living between and knowing both
      Having to learn about and adapt to new cultural norms and learn a new language
      Saying good bye to friends, teachers,  friends of the family
      Staying in touch with those you left behind, people get busy and priorities change, you do ‘lose’ contact and therefore relationships
      Knowing where you really belong; fitting in
      Having to leave a place I grow attached to and start to feel at home in, leaving is so incredibly difficult
      Sense of loss, loss of a home, friends, school
      Going to a new school, having to make new friends when social groups are already formed
      Adjusting to a new environment, language, food, culture, lifestyle
      Culture shock
      New school, new teachers, different academic system and way of teaching
      Difficult to move from developed to developing world countries
      Knowing and understanding where ‘home’ is, it becomes less clear the more you move around or the longer you stay away from your ‘home’ country

So, as you can see, you aren’t the only one! Watch this spot for more information on our upcoming book. In the meantime, TALK to us and let us know what’s on your mind…