The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition

Final Reflections By Barbara F. Schaetti, Ph.D

This is a preview to the chapter Final Reflections By Barbara F. Schaetti, Ph.D from the book The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition by Tina L. Quick.
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To begin: Tina, Thank you! And Hip, Hip, Hurrah! And on behalf of those who transitioned from a childhood abroad to university without this supportive resource: It’s been a long time coming! We have needed this book for decades at least; we just didn’t know it. I, for one, would certainly have found it useful back in 1977.

I graduated from the Singapore American School (SAS) in the spring of that year, and in autumn started my first year at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. I was eighteen years old and very accustomed to the transition experience: I had by then lived in ten countries on five continents and had been ‘the new kid in school’ some twelve different times. If anyone had asked me if I was prepared for this transition to university, I would have been surprised at the question. Surprised first of all because, despite all those moves, no one had ever thought to ask me that question before, and surprised certainly because, Yes, of course, I must be: I had done it all before, over and over again, hadn’t I?

In those days, people like me didn’t know we were global nomads or third culture kids; those terms hadn’t yet been popularized and disseminated. The idea of re-entry shock was nowhere on our horizon, and even the idea of culture shock wasn’t much discussed in the expatriate world. No one at SAS or Trinity understood that my peers and I, graduating from international schools all over the world, needed guidance on university-bound repatriation: on issues of identity, grief and relationships, on leaving well and arriving well, on ‘home’ country practicalities, etc.

Most of us muddled through; there’s plenty of research now to show that most of us, my generation and the generations that came before, muddled through our university transitions to create fulfilling lives. But it could have been so much easier for all of us – less suppressing of pain through drinking and recreational drugs, through casual sex and excessive studying, and much earlier and much easier leveraging of our global childhoods into fulfilling futures. And perhaps those who got lost in the cracks, whose attempts to suppress the pain ultimately dragged them down too far, would have found their right way forward with just a little help. The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition offers this and more.

It’s tempting to second-guess the past: what might have been if only we had had this book back then. It’s likewise important to recognize how much has changed since, for example, 1977. Non-salaried spouses of that time and earlier struggled to make meaning out of their travels; today they know that skill development is core to their life satisfaction, and in striking numbers they are using the situations of difference and change in which they find themselves to augment their intercultural competence. Expatriate parents of thirty and more years ago had no articulated knowledge of the benefits and challenges of raising their children abroad; today they are introducing their children to their global nomad/TCK heritage at earlier and earlier ages, helping to ensure that as young adults they know they have something unique to offer the professional world. International schools likewise had no systematic understanding of transitions and expatriate family concerns, nor of the implications of these on their educational mandate; today international educators are at the forefront of new research on global nomads and of new services to meet expatriate family needs.

It’s clear that the zeitgeist in which global nomads are now growing up has changed. Indeed, The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition demonstrates this maturation of the field. Looking back, I see people like David Pollock, Matthew Neigh, Ruth Van Reken and me paving the pathway to this book by speaking with graduating seniors at international schools around the world. International schools themselves, foremost among them the American School of The Hague, helped advance the path as they began institutionalizing transition programs for all facets of the community, including university-bound seniors. People like Norma McCaig, Bruce LaBrack, and Alice Wu placed additional stepping stones by working with colleges and universities to welcome incoming global nomads more effectively. Service organizations, especially in the Missions sector and typically inspired by David Pollock, began offering re-entry seminars. All of this created the conditions out of which comes the book you hold in your hands.

This book now paves the pathway further forward, takes it to the next milestone. In doing so, it provides a critical fail-safe. Even now, if you’re a graduating global nomad it’s likely you do not have a pre-departure presentation to attend, the international school from which you are graduating hasn’t yet put comprehensive programming in place, the college or university receiving you hasn’t got a clue, and either you don’t know about or can’t (or perhaps won’t) access a re-entry program. Despite the maturation of the field and the new zeitgeist in which you find yourself, you’re likely still to be left to manage your transition alone.

No longer! The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition may be the best gift a parent or educator can give you, or which you can give yourself. There’s nothing else available like it. I recommend you put it in your suitcase, right along with a copy of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds. Better yet, read both books ahead of time, give copies to your parents, teachers, and friends, and discuss the core ideas together. And if you’ve already made the transition to university, I still recommend this book to you; it is an important resource for you and your friends retroactively as well as proactively.

Although written to help you succeed with your university transitions, there is also a hidden promise in this book. As you apply the knowledge, guidance and resources it provides to your university transition, you will learn to think about transitions as a process, as a life experience that can be purposefully managed. Focusing on one kind of transition, you will learn more broadly how to effectively engage all the transitions you encounter, throughout your life – whether it’s transition to university, transition into or out of a job, transition into or out of a relationship, or any other kind of transition. You’ll put all of your transition experiences into a context, and learn to apply that context next time you’re in the midst of the experience.

And as you take on leadership positions on your campus, in your community, and in your career, you will begin with a strong advantage: the skill to manage change. It has long been said that “change is the only constant.” In his book Learning as a Way of Being, leadership consultant Peter Vaill puts it even more poetically when he says we live in a world of “permanent whitewater.” Learning to proactively engage the process of transition is a core skill for success in the twenty-first century. The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition marks the pathway to help you meet that challenge.

Barbara F. Schaetti, Ph.D., is a dual-national (Swiss and US) second-generation global nomad. Throughout her career as a consultant and coach, she has championed individuals and teams as they learn to access their capacity for mindfully and creatively engaging situations of difference and change. She is the author of numerous articles on global nomads and related topics, pioneered the concept of institutionalizing transition programming in international schools through transition teams, and is the lead author of the book Making a World of Difference. Personal Leadership: A Methodology of Two Principles and Six Practices.

"It's about time this book was written. It is a long-overdue guide for university students facing re-entry..."

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