I was truly honoured to be co-presenting with Ruth Van Reken and Daniela Tomer at this conference on the outskirts of beautiful Rome. There was an exciting mix of nationalities and cultures attending and it was a fantastic experience meeting new people and hearing their stories and ideas.
Daniela, Ruth and I co- presented ‘Counselling the Globally Mobile’ to a full room and there were some tears from the back as the realisation that “I’m a TCK and all makes sense now” hit home for a number of attendees. A few of them came and thanked us afterwards and it made me realise how people benefit from finding out that they have a shared (third culture) identity with which they can connect to others globally. Talking about art therapy approaches with this population was an exciting step for me as creative arts therapies are finding their place within this expanding arena.
One woman cried as she said that she felt a “huge relief” that she “wasn’t alone” and that finally her ongoing feeling of grief now made sense. This made me realise that coming from an international school background, it is easy to assume that many people from the international community know what a TCK is. A number of those attending our presentation, explained that they had not heard of ‘third culture’ and wanted to know more. Discussing this with other attendees played a central part during my time at the conference and I really could not have gone with more thoughtful, experienced and lovely women (Ruth and Daniela) who share such a passion for spreading ‘third culture’ awareness around the globe.
The conference was a culturally diverse and fascinating experience and I got to enjoy an evening with the Malaysian contingent (who were extremely excited about next years IAC conference taking place in Malaysia). I had lots of fun and got to reconnect with that part of my identity (which I realised afterwards, would always be part of me). This also made me remember how important it is to acknowledge this in myself but also with my husband and children. Malaysia is part of all of us and always will be.
Overall, this conference was an amazing experience. If I had known that just over a year after leaving my international school, that I would be presenting my art therapy experience with Daniela and Ruth in Rome, I would have known that taking that scary step into the unknown was worth it. Thank you so much for your support and guidance ladies and I am looking forward to sharing art psychotherapy approaches for others working with this incredible population for the foreseeable future.