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Dear brave heart

Photograph: iStock

Text: Kathy Borys Siddiqui

I am referring to all of you who currently are spouses/partners! To all of you who are Re-pats, Love -pats, Internationals, Expats, International Hires, Foreign Assignees, whichever name makes you feel most comfortable.

You are on a journey that takes courage and compromise, a journey that is so challenging and at the same time immensely rewarding. Those of you who have walked the international life path know this is a journey that can be at times very emotionally and physically draining.

I am writing this letter to highlight all that you are so that you know that YOU are not alone - that you are heard, seen, acknowledged, and valued. What you do matters, and none of it would be possible without YOU.

Sometimes, starting all over again in a country can feel as if you have had your identity erased, that you are unheard, and you may feel invisible. Language gives us a voice. Purpose gives us meaning, and the possibility to show who we are. Networking is what connects us and allows us to thrive professionally.

Please, remember yourself always! Make sure you voice your needs and aspirations, and that you gain as much as the rest of your family out of any international move.

"The only way to experience positive transitions is to work together, to collaborate, to support one another, communicate our experiences and feelings, listen and raise awareness."

As a spouse/partner, you can feel proud and vulnerable at the same time. You certainly do not want to seem weak and incapable. It is tough to leave all behind, your professional self, your family and friends, your comfort zone that you created, and be on the move once again. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Asking someone to simply listen does not mean that you are ranting and raving. It is ok to have a bad day and to be honest with your loved ones about your feelings. Remember to share your feelings and experiences with people who make you feel safe and heard.

Expressing feelings about the new host country will vary depending on the cultural adjustment stage. At times your experiences and days will be fantastic, and other days may seem horrible. It is necessary to share what you feel, it is part of the adjustment process. As a family or couple, you are in this together. Your days are made up of different tasks, but each member plays a vital role in this international life. The reason it works is that everyone is contributing, and each individual deserves recognition. We need to listen, acknowledge, and discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly. The only way to experience positive transitions is to work together, to collaborate, to support one another, communicate our experiences and feelings, listen and raise awareness.

The key components of positive transitioning

➤ Having purpose/vision for yourself in a new host country

➤ Having a sense of belonging

➤ Sharing transitioning experiences and feelings in a safe environment

➤ Being aware and acknowledging what a cultural adjustment transition is for you

➤ Taking action-finding a support system and using tools to cope with a transition

➤ Acknowledging your skills, talents

➤ Building a network and collaborating

➤ Being seen

➤ Being heard

➤ Being valued and acknowledged

➤ Using and exercising emotional resilience

➤ Taking control and action to create a desired life

The only constant is change

Change is our loyal companion; it is with us whether we want it or not. I have learned to embrace change and accept it.

As we move into new territories, we experience so many emotions and discover new and exciting people, adventures, and challenges. I am grateful for the abundance of my international experiences, and one of them has been writing for YOU. I am ready for my next chapter, and that is writing a book. So, this is not a goodbye, but more of a see you later! It has been a pleasure! With gratitude, Kathy.

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