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Being Bridges
Repatriated FIS moms talk about re-entry – and why they stay in touch
On campus and across the globe, our shared commitment to community is valued, regardless of nationality or location
Iwas a newlywed when the Berlin Wall came down and it felt as if the world was a shiny oyster awash in
amity and hope. East, go West; West, meet East. Farewell Cold War, old wars, any war. Let’s denuclearize. Let’s globalize. My husband kept humming “The Future’s So Bright,” a hit by Indie band Timbuk3, which went: “Things are going great, and they’re only getting better.”
I am not the same person that I was when I left. My mind has opened up so much.
Fast forward to my own Grade 7 daughter’s time: a world full of amazing normalcies, but also one that at times feels stuck on reverse, bent on bringing back the old divisive ways. International schools like FIS help raise the bridges of the future: the children growing up seeing multiple cultures
as part of their own selves. But they also build bridges for the now: the trailing spouses, the stay-at-home parents spending most of the time out-of-home driving children, learning a new language, magicking temporary residences into homely havens, volunteering and networking, weaving webs of friendships that are the families of expats on the road, becoming bridges of transcultural kinship when they repatriate.
“I am not the same person that I was when I left. My mind has opened up so much,” wrote Danielle Callewaert, who returned home to Australia in 2016 after a decade abroad, moving to a community of people who couldn’t relate to her identity because they “never moved far from the suburbs that they grew up in.”
Her experience closely resembles that of Suzy White Fischer, who now lives in the United States. After more than 16 years bouncing between the United States and four other countries, Suzy and her family left FIS just over four
years ago, returning to a town where most “had grown up in the area, married someone from there and are still there.” Staying in touch with fellow expats was key to Suzy’s self- validation, while Danielle feels that there are times when “it is as though
I never left and there is just a big gap in my memory. Keeping in touch with international friends helps me remember that time overseas actually existed.”
Validation by those who “get it” in the immediate aftermath of repatriation is a great reason for maintaining the bonds with expat friends, but it is not the only motive nor the longest lasting. Most of the women who wrote to me have been back much longer than a full year, which is widely regarded as the minimum time to mourn the loss of “world-as-home” and feel comfortably resettled back in the home country. Cindy Chua Yeo, who repatriated to Singapore two- and-a-half years ago, says: “Routine needs time to set in. A full year means a new academic cycle, and a full cycle
16 FIS World May 2017

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