Equity & Diversity Opinion

International Transition - Building a RAFT

By AAEE — September 19, 2017 3 min read
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You have signed a contract with an international school and the excitement and anticipation is rising; along with some nervousness. The questions start running through your mind, “What was I thinking? How long am I going to be gone? What do I need to pack? Can I get Reese Peanut Butter Cups over there?” Let me set your mind at ease. Many people have gone before you and have survived and even thrived, some even staying on for several years.

Dr. David Pollock observed and studied expatriates, both adults and children, as they moved overseas. He is considered one of the leading experts on transition and the flow of care before, during, and after transition. His transitional model is all about building a RAFT. When moving anywhere, but especially cross culturally, the RAFT model will help prepare you for the journey. RAFT is an acronym for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell & Think Destination.

Reconciliation is such a vital part of transition. This is the central log of your RAFT, stabilizing all the others to be added. Although difficult, taking the time to reconcile with family, friends, and colleagues will change your perspective of yourself and the people and place in which you work. Asking for or seeking forgiveness for the things that you have held onto from the past will release you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually as you step into your new home. Getting your relationships right before you leave will spare you the extra baggage that will follow everywhere in the world.

Affirmation allows you the opportunity to tell friends and family how grateful you are to have them in your life and how much they mean to you. It can be a lot of fun to talk with people about the effect they have had on you; remembering celebrations, gifts, notes, advice, and quiet talks. This process can also be hard if sharing your feelings is difficult. As you build your RAFT there will certainly be times of strong emotion and they will come to the surface as you speak thanksgiving over family and friends. A great way to get started is to make a list of all those you need and want to affirm. Beside each name add a note to remind you of the specific event that you want to share with that person. Recognize that you may reach out to each person using a different method. For some of the people on your list, you may write them a hand-written note, for others it may be a phone call, and for those who mean the most to you, it may be a quiet dinner with an intentional face-to-face time to share your heart. However you go about affirming others, enjoy the occasion of letting them know their value.

Farewells are never easy, but a very necessary part of building your RAFT. Without quality goodbyes, it is difficult to say hello on the other side of the journey. Although, we want to remember to say good bye to all the important P’s: People, Places, Pets and Possessions, be sure to stop by your favorite restaurants, parks, and walking trails, remembering also to say good bye to your current home. Often pets cannot join us overseas and as a member of the family, they should definitely get a fond farewell. And finally, possessions- although it would be great to bring all your books and vinyl, there is this thing called weight limit and some precious things have to be left behind. Find time to say good-bye to those things that can’t fit into the suitcase.

Think Destination is the final board in your RAFT and is all about discovering the place you will be moving! In reality you have been finding out about your new home from the time you began the conversation about working overseas. Now it is time to be a bit more intentional; connect with teachers at your school and ask them questions, research using the internet, read books or blogs about the city and country you are moving to, maybe even find a friend to begin language learning. Get excited about the next season. Share your expectations and feelings with friends and family. Talk about your excitement and fears; get your questions answered the best you can. You might even discover that you can find Reese Peanut Butter Cups in your new city!

Kris Crum
Lead Mobilization Recruiter - U.S. Operations
International Schools Consortium

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