Cheryl Brown of The International School of Muscat in Oman and Brooke Fezler of the International School of Barcelona, along with the support of their dedicated and hardworking taskforce, once again organized a fabulous conference of the International School Counselors Association (ISCA) in Bangkok, Thailand last March.

Over 200 school counselors representing over 105 international schools converged for 3 days to network, learn from one another, share ideas, and talk about how to strengthen their own school counseling programs.

Michelle and Becky enjoy attending this annual conference because it gives them the opportunity to listen to and learn from counselors serving in schools around the world as well as share some of their own expertise and experience with others. Coming from the world of international schools in their earlier lives, this conference is also an opportunity for Becky and Michelle to reconnect with their own experiences as veteran expats.

Ruth and Becky feeling happy after their presentation at ISCA

Keynote speaker, Ruth Van Reken, noted speaker and author of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, helped to set the tone of the conference in her opening address by talking about the importance of understanding how profoundly the experience of growing up internationally impacts the lives of students in both positive and negative ways. Ruth then led seven breakout sessions throughout the remaining conference in order to take some deep dives into TCK issues.

Becky and Michelle as Co-Presenters

Ruth and Becky also co-presented on “The Importance of Story for Cross-Cultural Kids”, and they emphasized how story is important for a deeper understanding of some of the academic, social, and mental health issues that students carry with them. They then led the counselor audience through some activities to help them think of new ways and best practices to hear and effectively use the hidden stories of their students.

Michelle and Lynn presented on supporting adopted kids in international schools

Michelle also co-presented with Lynn Kogelmann, a school counselor from The International School of Tanganyika in Tanzania on “Supporting Children of Adoption in International School Settings”. There is surprisingly almost no research that explores the effect of multiple moves, international school environments, being a TCK, AND being an adopted child. Their fascinating session used brain research and the neuro-sequential model to further explore the impact of adoption on TCKs. The presence of international school counselors in the audience who are also parents of adopted children made the discussion that much richer and more relevant.

Other presentations by counselors explored topics such as self-harming behaviors, suicide risk, anxiety and depression, trauma-informed schools, building resiliency and more. The one frustrating reality of conferences is that there is no way one can attend all interesting and informative sessions.

Being in Bangkok, albeit for work, also gave Michelle and Becky the opportunity to see a new part of the world. Woven into the work part of the trip were also stolen moments to explore and enjoy being in a new city. The conference gets better with each passing year, and this year’s conference in Bangkok was no exception. We are already looking forward to next year!


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