It’s not easy leaving your country for another as Houstonian Theresa Sewell quickly discovered.
“My husband came home and said we had this marvelous oppoprtunity to move abroad for three years. So, thinking that we’re bright people we can figure this out. We moved to Italy with absolutely NO real preparation for moving abroad. And once I was there, I realized that many of the people that I met, Americans who were there, had actually had some preparation to move abroad. More understanding of the process of the international move, what kind of expectations there were for the whole family in a move, adjustment issues and then preparation for the culture and the history of the country itself. So, when we moved back, I became very much involved in the field of intercultural training and working with other people in similar situations.”
She says spouses, usually wives, often suffer because of the huge adjustment.
“It’s the non-working person who we say is faced with the empty calendar syndrome. They may have been a professional in the U.S., but when they move abroad, they’re not working. Their whole support network is not there so, the adjustment issue is always on the non-working spouse.”
Sewell and Jackie Verity are two of the professionals taking part in the annual Families in Global Transition conference. Verity is an expert at getting people through the ups and downs of culture shock and job search transition. But sometimes she says the transition may need to be adressed with referrals to counselors, psychological social workers or psychiatrists since so much money is invested by a company on its employee.
“The failure of an assignment…say, the spouse is not happy, wants to go back to the home country. It could be hundreds of thousands of dollars that the company is going to lose because that assignment has failed and they have to repatriate..”
Sewell and Verity represent a cottage industry in which expats or former expats specialize in helping expatriate families settle here or abroad with as little stress as possible.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to have started working with somebody who’s feeling disoriented, frustrated
and probably resentful about the fact that they moved here. It’s a great feeling when you help them land something that they find really meaningful and satisfying.”
For more information on the conference go to KUHF-dot-org.
Pat Hernandez, Houston Public Radio News.