Louise Wiles: Hello and welcome to the Thriving Abroad Podcast and Episode 47 with Teru Clavel.
Teru Clavel: Well, I was really fresh as an expat when we moved to Hong Kong in 2006. And I had two kids in diapers you know. So, I just kind of followed the expatriate advice; you just enrol your kids in the local preschool that’s down the street, and I did so, and it was only a few months in when I realized even though they were in a dual language, English Mandarin program, that my children were not going to be learning Mandarin if most of the other students spoke English at home.
Louise Wiles: In this podcast series through great conversations with expats and relocation experts, we discuss how to get the most out of international relocation and living. I’m Louise Wiles, your host for these conversations, a change and transition coach and consultant. I support expats as they create lives and careers they love while living overseas. Through these great conversations, I dig deep into the important topics highlighted in my book, THRIVING ABROAD, the Definitive Guide to professional and personal relocation success. We discuss the challenges and opportunities of international living, and provide insights, ideas and inspiration for creating individual and family success abroad. You’ll find the podcast blog at ThrivingAbroad.com, where you can find the blog for this episode, Episode 47, containing helpful links and tips from our conversation and access to the full transcript and downloadable show notes. You can also register to receive regular podcast news through the podcast newsletter. So on to the subject of today’s podcast: How to find a world class education while living abroad. As a parent, I know how educational decisions can be challenging even in our own country, add in the international perspective, and it gets even more complicated. There has certainly been plenty of soul searching in our household as we’ve moved and had to make new decisions about the best educational choices for our two daughters. Did we always get it right? Well, you probably have to ask my daughters that question. But I do like to think that they’ve genuinely been happy. Educational decisions depend on a whole host of factors. Some specific to our children’s individual needs. Others relating to family values, circumstance, culture, and expectations. In this episode Teru Clavel talks about this and family’s adventure in three countries in Asia, Hong Kong, China and Japan, finished with a move to Palo Alto in the US. And finally, New York, where her story first began. We talk about the decision she made, or they made and why. And they may surprise you. The Asian approach to education, and whether we can learn from it. The challenges that she and her family faced and the positive outcomes they enjoyed. Teru talks about her advice for scoping out a school. And shares her personal turnaround from struggling to thriving in Shanghai. We finish with a call out to the value of an international outlook, and the development of global competencies for our children. I really hope you enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it.
Louise Wiles: Hello, and welcome to the Thriving Abroad Podcast. I’m Louise Wiles, your host for these conversations. And I’m very excited today to be welcoming to this conversation, Teru Clavel. Teru is an education expert, columnist and sought-after public speaker. Since 2010 she has run her own education consulting practice, advising globally minded families on a range of issues that includes; multiple language acquisition, school choice, and how to enroll their children in US universities. Teru spent a decade raising a family in Asia, and has a BA in Asian Studies and an MS in Comparative International Education. She recently returned to live in New York with her family. So Hello, and welcome to the podcast.
Teru: Thank you so much, Louise.
Louise: It’s really great to have you, have you joining us today. And I’m really looking forward to our conversation. Now you have just recently published your book, ‘World Class, One Mother’s Journey Halfway Around the World in Search of the Best Education for her Children’. So, I’m really looking forward to talking to you about your journey, and what you learned through that journey and how it led to the publication of this book, and a bit more about the book later on. So just to set the scene, can you just start by telling us a little bit more about your Asian adventure, and the countries that you lived in – so that we have a bit of context for our conversation for the listeners?
Teru: Sure. So, I was mostly raised in and around the New York, Connecticut Tri State Area. And that includes New Jersey for three. And in 2006, I had two children at that point. And they were two and just under six months old. So, my husband came home early one day from work. And of course, I thought he’d been sacked. But actually, the opportunity came up for us move to Hong Kong, and that was in 2006. So off we went, I think as most expatriates do when they’re given an overseas assignment. And we were in Hong Kong from 2006 until 2010.
And then in Shanghai from 2010, until 12. Then we went to Tokyo, from 2012 until 16. And then we came back to the United States, and not to New York, but to Palo Alto, California, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley, and then finally returned back home to New York City last summer. So that’s 2018.
Louise: Right – Well, quite a journey there, quite a lot of change and transition. And so I’m just interested, before we get into the book, I know you grew up in New York, daughter of a Japanese immigrant, which meant your own your upbringing was a mix, I guess the two very different cultures and environments, education I guess was New York, based in America, New York, and that your parents, your mother was Japanese. I’m just wondering how that mixed cultural upbringing prepared you for your Asian adventure.
Teru: So, like you mentioned, my home culture and language was actually Japanese. And on the outside, when I went to school, the language was English. And the culture was very American. And I talk about this in the introduction of World Class, because I talk about how pop culture was really informative to my understanding of American culture. So, I actually title every chapter in my book after a popular TV show of the from the 60s, 70s and 80s, actually. And so, although I would like to think I would have been very prepared to both live and educate my children overseas in Asia, because of my upbringing, it was still, there was a there was a lot of culture shock involved. I did spend summers in Japan growing up, my family lived there. And I even went to school in Japan, during Elementary School in, in upper elementary. And even in college, I was an East Asian Studies major, and there’s nothing like actually living in the foreign country, though. And, you know, much to my dismay, to my surprise, there are, you know, pretty obvious differences between Hong Kong and Tokyo, you know, and Hong Kong and Shanghai and Tokyo. And also going as an adult with three children, you deal with different, you know, cultural struggles and responsibilities than you would if you’re a student, or you know, a child without responsibilities, why don’t I put it. But I have to say that upbringing definitely informed my kind of get up and go attitude where in 2006, when the opportunity arose for us to move to Hong Kong. I really didn’t hesitate. It was like, of course, that’s natural. Of course, we going to go overseas and raise our children because I want my children to have kind of an international exposure, similar to the one I’d had growing up.
Louise: Great. Yes. And I can imagine that that was a motivator for you as a parent and wanting that global perspective for your children. So, I know, so you moved to Hong Kong? And yeah, good times, bad times. Everyone talks about the expat roller coaster. I’m interested to know what did you find were the biggest challenges you faced in raising your kids in first Hong Kong, then Shanghai and then in Tokyo?
Teru: Well, I was really fresh as an expat when we moved to Hong Kong in 2006. And I had two kids in diapers, you know, so I just kind of followed the expatriate advice, you just enro;l your kids in the local preschool that’s down the street, and I did so and it was only a few months in when I realized even though they were in a dual language, English/Mandarin program, that my children, were not going to be learning Mandarin, if most of the other students spoke English at home. And only an hour and a half of the three-hour program was going to be in Mandarin. So, I really started evaluating or re-evaluating my educational choices for my children. And that was when we started looking into the public schools, and there was a public magnet school where they only spoke in Mandarin. So, the challenge then really became Wow, everybody here speaks a language that I can’t speak, and culturally too, they’re teaching in a way that I’m not familiar with at all. And you know, that’s the common immigrant really experience. And that was probably the biggest challenge the language. And that continued when we were in Shanghai as well, not so much when we arrived in Tokyo because Japanese is my first language. But I speak a very colloquial Japanese, not so much the honorifics that’s required in let’s say, a workplace or when you’re speaking in a school to teachers, so that definitely needed some brushing up. But something else I would say was really different was in China, when we lived there, there was still a one child only policy. And there, I showed up with three children, because in 2009, I had our third child, Victoria. And there I am, I juggle three children in two different schools, whereas most of the only children had basically two sets of grandparents and instead of parents taking care of one child, so that was really, really challenging. And similarly, in Japan, with the declining birth rate, it’s just over one child per female, it wasn’t so different. So that was that was that was challenging, for sure. And then the last thing I would say is, you know, the cultural differences definitely stood out. Where, you know, for instance, and I tell this story and World Class where I misinterpreted practices, such as my son was kept late in first grade after school. And I thought, you know, common understanding in the US is typically, they’re in some kind of disciplinary trouble. There’s some kind of a detention, he was kept in class with his math teacher, because he just didn’t pass the day’s exam, which required him to get a 95%. And instead of appreciating, which I then came to understand thereafter, that the teachers are so dedicated that he needed to master the content that he hadn’t that day, I thought he was getting into trouble. So those are some cultural nuances that I didn’t practice – that I didn’t really understand.
Louise: Yeah, yeah. And so I must admit, one of the early on, as I was reading the book and you were describing you know the challenge in Hong Kong with the language and recognition that they could, your children wouldn’t learn Mandarin, if they stayed in there in the original school. And that really hit home to me, because I have one daughter who did learn we lived in Portugal, she learned Portuguese through school, my youngest didn’t, because of the school that we sent her to, and I felt lazy about that ever since. And really notice the difference in their, you know they both love languages, so they do have that richness, but one speaks, and the other doesn’t, Portuguese quite fluently. So, I, I totally can see that. And I think as a parent, you initially often think the challenge for the child is going to be, you know, huge, and it’s not fair to put that level of pressure. But as a young, young children really just do absorb languages in a way that perhaps as adults, we don’t appreciate. It really is the time to expose them, I think,
Teru: Yeah, and they don’t, they really don’t know any different. But what ends up happening, I think, too, and I’m sure we’ll talk about this further, but as your child gets older, you know, what sacrifices are you making? Because there are plenty of studies that show that you’re not going to have the same number of vocabulary words, you know, in both languages, compared to if you just studied in one or spoke just one languages, one language rather, or, you know, as you you get older in elementary and middle school, you know, how much are you preparing, or not? for whatever, you know, high school or university, you may want your child to be attending as well. So – and then, you know, how are you supporting that at home? These are things that you have to that you, as a parent really have to figure out? As they grow up?
Louise: Yeah. And so that was kind of one learning that came from those challenges was there – and I guess, for you, the other was the cultural differences and recognizing that some behavior that you would interpret in one way, given your US centric cultural mirror, but um, would perhaps be interpreted in a different way, given the culture in and that was in, in Shanghai talking about your son being kept in school, and you’re assuming it was a detention?
Teru: Sure, I think you know, that I think what I learned was, you have to be so resourceful. And there were so many times I didn’t know what was going on what was happening, and you have to find the people who will be supporting you. And when we lived in Shanghai, for example, there was no communication via smartphone or online platform, it was all pieces of paper, that will come home that were just filled, you know, with with tons of Chinese that I couldn’t read. So at that point, right, and I had three of them, you know, three kids. And it was literally piles, and piles and piles of paper. And oftentimes, by the time they were crumpled up into the bottom of their knapsack, it was just, you know, hard enough to iron out. But I hired a college student who lived down the street from us who came after school a few times a week and would literally sit down with me and translate for me, everything I needed to know. And, you know, she’s a college student, so I didn’t pay her that much. But she also loved coming because she was able to practice or English. So that’s, that was one example of, of just finding as many resources as possible. And I think that, you know, when we were in Shanghai, there weren’t that many people who sent their children to the local public schools. And there were a handful, and you kind of have to find your people so that you can support each other and what it is you’re trying to do, you do have similar challenges. And part of that is OK, so if they’re going to school in Mandarin every day, how are they learning English? So, you create, you know, reading groups, intentional parties, and gathering so that they can socialize and speak English.
Teru: Yeah, and the other thing, yeah, and the other thing, I mean, it forces you to really understand your values. And that’s something that I talked about in World Class. And, and I talk about what is the purpose of an education because we made these really intentional decisions to send our children to local public schools. And that was, that was our value. It was okay, we’re in a foreign country. But if you can, learn the language, learn the culture, and meet the people that are part of the local community. But that’s not necessarily a value that everyone would share, because it does require a different level of investment in educating your children.
Louise: Yeah, yeah. And I guess it also depends on the locations. And I mean, I know you work hard to get your children into the best local schools. So, I guess it depends where you’re located in the world and what is available.
Teru: I mean, I, when I was in Japan, I was an education journalist, and I interviewed several Japanese students who went overseas as children because of one of their parents employment. And they weren’t, there weren’t any Japanese schools in those locations. So even though they didn’t speak, let’s say a word of English, they had to go to an English – speaking international school. So, then they suddenly had the local language, they had the Japanese at home, and then they had English, which was challenging for on many levels.
Louise: Yeah, no, I can imagine that. So um, we know that educational and parenting styles are very different in Asia versus more Western countries. So, I mean, you talked a bit about the aspects of this Asian system that you, that well, the outcome, I guess, in terms of developing that cultural understanding, and that language understanding. But what else about the Asian system did you most value? And how do you think we in the West can learn from their systems and improve our own?
Teru: So, there was, there were so many things I should say, that were so I opening to me, one of them was this level of mastery that I saw, in Shanghai, in the Shanghai classroom, as well as in Tokyo. And one example is when I just gave where you know, that the students were expected in his classroom to get a 95% or higher, to move on to the next, to move on to the next level. And, it’s kind of a common practice in the US that even if you don’t master the lesson, you know, from that week or the previous week, you can still move on to the next level. And in Shanghai, that’s almost impossible to do, because the teachers will stay with you until as long as it takes for you to master that content. And I would also say this, this community, this more, more collective well-being that is practiced in Japan was beautiful, that I didn’t see in, in my Western classrooms growing up. So, the kids in Japan, you know, they take care of their own classrooms there are no janitors, they have their own rags, they mop, they clean the bathrooms, they serve one another lunch, they clean up after themselves. And you know, it humbles you. But it also shows you there’s something bigger than yourself, you’re taking, you’re taking care of the classroom, not just for yourself, not just your own desk, your chair, your belongings, but everybody else. And that was, that was really beautiful. And another thing that I thought was a really striking difference was the parent involvement. And, you know, I think in the West, we often hear about, whether it be the Quahog ones or the cram schools in Japan, or the super aspirational parents in China trying to get their children to learn English and go on to US University. But it’s more, you know, there’s the education is looked as the gateway to opportunity. And in these countries, it is, I would say, much more meritocratic than it is in the United States, where you know, in the US, you kind of have to disaggregate for how a student got into university – were they a legacy, was their contribution, was there a connection with an athlete? Right, in some US universities, if your parents went to, you know, XYZ school, then you have a 50% higher chance of being accepted yourself, whereas that doesn’t happen in some of these countries. So, the parents really roll up their sleeves, and will supplement, support their kid’s education, no matter what it takes. And in the West, there’s kind of a frowned upon practice of, you know, these kids go to a math cram school after school, or they’re learning high level physics from a tutor. And whereas in a lot of these Asian countries, it’s just common practice, because that’s the only way they see these children becoming self-sufficient adults that can contribute to the greater society.
Louise: Hmm, yeah, I can see parallels to the UK in that as well – and some current debate at the moment completely about yes, university you know access to university, and depending on where you’ve been to school rather than, yeah, necessarily what you’ve achieved. Although there is a whole big debate around that, which probably isn’t the focus of today’s conversation, but, yes, there’s some really strong differences that – and one thing that I kind of, listening to that, and you talking about as a collective community in, in that was in Tokyo. I guess that comes that comes from a very collective society as well, culturally. And I just, that would be such a lovely thing to nurture in the UK, I could imagine or in the States, as you say, but then I also wonder how that might happen, given the different cultural dimensions?
Teru: Yes, I know, I think there’s so much when we talk about capitalism and individuality and so often, and I don’t want to exaggerate this too much, but often, we prioritize that, over the collective well-being right. So, you know, often you hear you know, I, I dropped a metro card, or I dropped my credit card somewhere. And then you know, you remember, oh, or you figure this out a minute later, you go back to where you may have dropped it, and it’s gone. You forget something in the airplane, you run back, and it’s already gone. And in Japan, there are so many stories about that just doesn’t happen. I tell this story, how one morning, I went out for a run, and I dropped my residency card. And that’s kind of like your passport. And I didn’t panic for a second, it’s almost amusing. I just said, you know, it’ll show up in my mailbox within a week. And sure enough, it did. Someone just returned it to my home. And there’s so many stories like that, because you’re looking out for the greater good, and that’s true in the classroom. And, and you know, and frankly, and we can do a better job in the West, we can have our children contribute more to just household chores, that’s the easiest thing. It’s within our household, we are contributing to the family. And, I think you know, in the West in the classrooms too, in the West, we could do a much better job of having our students take care of each other.
Louise: Yes, I can, I can definitely relate or understand the value and see the value that that would create in schools and, and think to myself of schools, where I know that’s happening to a certain extent, but you know, Yeah, there’s work to be done, for sure. I know a lot of people listening today will be expats – or will be thinking about becoming expats and considering what educational choices they have for their children. And some will be supported financially by their organizations and able to fund private schools, international schools, and others will, will have to look to the state systems in the countries that they’re moving to. So, can you provide some recommendations for them about how they might scope out a school because I know in your book, you talk about how you scoped out schools? And I know, you’ve got lots to share on that subject.
Teru: Sure. And I feel like, I was a professional scoper/outer so many times because I had these kids and I had to do in these foreign cultures and countries. And we had, you know, and I, they were at different stages of their development and language acquisition. And, you know, whether public or private I mean, these are, like you just mentioned, I mean, there are financial constraints, right. And that can be a huge barrier, because even depending on the city, international schools and some cities are twice that of those in other cities. And not all companies are paying that bill these days. And so there’s language acquisitions, issues. There’s, what is the path that you want to have your child take, you know, at what age, so you’re already thinking about whether they’re going to go to university in your in your home country, and what are the requirements to be able to apply to those? Or if they’re really young, you know, how are they? How are they making friends? Who is their community? What are their influencers? Can you support it at home? What is your ongoing school, and this whole notion to of the third culture kid in making those decisions? It’s, I remember when it but before we left for Hong Kong, a friend of mine handed me three books at a going away party on third culture, kids, and at the time, I didn’t know what that was. And I was like, ah, they think I’m going to raise an alien. You know, I was like, really offended, because I just didn’t understand what that concept was. But you know, it’s later, it’s been intentional. Okay. So, you know, you have your home culture, you have your school culture. And then, the third culture is that expatriate culture, really. So, it’s, you know, navigating that. Okay, so more specifically, and in World Class, I have what I call a text box. Specifically, on page 33, of World Class, it’s talking about how to scope out a school, and things that I think are important to think about are, whether public or private or international. It’s, what are the teacher’s backgrounds, and how transient is the community, both the teachers and the students, because international schools tend to be much more so, than the new local schools. And how many students are there in a class per teacher, and that’s overwhelming. For instance, in Shanghai, and Tokyo, you could have one teacher 35 to 45 kids in a classroom, and oftentimes, at least in the US, you know, we strive for one teacher for 12 to 15 kids in a class. And, it’s also you know, where your children are, are they used to having one teacher for 12 children? Or they used to having 35? Kids? How will it affect them? Maybe they don’t know any better because they’re too young. Or maybe that would be shocking to them because they came from a smaller environment? What’s the daily routine and schedule? And what is the curriculum? Are there certain things that they will or will not be learning that are important to you? And what are the behavioral and academic expectations? What electives may or may not be offered? Is there a second language? And what kind of discipline is expected? I mean, I think a lot of people would be surprised that my children pretty much sat still in their Shanghai and Tokyo classrooms at desks where they were seated in rows and columns for most of the day, you know, there wasn’t like a library nook, there wasn’t a sofa in the room, there wasn’t a carpet where you can relax and read. It was, you sat at your desk all day long. And, you know, for a lot of families, what kind of interventions are available? not only for those who may be advanced academically, but those who may need a little more support if they have, in the US it would be an IEP or some kind of individualized learning plan. And then the homework, you know, homework is a hot topic. I feel like internationally, you know, how much homework is offered, and are parents expected to help with that homework? I’ll just give you a few more, because I could probably talk about this ad nauseam. But, you know, are there extended hours after school? Do you need that? Do you work? Does your partner work? And this is an important one, I think for international schools, is the school accredited by a larger organization? Because there are plenty ‘for profit schools’ that aren’t accredited, so they have a lot more freedom, but then are they meeting your standards? And how does a school communicate with you? You know, in Shanghai, that was very difficult for me, because I couldn’t read all the notices coming home until I until I hired the college helper. And I would say, you know, how do kids get to and from school? How much technology is in the classroom? Because when we were in Asia, there’s no technology except the light switch on the wall. You know, whereas a lot of Western classrooms, you know, for coming from the US, for example, and you’re putting your child in some of these classrooms overseas, there’s no iPad, there’s no computer. So, you know, those are those are some of the important things. I mean, there are many, many more. But those are the ones that are probably highlight.
Louise: Brilliant, brilliant. Well, that is really helpful. And anyone who wants to read more, go and buy the book – and go to page 33. I love your point about a transient community, because that’s often a point expats talk about in relation to international schools and the challenge for children, you know, that there is a, you know, a change over every academic year as people go, and people come. And that can be quite a challenging thing to cope with as an international child, saying goodbye every year. Yeah, but I mean obviously, lots more to consider there as well. I think probably to say that you personally stepped out of your comfort zone when moving to Shanghai is perhaps a massive understatement because of the way you chose to live that experience. And at the end of chapter three, you said that, though your children were thriving, you felt you were falling apart, inside, but then in chapter six, you say that Shanghai actually toughened you up. So, I’m assuming there was a silver lining there? I’m intrigued to know what was yours? What was it that you know? Yeah, you struggled at first but, you know looking back on that, Shanghai was very positive.
Teru: I’ll give a little context to that too. Because when we live in Hong Kong, although we lived more locally. Someone said to me, at some point, when we got to Shanghai, Hong Kong is expats for beginners. It’s Asia, 101, you know, and it was one of these things where we moved to Shanghai, I felt like I had this. I had this need to detox from my Hong Kong lifestyle. And so, when we got to Shanghai, we lived in an ex-communist tenement in an old lane. On the outside our house, I mean, there were, I felt like there were hundreds of wires attached right above our door, there were you know, every wire was exposed, and we didn’t have hot water. Much of the time, we lived with cockroaches and termites and rats, and our house was infested at times. Broadband was a gift when we got – kind of thing. And it was, it was this, this necessary detox from a much more luxurious Hong Kong lifestyle. And it was really hard for me, it was, you know, there were times when you would say, Okay, I’m going to go to the grocery store today. And in the US, you’d say, okay, so I have 10 things to do. You don’t really think much of the grocery shopping. But the joke in Shanghai seemed to be, okay, well, if you have a list of 10 things to do, and you get through one of them that day, that’s a successful day. And I mean, you know, and there were times, and this is, you know, 2010. So, it has changed significantly since then. But there were times I would go to the store, and then you’d want to get ice cream, like what a Western luxury is like, Oh my gosh, amazing. And then you’d go to the Haagen Das thing and it’s locked up. And then you’d have to get the somebody to communicate, you know, to open up the locked box, and then you’d buy it, and then you come home, and it is half eaten. And you’re going, Okay, so that didn’t really turn out alright, you know, and it’s, you know, like all day, you’re looking forward to having ice cream after dinner, you know. And so, it just, it felt like everything, everything was a challenge. And one of the lowest points I can say was when my son, my middle one, gets very high fevers, and he will get 106. And then it will go down in 106. And you know, being in a in a kind of a developing country is hard enough. But when you can’t communicate kind of medical terms with anyone, it’s even more challenging. And anyway, I picked him up one day from school and he comes home, he collapses, he’s, he’s barely conscious. And he has 106 fever and I rush him, I’m literally carrying him, and I take him to the hospital, and I can’t communicate, they’re drawing blood from him. And, I’m using my translator app as well as it works. You know, when there’s a great China firewall that blocks Google. And basically, they gave me the blood test results. And then they get some medical this huge, I don’t know how many, it felt like a, a tome, it felt like it had thousands of pages. And they point to a word, and they say, your son has leukaemia. And you know, and this is one of these things where, I’m all alone, I have two kids at home. My five-year-old has just been diagnosed with leukaemia, and you don’t know what to do. They put him in ICU, he’s on all these drips, I’m trying to communicate with my paediatrician in the US. And that’s, you know, and you feel I mean, if I were in the US, I would feel helpless. But there is a public hospital in Shanghai. And I don’t even know what they’re putting in my kid. And all I know is that he has a life- threatening disease. And, so it really, it felt like I was just devastated by the end of that year. But then, you know, in as many expatriates do, we came back to the US over that summer between our two years there. And it was one of these things where I just said, Okay, I have to buck up, and I have to own this, and my kids are doing so well. You can do well, too. And you know, and I just said to me that point, it was, you know, there’s nothing more important than how well my kids are doing. So, I went back to Shanghai kind of renewed with a new attitude. And that’s when I enrolled in my: Masters of Science Program in Comparative International Education. And, it really toughened me up. I mean, there, I was thinking until that point, I’m a New Yorker, I can handle anything, you know, Frank Sinatra’s; “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”. And no, I kept making this joke to myself, if you if you can make it in Shanghai, you can make it anywhere. You know, but then finally, and I didn’t write about this in my book, but this there was just like a turning point for me, where, when we lived in Shanghai, I thought you either had to be a daredevil or a native Shanghainese to drive in Shanghai because people would drive on the sidewalks, they drive the wrong way, they would go through red lights going, you know, 40 miles per hour. And it was it was scary – frankly, And I’m walking my oldest to school, we’re crossing the street. It’s the same street you across every day. And this guy runs his red light. And he’s basically, you know, going to hit us. And it for the you know, and it was this turning point for me, because instead of moving, I kicked his headlight. And it was like, of course, I’m so naive, right? I mean, headlights are really hard. So, there I am I think I’ve broken my foot, like nothing has happened to his headlight. I have a child next to me who’s basically in tears because his mother went crazy. But it was kind of like a turning point where I said, you know, whatever, I can do this, I’m going to fight you, you know. And the guy, of course, got, you know, got out of his car and started chasing after me, my son to the gate of the school, every day thereafter – but it was kind of this, I can do this. And I felt so empowered to the point where when we left, and we’re going to the airport on the way to Tokyo, I was crying. I didn’t let my kids see it. But I’m looking out the window and tears are streaming down my face, because it was like, this place challenged me, and I overcame it. And I love who I became. And I saw a part of the world that is, you know, everybody was talking about China’s the next big story. And there’s so much coming out of this country. And it was the Wild, Wild, Wild Wild West. And, and I and it was like it – it was a toughness I didn’t know I had, and it’s a toughness, toughness that I still carry with me today.
Louise: Oh, fantastic. So that’s a lovely story. And actually, we should just finish by saying that your son was actually fine. wasn’t he, he didn’t have leukaemia? Just in case anyone’s worrying, he was totally fine.
Teru: Yes. I’m sorry. So I probably should apologize to him today when I go home.
Louise: Fantastic. So, I think for anyone listening, that is such a lovely lesson that you know resilience and digging deep, because often we have it within us, we just need to find it. And these challenges actually help us to find it too. Yeah. So, my final question focuses on the development of global competence. And you refer to the concept of third culture kids, and the fact that they are children who live between cultures, their parents, the location in which they’re living, perhaps and their educational cultures. And thinking about global competence. What do you believe contributes to it? And why is it so important, in your opinion? And how can we nurture this in our own children?
Teru: Something that I love thinking about is, especially in today’s political climate, which we don’t have to have a political conversation right now. But it’s even more important, I feel like to teach our children about the significance of globalization and how nothing can really happen in our lives without that international cooperation and collaboration. And showing our children what that means in their day to day to day lives. You know, a lot of countries and economies right now are growing more nationalistic. But the reality is, you know, if they use a smartphone, there, you know, you can do a web search. And this is really interesting how many different places were involved in the research, development, manufacturing, marketing of that smartphone, because it’s in the hundreds, you know, you can’t just say, okay, we’re going to make this in the United States, or just in the UK, it just doesn’t happen. And it’s really important for, so I think about the globally competent person as having knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes, and then values to make the world a better place, to solve globally relevant problems. Not just for today, but for the, you know, for the future. And it’s not, of course, there’s climate change and poverty and sustainability, and so many issues that we have to solve as a world. But for your children, those are kind of esoteric terms, you know, depending on their age, but when they’re really young, but you know, things like reading books, and that in the topics that you that you can talk about when you read books, and you can look at it from a much more international perspective, you can read fables from other countries, listening to music, I mean, music is, I mean, granted, Western media does have so much power globally. But you know, there are plenty of popular songs in different languages from all over the world that are fun and great to listen to. And you can even look at where the band members came from. You know, it’s such a multicultural world we live in, that we don’t really pull apart for our children. Something that actually drives me crazy, as a lot of schools have these kind of international days, and it’s usually just about the food. And, you know, and I think we’re doing our children such a disservice, because, you know, Chinese is more than dumplings, or Japan is more than sushi, you know. And there’s such an opportunity to do like a deep dive anthropological study on the history, the economy, the people, the practices, the language, and what all of that means, it’s not International Day should be so much more than about the food. I mean, we can go to museums, you can go to shows, festivals, you can look in your community, the TV shows, there’s just so many ways to look at our diversity and in the local context too, I mean, our neighbours aren’t all like us. And chances are a lot of our neighbours speak a different language at home. So, it really, you can start this kind of global competence and understanding by looking around your own community. And then, and you know, and literally go global, take your kids overseas, if you can, as often as possible and appreciate the diversity that our world has to offer. Because, you know, we wouldn’t have medicine without International collaboration, you know,
Louise: Well we wouldn’t have clothes, actually I was just thinking as you, we wouldn’t even have the clothes we’re wearing without international collaboration. And food, food and so on.
Teru: Yeah, And I had to say something that I appreciate so much about the UK education is you learn geography. And the US is, I mean, you can make so many jokes about how we’re appallingly behind in that. But just having a world map up on a wall is a great way to just say, Okay, look, this is this is what it’s all about. We’re people from all different places. And I think underneath it all, what’s so important is that it grows in understanding and empathy and compassion for kind of ‘the other’, you know, which is, which is maybe more of an academic term, but, but appreciating people have different plights. We’re all struggling at different times, and, with different cultural nuances. But, you know, we shouldn’t be so judgmental, and so individualistic. We have to appreciate everybody’s contributions, because everybody has multiple contributions, of course.
Louise: Yeah – that’s lovely. So, I kind of hear two strands there, there is the kind of – yeah, looking outwards and thinking about the global world and understanding others in terms of other nationalities and cultures, but actually also bringing that lesson back to your immediate community and recognizing diversity in that too, not necessarily related to nationality or different cultures, but just different ways of being and appreciating that that’s fine, too. So yes – lovely, lovely. Great. Well, we’ve come to, I could carry on talking all day actually on this subject there was so much that was so rich in your book. But really, we need to bring the conversation to a close. So, if people would like to get a hold of your book, I think they just go to Amazon don’t they, or do you have a somewhere else you’d like to send them local booksellers, but I believe in the UK, you can download the Kindle, and you can order on Amazon.
Louise: Yeah, you definitely can. And if they would like to get in touch with you, where should they go?
Teru: I have a website. It’s Teru Clavel, my first and last name.com, and I’m on social media. I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram. And I have a Simon and Schuster author page. But I think if you google me, you’ll find me and I love having discussions with people – dissenting opinions, comments, thoughts, discussions. I have a lot of sympathy for the ups and downs of the expatriate experience, or just growing and going out of your comfort zone and exploring, exploring new areas, and I entertain that conversation. So please get a hold of me.
Louise: Brilliant, brilliant. Well, thank you very much for your time today and for sharing your experiences and insights and learning with us today.
Teru: Thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure, Louise, thank you for having me.
Louise: You’re very welcome. Bye bye.
Well what a really great conversation, and I hope that you get some great value from the content today. And please come and share your reactions and insights on the Thriving Abroad Facebook Page, or in the Thriving Abroad closed Facebook group. I’ve posted a short video asking a few questions that relate to the podcast today, and I’d really love to hear your responses and for us to get a conversation going. That’s all for today. To access the show notes you go to www dot Thriving Abroad.com and select podcast 47. You’ll find all the links mentioned in the show there were some follow up action questions resulting from today’s conversation. That’s the coach in me. I’ll be back soon with the next instalment. If I can help you in the meantime to make sense of your expat journey. Then please reach out to me Louise at Louisewiles.com. Wherever this podcast finds you in the world I wish you a really great week. Bye, bye for now.