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Building a Raft to Navigate Life’s Changing Waters

Spring has arrived here in Bulgaria. It is now warm enough that my Pacific Northwest/Alaskan self regularly feels like I am melting. This also means that it is a time when our school community gets ready to say farewell to each other either for the summer or longer. It is a time filled with lots of changes.

I have a love of whitewater rafting. My husband proposed to me on a 30 day trip rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The trip was one of the single most thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life thus far. For much of that trip, there is flat water that is calm and easy to float through even on an air-filled camping pad. However, at other times, you will find water that is completely terrifying and you want a quality self-bailing raft and your possessions well strapped down. It is like this with life transitions. Sometimes they are smooth and then there is something that throws you for a loop. Preparation is key for supporting yourself and loved ones. It is important to build yourself a solid R.A.F.T. when preparing for any transition.

Dr. David Pollack who studied the culture of expats developed the R.A.F.T. model for transitions. R.A.F.T. stands for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell & Think Destination. Reconciliation is about finding closure with any broken or damaged relationships. Affirmation is about thanking those who have been a supportive part of your life. Farewells include saying goodbye to the people, places, and possessions you will miss. Lastly, Think Destination is getting yourself ready and learning about your new home, life experience, etc. Some great questions to help walk your family through each of these steps were developed by counseling colleagues from the International School of Dakar.

There are many transitions we go through in life, especially in the international school community. Some seem big and some small. However, even the small ones need preparation to support the transition and inevitable rapid around the bend. While I am not leaving AAS, I will be moving into a new position next year as the high school social/emotional support counselor. David Stephenson will be focusing his work with students on college and career counseling. Ever since I made the decision to move from the elementary school after six years, I have felt like I am back in the Lava Falls rapid even though I will continue to see the returning elementary students, families, and colleagues with whom I have worked. I am excited about new challenges and working with some of the students who were in elementary when I started here, but I also struggle stepping back from the elementary community I have known.

I am currently working at building my own raft to support me through this seemingly small transition. I would like to close by working on my raft’s “A” and say a huge thank you to everyone in our elementary community who has supported me in my work as elementary counselor. I also want to say an enthusiastic hello to our high school community as I start working on the “T” piece.

If you need any extra support in building your raft for an upcoming transition, please do not hesitate to reach out to any member of our counseling team – Lindsey Moore, Matt Johnson, David Stephenson, or Kevin Phair.

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