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Having lived in three different countries, I’m keenly aware that Singapore is not my home, even though I’ve lived here for 21 years. I was reminded earlier today that I am not the only one who is rootless when a friend and colleague of 11 years shared that they’d be moving at the end of the school year. These feelings of living a nomadic existence shouldn’t surprise me, but they do. With each Singapore American School graduating class, I know that another cohort of students will experience similar feelings as they transition to university and beyond. Some will choose to settle in one country, making it their permanent home. Others may not feel anchored in any particular country, including their country of passport, and choose to live the life of a sojourner.

Author Shoshana Zuboff notes, “It is in the nature of human attachment that every journey sets in motion the search for home; however, we know it’s not always possible, or even desirable, to return to the same patch of earth. Home need not always correspond to a single dwelling or place. We can choose its form and location but not its meaning…home is where we know and where we are known, where we love and are beloved.”

Known, loved, and beloved

What unites us is a connection with those who have shared similar life experiences. I’m reminded of Zuboff’s words as I think of the former SAS educators I’ve had the privilege of serving alongside. I suspect many alumni can recall shared life experiences with these impactful educators, as well as fellow students whom they made sure felt known, loved, and beloved throughout their time studying at SAS.

Not even the physical structures have permanence. As I type these words, significant construction is underway on campus. Within the next few years, new elementary and middle schools will be built. With ongoing renovations, the campus will change, so much so that if you left a few years ago and return to visit, you would not recognise the spaces and places. While these physical changes are welcome, former SAS Superintendent Bob Gross notes, “From its inception in 1956, SAS has focused on creating a vibrant learning environment that is child-centered, international in perspective, engaging, active and critical.”

“What unites us is a connection with those with similar life experiences”

Laws of transition

In the midst of learning, there is constant transition. Dr. Doug Otto, psychologist and international educator, notes in his book Safe Passages that there are Six Laws of Transition:

LAW 1 You have to say a clear “goodbye” in order to say a clear “hello.” We have to grieve well to leave well.

LAW 2 For every connection, there is an equal and opposite connection. For a person to connect with others, that other person must be willing and able to make the connection.

LAW 3 The Transition Team is the Transition Team for the Transition Team. We are all, at some point, moving on.

LAW 4 A person’s role within a school is subject to drift. Arrivers become stayers, and stayers become leavers. Arrivers need to be helped to consider accepting the roles and responsibilities of the stayers when the time comes.

LAW 5 Humans need safe attachments to the community. We all need a place(s) and spaces to belong.

LAW 6 An international school should conceive of itself as a transitional attachment object for its clientele. We need to be intentional in building community in our actions, activities, and architecture.

The international school community is unique, filled with individuals who have experienced multiple transitions and have had to redefine what being at home means. While our physical presence may not be permanent, the connections and memories fostered through friendships at SAS will last a lifetime.

How about you? It’s likely the relationships formed while attending your school mattered, and still do. When was the last time you took a moment to connect with a former classmate, teacher, counselor, or administrator, letting them know of the positive impact they’ve had on your life during your time attending or serving at your school?
I’m fully aware that my time at Singapore American School too will come to pass. I don’t view this with trepidation. Rather, in our remaining years, with gratitude, I intend to bask in the “awe” international education has provided me and our family throughout our international career.

Singapore American School
40 Woodlands St 41, Singapore 738547
Email: sasinfo@sas.edu.sg
Phone: +65 6363 3403