Throughout my childhood, being a US air force military brat, I moved every few years. I found it difficult to find a sense of community and belonging as I created bonds and lost them over and over. When I was younger and in school, I had no choice but to come into contact with other kids and was able to make friends fairly easily. But as I got older, I became wary of getting too close to anyone as they or I might move away at any time. In high school despite my wariness to connect I still was drawn to find a tribe and created some strong connections with an ever rotating group of friends.

I graduated from a small class of 50 kids in a fairly rural part of northern Japan. We all came from different backgrounds, cultures and parts of the world. What we all had in common though, was the fact that our whole worlds were turned upside down and now we were in a foreign country and once again starting over. No matter how different we were, we could still relate to each other on many levels and use our experiences to help each other.

   American kids in Japan! Learning about Hiroshima while on a soccer trip.
Kristina- far left, bottom row

It’s interesting to me as an adult looking back at these relationships, how different of a mind set us military brats had and still have to “civilian” friends I made. Most non-military kids stayed pretty stationary. They didn’t get to see foreign lands and be immersed in different cultures. These things change you, it gives you a totally different perspective on life and people. I’ve found this is the same for expats and immigrants. We see the world through a different lens.

Once I moved to Rotterdam, I started hearing about expat groups. I was immediately interested, it seemed like I could find the same sort of connection as I did with my military brat friends. But as an adult it’s just not that easy, especially when you are self employed. I explored some of the groups but a lot were very inactive or only active online. I wasn’t finding any groups that did much more than have a drink and exchange business cards. There were some local Dutch groups that were interesting, but I was and still am quite intimidated to join a local group because I don’t feel that I speak Dutch well enough.

        There were many expats and groups, but I still felt alone in the crowd.

An Idea Turns into Reality

So like I normally do, if I can’t find what I want, I make it myself. That’s why IWNG was created. I craved genuine connection and support. I didn’t expect much when I started the group, maybe to make a friend or two, perhaps co-work a bit and learn from each other. I got so much more than that! From day one there have been women joining events, volunteering their time and sharing their knowledge in order to help themselves and others. Our group is active and enthusiastic! There is a true spirit of collaboration and empowerment. There is also curiosity and the desire to really get to know each other as people, not just as a face for a business. It has completely changed my experience as an expat to have such a friendly and supportive group that I can turn to when I need help or if I want to share my accomplishments.

         One of our first co-working meet upsand we’re still going strong!!
From left to right: Krati Agarwal, Irene Anggreeni, Kristina W. Kay and Shannon Lim-De Rooy

I strongly believe human connection is vital for well being. The key is making the right connections and fostering those connections in order to help each other grow. In order to make the right connections it’s important to surround yourself by like minded people whose values and vision align with your own. For that reason, I am extending an invitation to all international women and the locals who welcome us, who are on a journey to make their dreams a reality, to join our community, where you will become empowered to thrive, not just survive.

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Kristina Jackson
Founder of IWNG, South Side Vegan and South Side ESL. Kristina has a passion for entrepreneurship, making meaningful connections professionally and personally. She loves to learn new things and help others by sharing her knowledge and skills.

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