RAFT – the transition acronym

27 May

Last week we had our annual Transitions Dinner. In the past it’s been for seniors and their families; this year we opened it up to all teens who were leaving, along with their families. Three guest speakers shared about their own TCK transitions and advice for other TCKs.  Then, as every year, I explained the RAFT acronym.

The RAFT acronym for transitions was developed by Dr. David Pollock. It has been widely quoted all over the place, especially in reference to TCK transitions. This is the “Beijing edition” I use with students here.

Leaving Beijing and heading back to your home country isn’t always easy. You are probably feeling a ton of different emotions. There is a simple acronym to remember that will help you make a big transition: RAFT. Using this acronym isn’t a one step solution. But, if you actually use it, it can help you immensely with getting settled back home. The four words in RAFT are:

reconciliation        affirmation        farewell        transition


First things first: do you have any broken relationships? Bad feelings with anybody? Something you need to apologize to someone for? Do it. Do not look at this time as “Ahh, I am leaving I can just leave it and not ever worry about it again!” Don’t leave broken relationships. You will regret it later. Try to reconcile any bad blood or hurt feelings that might be between you and someone here.


Is there anyone that has done something for you? Best friends? Teachers? Mentors? Coaches? Anyone that has been there for you? Make sure they know it. It’s easy to forget to encourage or say thank you to people who mean a lot. We usually do life thinking that they know how much they mean to us. We tell other people about them and how much they mean, but never really tell them to their face. Tell them. Thank them.


Say good-bye: not just to people, but also places. Living here for awhile you have places you like, maybe even places you haven’t bee to yet and need to go to. Say good-bye to your favorite restaurants, waiters or waitresses, DVD guy, or guard. Say good-bye to that place you always go to on Sundays or maybe even the Great Wall. It helps to go one last time to these places and people that mean something to you and say good-bye. Or in Chinese, “until the next time I see you.”


This is a hard one. You have packed everything up, crammed in as many minutes as you could with those people that mean a lot to you, and you head home. You will get there, you will unpack your bags, and you will have moved. There is no question about where you are physically, but emotionally and mentally, where are you? This last step is more for your heart and mind. Physically you will have all your stuff with you and in your new place, but your emotions and mind can try to live back in  Beijing for awhile and it can take a while to catch up. Transition means actually packing those up as well. It can be easy to try to live back here in Beijing through Skype, SMS, and Facebook and not really BE in your new place. The problem is three months later you will find yourself without very many friends or people that you hang out with because all your time is spent talking with people here in Beijing. Communication is great, but make sure when you leave Beijing you are heading to your new place with a goal of meeting new people there, and not trying to live where you were.


Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs


Tags: , , ,

4 responses to “RAFT – the transition acronym

  1. Evelyn Sun

    May 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you for posting this !! it is helpful not only for students . good reminder for the whole family in transition :)

    blessings to you!

  2. Melanie Wilson

    May 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for this article. I sent it to my daughter to read as we are leaving Mongolia for our home in the US this summer.

  3. Michael

    February 28, 2018 at 1:01 am

    I like that, the RAFT, with Chinese characteristics. I’m Michael Pollock, Dave’s son. Ruth and I just finished the third edition of the TCK book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds and I coach young adult TCKs, run retreats and consult on care issues and strategies…I’m also presenting in two Fridays at FIGT Netherlands on Beyond Raft: Teaching Students to LEAP, and acronym that represents equipping the next step of transition. I love what you are doing. We were in TJ for 9 years and I’m returning for two days March 22 and 23rd. (I’ll be in Wuhan before that.) Please contact me if you’d like to connect. This is an old thread! So I’ll also try to reach you another way. – Michael


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: