Moving – house, schools, countries – is one of life’s greatest challenges. An analysis of more than 800 meta-studies in education by Professor John Hattie of the University of Melbourne (the largest such analysis in educational research history) shows that moving harms learning outcomes. A highly mobile lifestyle also challenges the parents and teachers who are tasked with caring for their cross-cultural charges. But parents and school staff can only do so if they adequately support themselves in the process. Safe Passage, by child psychologist Douglas W. Ota, offers hope and a three-part remedy to international organizations and their students.


by Douglas W. Ota

“When people you care about come and go from your life, it does something to you,” says Ota, who has experienced living across cultures firsthand, many times over. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re the one who moves, or the one who is moved away from. You’re hit by loss and grief. When you lose lots of people and places at the same time, it can feel like a profound loss – like your entire life got erased. And yet, far too often, these types of losses remain insufficiently named and addressed by schools.”

Ota acknowledges the riches of a cross-cultural life, but is concerned that many people are “needlessly suffering and missing golden opportunities for growth”. “Individuals have to be able to cope with that which they’ve been given for it to actually be good for them,” he explains. “If what they experience exceeds their coping capacities, it can produce harm and even be traumatic.”

Safe Passage took me on an emotional journey – one that helped me understand the experiences that have shaped me. I believe it will help others too.” – Jane Larsson, Executive Director, Council of International Schools

In Safe Passage, Ota hopes to equip students, parents and staff at international organizations with coping strategies that remain well matched to the considerable challenges of a mobile lifestyle. Firmly grounded in psychological theory and cutting-edge neuroscience, Safe Passage highlights:

  • what happens psychologically when people move;
  • the kinds of programmes needed in institutions to address such challenges;
  • various means of evaluating how effective these programmes are.

Although primarily focused on international schools, the hopeful message within this book is relevant to any school, university, or organization “where human beings come and go”.

“Every international educator and expat parent should buy this book. Ota’s style will pull you in and his ideas will transform what you think is possible.” – Barbara F. Schaetti, Ph.D.; Founder, Personal Leadership Seminars (; Author, Personal Leadership: Making a World of Difference


Doug Ota grew up in La Jolla, California. His father descends from Japanese roots, while his mother traces her ancestry to England. Their separation when Ota was three showed him and his brother how to grow up between worlds. Ota has made a career out of wondering where he – and other people – belong. He studied Religion at Princeton University, then Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Leiden. Today he works in private practice in The Hague, the Netherlands, where he lives with his wife and three children. Half of Ota’s professional activities are devoted to counselling with children and adolescents, individuals, couples, and families ( The other half is devoted to consulting with international schools and organizations on how to build programs to address the challenges and opportunities of mobility.


Publication date: 14 October 2014

Publisher: Summertime Publishing

Paperback: ISBN 978-1-909193-40-6; price: $29.99/€24.99/£19.99

Kindle: ISBN 978-1-909193-41-3; price: $9.99/€7.69/£6.68

e-Pub: ISBN 978-1-909193-70-3; price: $9.99/€7.69/£6.68

306 pp


For interviews with the author and to arrange review copies, extracts and articles, please contact Douglas at For publisher queries, contact Find more information on the book at



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