Wings of AWAL, the monthly newsletter of Around the World in a Lifetime, plays an important role in linking its members. With a circulation of about 200, its aim is to reassure members that they are not alone.
The current editor, Catriona Stadler, 17, of Washington, has been on the job for about six months. Having lived in Sweden, West Germany, Ethiopia, England and South Africa, Stadler says her return to the States "was rough for a while. I just came back from South Africa and with all the news in the papers, everyone thought I was South African. I was white, therefore I was racist."
"Before, the States for me was only a vacation land," says Stadler. "I was here only on home leave. Now, I have become far more accepting. I see it less as the land of King's Dominion and Slurpees and see it more as a place where you actually live.
"Over there, you always hear about the mythical American teen. They see movies like 'Sixteen Candles,' and they ask you whether that's what it's really like, and I always end up saying 'I don't know.' "
To help those kids before they return, in May AWAL sent out the first overseas edition of the newsletter. "It is critical," says AWAL group leader coordinator Teresa Lauderdale, "because there are a lot of kids out there who would like to know what is going on in the U.S. before they come. They long to hear about the other foreign service dependents, especially those at small posts."
The special overseas issue includes a letter of support from Secretary of State George Shultz, ideas for summer employment, fashion tips and perhaps the most important of all, short personal vignettes about getting used to the United States.
There is also an information survey in which the dependents are asked to send their name, address, school, grade and the date they return to the United States. The plan is to call them as soon as they reenter the States.
"The only true members really," says Lauderdale, "are those who are here. But we would like to see more participation between the posts. Something like pen pals. These kids really want information from us. They don't want to come back wearing the wrong thing. Movies, T.V. and comics are really not the right sources -- especially in the isolated areas."