This poem was published in the December 2015 issue of Among Worlds (first published on my blog in 2014). ————————————————————————– I long for something, Without knowing what. I long for somewhere, without knowing where. I… More
In many ways 2015 was a good year, but it was also a hard year. A year filled with challenges, both professional and personal.
It was also a year of introspection, where I learned a lot about myself, found some answers, but also realized there were more questions than I had expected. Questions about identity, home, putting down roots (and where) or continuing the transient, nomadic life…
These are not unique to me – I know many TCKs (and non-TCKs) struggle with these questions. I just didn’t expect them to hit me so hard and to find myself searching for clarity in my own contradictory thoughts and feelings.
When I was finally able to define those questions, however, it was such a comfort. I had felt their shadows lingering in the back of my mind for a while, but had been unable to understand what weighed on my heart. I may not have the answers yet, but at least I now know what I’m searching for – and that makes all the difference.
These realizations, along with other challenges sorted by year’s end, allowed me to close off 2015 at peace and more than ready for 2016. I am excited for this new year and all the new adventures it will undoubtedly hold.
As for my blog: I unfortunately and unintentionally moved away from writing in 2015. I had much to say, but couldn’t find the words to express it. I am very grateful for all of you who still stuck around and took the time to read and comment when I did write. Your presence and comments are always a source of joy, motivation and comfort.
One of my hopes and resolutions for 2016 is to do more of what I love – and writing is very high on that list. Hopefully this is just the first of many more posts to come this year. So, here’s to more writing, more laughing, more loving, more travel and great adventures in 2016.
On that note, I wish you all a very happy new year and I hope 2016 is an amazing year!
Je suis consciente que des attentats ont eu lieu dans d’autres pays (Liban, Iraq) avec de très nombreux morts et qu’il y a des victimes tous les jours en Syrie et ailleurs dans le monde. Le but du texte ci-dessous n’est pas de donner plus d’importance aux victimes de Paris, parce qu’aucun pays, aucune famille ne mérite de subir de telles atrocités.
Ce texte est simplement un hommage à une ville que j’aime profondément. Je suis 100% libanaise d’origine et Paris sera mon foyer éternel. Mon cœur est doublement brisé et ma peine est débordante.
Je pleure pour ma ville bien-aimée, mon cœur brisé déborde de tristesse. Paris – ville adoptée, adorée et chérie – tu souffres et je souffre loin de toi. Même si un océan nous sépare, mon cœur est avec toi et mes pensées traversent les distances et les vagues pour se poser à ton seuil.
Enfant du monde, mon âme est un mélange de cultures et mon cœur repose souvent dans plusieurs endroits, mais il ne quittera jamais Paris. Cette ville lumineuse a su bien s’emparer de mon cœur et c’est un amour éternel.
Il y a tellement de choses que je voudrais dire, mais je me retrouve sans mots face à ce tourbillon d’émotions qui remplit mon cœur et mes pensées.
Peut être suffit-il de dire ce qu’il y a de plus simple, de plus vrai et qui vient du plus profond de mon cœur:
Paris, je t’aime.
This article first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Among Worlds.
These articles are not written exclusively for TCKchat participants. I write about the topics we discuss through my personal experiences, which I hope others (TCK or not) can relate to in their own way. As always, I would love to hear/read your thoughts and stories, so please feel free to share!
Over the past couple of months the topics at #TCKchat have continued to be varied, thought-provoking and insightful. We finished our series of chats on race, culminating with a conversation about cultural and racial identity. We discussed the Third Culture Kid (TCK) ‘label’, and current/ future research topics for TCKs. We looked at how sports can be an important connector and tool to engage in your community. We also shared thoughts, advice and suggestions on creating and maintaining a global career.
As this issue of Among Worlds is focused on new beginnings, however, I would like to jump back a few months to a #TCKchat we had in September 2014 entitled New Kid on the Block.
Practice Doesn’t Always Make Perfect
The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ can apply to many things in life, but not to everything unfortunately. I’ve been the new kid quite a few times and I don’t think it really gets easier or better the more you do it. Sure, you might get more used it and as the years go by you’ll be more mature so you can handle it differently. But, on the flip side, as you get older, feelings get more complex and there’s more to juggle.
Being the new kid at school is never easy. It can be stressful, embarrassing, upsetting and lonely. Throw in a foreign country, a different school system or a new language and it becomes even more daunting. Sometimes there might not even be the comforts of home and personal belongings – they might still be shipping from across the world as you stay in a hotel.
By the time I was eighteen, I had lived in six countries (on four continents) and had gone to five different schools. I attended international/ American schools in Mexico, the Philippines and France; local schools in the U.S. and Australia; and then went on to study in French and British universities. I know all too well how it feels to be the new kid.
Although I was lucky to have supportive parents and a sister who shared the transition struggles, I still had to navigate the school days on my own. I had to talk about myself to unfamiliar faces, through the nervousness and sadness; I had to correct teachers on the pronunciation of my name; I had to find somewhere to sit at lunch and try not to feel too lonely. I don’t think more practice could have made any of that much easier.
It’s The Little Things That Matter
Although the first days and weeks were tough, I always settled in eventually. I made friends, found my way around the school and one day, I was no longer the new kid. But I knew how difficult it was to feel so lost and alone, and I learned that the smallest gestures of kindness could make an enormous difference.
I took that lesson to heart and decided I would do everything I could to make the experience easier for other new kids. I initiated conversations with them and asked if I could help out. I looked out for them and if I ever saw someone who looked lost or lonely, I would introduce myself, offer to help them find their way, or simply talk to them and get to know them. Sometimes all you need is to know that someone cares.
Having the right kind of support during these transitions is so important, and I am grateful for those teachers and students who reached out a helping hand. I am even more grateful to have parents who were always supportive and reassuring. They did everything they could to help us navigate the tough parts of these experiences and cope with all the changes in our lives. Having siblings also made things infinitely easier – it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling and what I was going through. We didn’t need grand gestures to help us through those moments. We simply needed a friendly smile, a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on, a comforting hug – something that reminded us we weren’t alone and that everything would be alright.
I won’t pretend that moving was (or is) easy. Leaving behind all that’s familiar and starting somewhere new can be daunting and overwhelming. There are bound to be moments of sadness and loneliness. But it is also an exciting adventure, with wonderful opportunities. Being the new kid is never easy and new beginnings are always a little scary. Yet before you know it, you’ll know your way around school, you’ll be giving directions to tourists, and you’ll be calling that strange, foreign place home.
What Others Had to Say
At #TCKchat we discussed being the new kid – sharing thoughts on how to make friends, who helped us through the transition, how we coped with being the new kid and finally offering up some advice for others going through similar challenges.
What type of a TCK were you when you first moved to a new place? Chameleon? Observer? Did you jump right in or have your guard up?
- @tckwsucoug Looking back though, I always made new friends who ended up being ‘just like me’ a TCK or otherwise, with shared experiences. #TCKchat
- @DouniaB_TCK I was always myself though, so no chameleon for me. I had great family support so I felt I could be me without worrying. #TCKchat
- @mkPLANET I was a chameleon observer, blending in as much as possible while studying my peers. Looking back I wish I’d been myself more. #TCKchat
- @unsettledtck Chameleon/ observer all the way! It behooved me to be a cool kid ASAP so I learned how to read the room quickly and then adapt. #TCKchat
- @TCKPonders ALWAYS had my guard up! Existed on the fringes with a basic friend group till I found my feet & felt more confident. #TCKchat
- @marilyngard Chameleon without a doubt. Changed with the world around me. Resulted in pain all around. #TCKchat
- @CrissXCulture I was 5 years old and a little integrator, playing with anyone and everyone without thinking, as kids do. #TCKchat
- @TCKFeminist I was sort of a hybrid observer. I’d try to be friendly to every person I met whilst quietly figuring out the group dynamics. #TCKchat
- @livingquestions Definitely chameleon. I roomed with my twin sister though so I had TCK support, which made it easier to get involved right away. #TCKchat
What was your strategy for making new friends?
- @seachangementor Looked for kids that were into the music I liked. If they wore a cool band t-shirt on free dress day, I would strike up a conversation! #TCKchat
- @mkPLANET My strategy for making new friends was simply being open. I was thankful for anyone who wanted a friendship with me. #TCKchat
- @TCKPonders “Safety in numbers!” I’d find a friendly looking group at lunchtime and ask to sit with them. Then I’d integrate. LOL #TCKChat
- @TCKFeminist I’d smile a lot at people foolishly making eye contact + banter/ make all kinds of small talk. If I could get a laugh I was in! #TCKchat
- @CrissXCulture My strategy – it was kindergarten – was sharing my crayons and playing tag. Engaging is the best way to make friends. #TCKchat
Who helped you adjust? Teachers? Counselors? Peers and/or classmates?
- @tckwsucoug All of the above. Friends were my support network, oh, and social science books. #TCKchat
- @CrissXCulture My classmates just included me in everything. Kindergarteners have a way of accepting someone foreign just like that. #TCKchat
- @marilyngard Having that one good friend that connected me – the toenail polish friend. Teachers were clueless. #TCKchat
- @DouniaB_TCK Family definitely – parents, siblings… And sometimes that one good friend was enough to help you through. #TCKchat
- @unsettledtck All of the above: counselors for advice; teachers for academic boosts; aggressively friendly classmates for friends. #TCKchat
- @mkPLANET My first friend usually took it upon herself to ‘educate’ me in the ways of a Canadian childhood (slang, pop culture, etc.). #TCKchat
What advice would you give a kid about to make their first move?
- @livingquestions Depends on what age, but mostly – ask for help/ support when you need it. Let someone know how you’re feeling (parent/ mentor). #TCKchat
- @unsettledtck Try your best to be happy, but if you are struggling, it is okay to ask for help. Don’t keep depression to yourself! #TCKchat
- @TCKPonders It won’t necessarily all just fall into place, but put yourself out there confidently! #TCKChat
- @mkPLANET I know it’s hard for kids to believe, but our peers’ opinions of us just don’t matter. Find real friends & your passion in life. #TCKchat
- @tckwsucoug Ask for help. Reach out to people. Don’t let fear get in the way. Taking the first step opens up lots of insights & connections. #TCKchat
- @CrissXCulture Don’t be afraid to talk to someone new. You never know who might be willing to share their crayons with you. #TCKchat
Upcoming Dates and Topics
- September 2 The Struggling TCK
- September 16 Global Citizenship – Explored
- October 7 Travel Chat
- October 21 Global Cuisine – Dessert Edition
- November 4 Entrepreneurship
- November 18 TCK Reads (books on the nomadic childhood/ expat experience)
- December 2 Holiday Traditions
- December 16 End of Year Grab Bag
#TCKchat General Information
#TCKchat is held on the first and third Wednesday/ Thursday of each month with 2 sessions: 1st session at GMT 15:00 and 2nd session at GMT +1 3:00. To figure out when #TCKchat happens in your time zone, visit www.TimeandDate.com
On the website you will find upcoming chat dates and topics, highlights from past topics, a video showing you how to get involved/ participate in #TCKchat and information on all of the co-hosts.
Co-hosts: First Session
- Amanda Bate @bateconsult
- Dounia Bertuccelli @DouniaB_TCK
- Michael Oghia @MikeOghia
- Stephanie Taderera @TCKponders
Co-hosts: Second Session
- Ellen Mahoney @seachangementor
- Danau Tanu @DanauTanu
- Cecilia Haynes @unsettledTCK
- Mary Bassey @verilymary
- Lisa Zenno @tckwsucoug
An earlier version of this piece was first published on my blog in June 2013. The version below was published in the September 2015 issue of Among Worlds.
Many things come to mind when thinking of summer: sunshine, ice-cream, vacation, lounging on the beach, late nights, cool drinks, lazy days and evenings with family and friends… But for me, and many other Third Culture Kids (TCKs), summer was also synonymous with change. In the American and/ or international schools we attended, when June came along and the school year ended, there was always someone moving away. Sometimes we had to say goodbye to friends who were leaving and other times we were the ones packing up. Either way it meant change, adapting to yet another new situation and having to figure it out all over again.
When we were moving there were obviously greater challenges and those summers were truly a period of transition. During those summers, we rarely went directly to the new country. Once school would finish in June, we would pack up the house, ship everything off with the moving company and we would head off to spend at least part of the summer with family. That way we could enjoy our vacation as much as possible before having to confront the inevitable challenges awaiting us.
It was a great idea to allow us this transition period, this pause, in between countries. It softened the blow of leaving our home and gave us strength to deal with arriving in a foreign place. Spending the summers with cousins and grandparents – being surrounded by loved ones and familiarity – eased the pain of loss and of sorrowful goodbyes. It reminded us that some things remain constant and steady, even when everything around us seemed to be a whirlwind of change. It also reinforced our belief that time and distance do not alter true friendship and love.
Summers are meant to be a time of joy, fun, laughter and carefree days. For TCKs moving to a new country the summer was much less carefree and relaxed. While others were still enjoying their last lazy days of lounging in the sun or chatting with friends, we were unpacking boxes in an unfamiliar house, trying to find our way in foreign roads and dreading the first day at a new school. It wasn’t always easy, but it was all part of the experience.
And despite all the tough moments, I would do it again, without a doubt. Those summers of change provided valuable lessons that will last me a lifetime and they taught me how resilient I really am. A restful summer is always welcome, but show me the next opportunity for change and my TCK itchy feet are ready for the next adventure!
I hope you all had a great summer, wherever you may be; and good luck to any of you who went through a summer of a change.
This article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Among Worlds.
In March and April, #TCKchat, the bimonthly Twitter conversations for Third Culture Kids (TCKs), covered a variety of topics, ranging from lighthearted, amusing chats about food and language to more serious conversations about race and post-university/ young adulthood years.
We learned which languages are more commonly spoken in our #TCKchat community and which ones people wish to learn. Talking about local cuisine prompted participants to share photos and recipes of favorite foods. Race proved to be such an important topic for many of our participants that it has been divided into three sessions in order to thoroughly discuss its many facets. The chat on post-university/ young adulthood allowed the older TCKs to provide guidance and encouragement to the younger TCKs as they navigate this complex transition.
All of the chats were interesting and enlightening, but for this issue I’ve chosen to focus on languages.
Languages and Identity
Juggling multiple languages has been a part of my life since birth. We spoke three languages at home, and I learned a fourth when I was still a young child and a fifth as an adult. Today I speak them in varying degrees of fluency, but each one is a different part of my identity and tells different parts of my story. I can express certain emotions better in one language, or write faster in others; some I speak comfortably without questioning myself and in others I am more hesitant. But each one holds its own special place in my heart and I can find myself longing for certain languages when I don’t speak them for a lengthy period.
We’ve always spoken French, English and Arabic in my family, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I realized my attachment to French and Arabic. My siblings and I went to school in English all over the world, but my parents made sure to keep up the French and Arabic at home. As children we weren’t always thrilled about that, but as adults we are extremely grateful that our parents pushed us to use different languages.
Recently I had my parents visiting from France and my aunt/ uncle joined us from Montreal for a few days. It had been quite a while since we had all been together, so the days were inevitably filled with much chatter and laughter. I got to hear and speak much more French and Arabic than I usually do since living in the U.S. Listening to them, I realized how much I missed hearing and speaking those languages regularly. They speak to my heart and represent my culture, my heritage and my family.
Secondary Languages and Changing Accents
Thankfully my parents also encouraged us to learn new languages, especially of our host countries, which allowed us to become fluent in Spanish while living in Mexico. Later, as an adult, I learned Italian by immersion, listening to the conversations of my husband’s family. Little by little I picked up Italian and it quickly became a language I love. Luckily, my husband and I are fluent in nearly all the same languages, which allows us to practice them at home, even when we don’t get much chance to use them elsewhere. Growing up as TCKs and attending international schools, we were used to speaking and hearing multiple languages on a daily basis.
My TCK background becomes most evident when my accents unintentionally change depending where I am and with whom I’m speaking. When we lived in Australia and I attended a local school, I started speaking English with an Australian accent. We only spent two years there, but that was more than enough time for my American accent to morph into an Australian one. My French accent is also malleable and changing, depending on whether I’m speaking with my family or with native French speakers from France, Canada, Lebanon or elsewhere.
But we pick up more than accents; we also pick up unique expressions and intonations a language may have in different locations. Learning in a classroom is not the same as learning by immersion – you only truly capture the nuances of a language when you delve deeper into the cultural aspects of it. Language is not just about words, it’s also about culture and heritage.
What Others Had to Say
What is/ are your dominant language(s)? Is it a language from your passport country?
- @poetic_stranger Dutch and English – my mother tongue is Dutch, but learned English when we moved to Budapest, and my English is actually better! #TCKchat
- @TweetingAuthor I have one dominant language, it is my passport language, but I occasionally dream in French, which creeps me out. #TCKchat
- @amunati English and I wish it was Arabic cause not being super fluent keeps me an outsider with my culture…super hard on a TCK.#TCKchat
- @RhoKers English as well! Even though it’s not my mother tongue. It happens to a lot of TCKs I know! #TCKchat
- @Astricella French and English. Some would say mostly English now, even though I started with French for the first half of my life. #TCKchat
- @TCKmeghali English and Hindi. Both from my passport countr(ies)! Except that I use more American English than I do British English… #TCKchat
- @SarahZYaseen English is my first language but Arabic is my mother tongue. But I have an American passport and my parents are Arab. #TCKchat
- @EleonoraByron My first passport is Russian but my predominant language became French, and is now English. A bit of a mess. #TCKchat
- @juanjohn Spoke Spanish first (cuz we lived in Guatemala and Costa Rica) then switched to English when we moved to the US. #TCKchat
- @jessirue American passport, English is dominant but Russian is a close second! I’ve studied a few others but don’t speak them well. #TCKchat
- @brettparry English of course from my native Australia. Now speak mainly Polish at home with my wife and daughter. #TCKchat
- @tckwsucoug Passport country is Japan. Japanese is 3rd on my list. English is the dominant. Then Spanish, then Japanese #TCKchat
- @verilymary English is my dominant language. Efik is spoken in my home and though I know it, I always respond in English. #TCKchat
Did you learn the language of all the places you lived in as a TCK? How did you learn them?
- @loniklara If you know a kid, talking to them is the best way to learn. I learned both Finnish and Swedish that way!#TCKchat
- @TCKmeghali Spoke fluent Arabic with the local kids when I was living in Oman! #TCKchat
- @jessirue I’m one of those weird TCKs that only lived in one place overseas. Spoke Russian at school and English at home. #TCKchat
- @wearehyphenated In Hong Kong we spoke English at home, I learnt Mandarin at school as it was a compulsory subject & my mum INSISTED! #TCKchat
- @DouniaB_TCK Not all, if English was dominant language. But others, yes. Learned at school, practiced with parents & immersed in life there. #TCKchat
- @juanjohn Spanish from living in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama; English from USA and French/Arabic from Morocco & Egypt. #TCKchat
- @unsettledtck I learned from just going around with friends and with housekeepers. Sometimes with local teachers. #TCKchat
- @tckwsucoug Portuguese, Japanese/English, then Spanish. School, but Japanese – I learned at home + supplemental workbooks and comic books and Japanese dramas. #TCKchat
- @kolbegray Yes, born with American English, Irish English, Indonesian learned through osmosis #TCKchat
- @RowenaMonde I had no choice but to learn Scottish English. I learned fairly quickly as I was a child then. #TCKchat
- @GaylynnGabbie I was so fluent in Japanese when I lived there that my thoughts and my dreams were in Japanese. Sad I lost much of that.
Benefits of Speaking the Local Language
- @LuceroViktoria Traveling in China! Such a different experience once I learned some Mandarin and was able to chat with the locals. #TCKchat.
- @jessirue Translating for visiting friends/family was always fun. Once was asked where I learned English. Made my whole year. #TCKchat
- @kolbegray In Bali I get this a lot “OH! We had no idea you spoke Indonesian. Sure you can have the local price” *price gets cut in half*. #TCKchat
- @unsettledtck Whenever I meet people from one of the places I know phrases from, it is a great ice breaker! #TCKchat
Upcoming Dates and Topics
- May 20 TCK & Race: Part 2 (Racism)
- June 3 Grab Bag
- June 17 Sports/Athletics
- July 1 TCK & Race: Part 3
- July 15 Global Career
- August 5 Gender Roles
- August 19 First Day of School
#TCKchat General Information
#TCKchat is held on the first and third Wednesday/Thursday of each month with 2 sessions: 1st session at GMT 15:00 and 2nd session at GMT +1 3:00. To figure out when #TCKchat happens in your time zone, visit www.TimeandDate.com
On the website you will find upcoming chat dates and topics, highlights from past topics, a video showing you how to get involved/participate in #TCKchat and information on all of the co-hosts.
- Amanda Bate @bateconsult
- Dounia Bertuccelli @douniab_tck
- Michael Oghia @mikeoghia
- Stephanie Taderera @tckponders
Kathleen Gamble | CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
$10.95, 270 pages
Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) and writer Kathleen Gamble knows what it means to live a global life. Kathleen has lived around the world – Burma, Mexico, several US states, Colombia, various countries in Africa, Switzerland and Russia. In her first book, Expat Alien, Kathleen takes us through her experiences and her history, starting from her parents’ first meeting and working her way through the many countries and continents since then.
Throughout her book, Kathleen shares personal stories and anecdotes to bring her experiences to life. There is the more harrowing side of global living – political unrest in Burma, earthquakes in Mexico, or stopping at a roadblock in Nigeria and having a soldier jam his gun through the window. But there are also stories of friendships, boarding school in Switzerland, traveling through Europe, card games with family and making home across continents.
Kathleen also delves into the difficulty of repatriation and reverse culture shock. When she returned to the US for college, she realized how different her upbringing was and found herself struggling to fit in and trying to understand the racial issues in the US. Despite the initial difficulties in settling in, Kathleen remained in the US for several more years before heading abroad again with her husband – this time to Russia. She lived nearly nine years in Russia, in six different apartments before returning to the US again. The stories of her time in Russia are fascinating and their unexpected departure following conversations with the FSB reads like a thrilling spy novel.
Even though Kathleen and her son suffered through culture shock upon returning to the US, Kathleen managed to turn things around and create a new life. Despite passing through a few difficult moments in the years since returning, her book ends on an uplifting note of hope.
Expats, TCKs, travelers and anyone interested in learning about various parts of the world through personal stories would enjoy Expat Alien.
You can purchase Expat Alien on Amazon.
Make sure to check out Kathleen’s blog www.expatalien.com to follow her latest adventures and also read more about her experiences growing up. You can also connect with Kathleen on twitter @ExpatAlien.
I never expected that an animated movie could make me feel so much. That it could reach so far into my heart and find emotions and feelings that I thought were either gone or buried deep. Turns out they were just under the surface, waiting to be triggered. And maybe they will always be there.
The movie I’m talking about is the new Pixar film Inside Out, which is about an 11-year-old girl (Riley), moving from her home in Minnesota to San Francisco. A lot of the movie happens in her head, where we see the different emotions (joy, sadness, disgust, fear and anger) personified as individual characters. It is beautifully made and I was blown away by how imaginative, creative and magical it was.
I was equally impressed with how the filmmakers portrayed her emotions, how they dealt with sadness and how they showed the importance of acknowledging all emotions – because they all play a role in shaping who we are and how we live our life. It showed that sadness is not an emotion to ignore; it’s not something bad and shouldn’t be stigmatized. Sometimes all you need is to acknowledge the sadness, sit with it and let it out. Then you are more likely to find comfort and see the beauty and joy around you.
When we ignore sadness or push it down, we don’t address it and often other emotions/ reactions come out instead – fear, disgust and anger. As Riley struggles with her emotions during this new transition she becomes confused, lonely and angry. Confused at how jumbled her feelings are, lonely without friends at her new school and angry that she was dragged away from her home and her friends.
As a Third Culture Kid (TCK), this movie resonated with me in a way no other movie ever has. I felt like I was watching my story on screen. And I know my TCK husband felt the same. We felt the sharp ache of goodbyes; the deep loneliness of having no friends and eating lunch alone while others talked and laughed around you; the anger and confusion of being torn away from everything familiar and loved. But mostly we felt the sadness… And we were both caught by surprise at the intensity of our emotions.
I’m now 30 years old, and I had a very healthy TCK upbringing. My parents were always supportive, they prepared us for every move, gave us closure and allowed us to grieve. So I thought all those emotions were sorted and neatly packed away in ‘long-term memory’ as the movie showed us. I never expected them to resurface so easily and to overwhelm me the way they did. But when Riley finally admits her sadness to her parents and says how much she misses home, the emotion was so raw, so real and so familiar that my heart overflowed… And so did my tears.
But the beauty of the movie, and of life, is that once you acknowledge the sadness you can address it and you don’t have to deal with it alone. From there it’s uphill because you’re not fighting against it anymore and more importantly you’re not fighting alone.
The movie shows that as Riley strengthens her relationship with her parents, makes new friends and slowly finds her place until this new location becomes home. And that’s how it worked every time for us – once you get past the heartache, loneliness and sadness, you make friends and you make a new home… At least until next time.
I don’t regret this life and despite feeling such raw sadness, I loved the movie. It has so much wonderful humor and such poignant, touching scenes. It wasn’t a sad movie, but it also didn’t shy away from the sad moments. It embraced them and showed how they’re an important part of the bigger picture. I’m grateful that someone took the time to make such a movie and to make it so eloquently and beautifully.
Words cannot really do it justice, so I would recommend this movie with all my heart. If you’re like me you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think, you’ll be amazed by the magic of the movie… You’ll leave feeling inside out, upside down, jumbled up and moved to the core.
But you’ll also leave feeling warm, buoyant and just a little more lit up inside.
This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Among Worlds. Minor corrections have been made to reflect the most updated information (dates/times, twitter accounts) and hyperlinks have been added.
In this issue of Among Worlds, we begin a regular column called #TCKchat. Freelance writer and #TCKchat co-host Dounia Bertuccelli provides an introduction to #TCKchat, where to find more information and how to get involved.
When it comes to Third Culture Kids (TCKs), it is complex to find a one-size-fits-all answer. Despite sharing certain similarities, each TCK experience is unique and deserves to be heard. In this day and age of technology and social media, it is easier than ever to share thoughts and ideas with a global audience. Connecting with people across the world in an instant is something many of us do on a daily basis. For TCKs, this can mean keeping touch with family and friends, but also with other TCKs, with whom they feel understood and accepted. Adult TCKs Amanda Bate and Ellen Mahoney understood the importance of those connections and created a space where they could be nurtured and developed: #TCKchat.
What is #TCKchat and Why Was it Developed?
The Third Culture Kid Chat (#TCKchat) is a twitter chat focused on topics related to the experiences of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and adult TCKs (ATCKs). It is a public discussion forum, providing insight and information to help support current and future generations of TCKs.
As adult TCKs who started their own businesses catered towards supporting TCKs during crucial transition periods, Amanda and Ellen have both the personal and professional experience to lead such a project. They both work with young adult and college age TCKs through their organizations Bate Consulting and Sea Change Mentoring.
“We both started businesses with TCKs in mind, because it was a reflection of support we wished we had when we were younger,” says Amanda. It was this same mindset that led to the creation of #TCKchat. For Ellen and Amanda, #TCKchat was a natural next step to create a wider network and community of support for TCKs of all ages. Amanda explains:
“We use Twitter to discuss anything and everything related to the TCK experience. Our goal is to build a community where we share information, encourage and challenge one another.”
Participants are of different generations and backgrounds (personal and professional) and are located across every continent except South America. The nine co-hosts are also from around the world and are currently living in Turkey, U.S.A (various states), Australia and Zimbabwe.
#TCKchat also aims to provide information, tips and insight to adults who work with or are raising TCKs. It can be a difficult experience to understand if you haven’t lived it, but “our discussions can be a tool for those who work with them [TCKs],” Amanda hopes.
How to Get Involved
Anyone can participate in #TCKchat, as long as they have a Twitter account. There are no restrictions of any kind, and no obligation to answer the questions presented. There is, however, an unspoken understanding that all involved will be respectful.
A Few Tips to Help You Get Started:
- #TCKchat occurs on the first and third Wednesday/Thursday of each month with 2 sessions: 1st session at GMT 15:00 and 2nd session at GMT +1 3:00.
- To make participation easier, use applications like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. You can find a video on how to install/use these on the #TCKchat website, and the co-hosts are always happy to provide further assistance.
- Use #TCKchat in each tweet so everyone in the chat can see/read your tweets.
- All questions will be available on the website the Sunday before the chat, but they will also be tweeted out at intervals during the chat.
Past Topics and Chat Highlights
If you do not have a twitter account but would still like to read what was shared, the #TCKchat team has you covered: highlights of each chat are posted the following day and those are available to everyone.
Check Out the Highlights of These Past Discussions:
- Identity: How adult TCKs view themselves locally, nationally and globally.
- Relationships: TCKs and Dating
- First Year Transitions: College/University
- Relationships: TCK and Expat Parent
- Transitions: New Kid on the Block
- Role Models and Mentors
- Careers: Job Opportunities
- Childhood Memories
- Volunteering and Causes
- Innovation and Creativity
- Miscellaneous “End of Year Grab Bag”
- The New Year: Reflections on 2014 and Resolutions for 2015
- Mental Health and Wellness
- Local Relationships: Relationships Between Expats and the Local Community
- Cross-Cultural Love Relationships
There are a lot of insightful, touching and humorous comments made in every chat, but unfortunately it would be difficult to share highlights from all of them in one article. For this first column, I have included some tweets from topics that align with this issue’s theme of Dating and Relationships.
How being a TCK influenced their dating relationships:
- @TweetingAuthor I’m driven by cultural difference, so naturally, I date those that show signs of being culturally unique in their community. #TCKchat
- @TCKPonders It’s made me very aware of timing, and when there’s a big move on the horizon I’m very reluctant to get involved. #TCKchat
- @evnicolas No dating in my teens, too many moves. I was tired, self-conscious, displaced. Focused mainly on schooling. Disassociated. #TCKchat
- @evnicolas Began to date in London where I could settle, find roots and attach to location. #TCKchat
- @tayorockson It was difficult for me to meet the family members of girlfriends too soon because I just wasn’t sure how long I would stay in the city. #TCKchat
- @bateconsult I wrongly presumed that there has to be miscommunication w/ a non TCK. Communication isn’t guaranteed with a TCK either. #TCKchat
- @TweetingAuthor There’s a reason so many TCKs become writers. We always anticipate miscommunication, so we learn to do it the best. #TCKchat
Benefits/challenges of cross-cultural relationships or dating non-TCKs:
- @seachangementor Benefit with a non [TCK]: My spouse has been like an ambassador 2 the US 4 me. Learned a lot about this country I’m supposedly from. #TCKchat
- @NeehaMujeeb Learning what it is like to have grown up in one place your whole life. A whole new perspective! #TCKchat
- @seachangementor Dating someone of a different culture helps me empathize and understand the people of that culture. #TCKchat
- @danautanu Challenge: Them not getting why I’m not grounded and why it’s hard. #TCKchat
- @mariacelina Family life. This is where I’m reminded of the fact that even though the man I date is a TCK, his relatives may or may not be. #TCKchat
- @TCKmeghali Definitely racism. People also sometimes took for granted where my home or roots were, or my family background/traditions. #TCKchat
- @juanjohn Dating language was in Spanish, not English, so the words I used were different. #TCKchat
Settling down, change and mobility in relationships:
- @TweetingAuthor The concept of settling down is terrifying. From marriage to children, the idea that moving could stop scares me to death. #TCKchat
- @bateconsult I’ve bought a house. I still took me FOUR years to admit that I now have a “home”. #TCKchat
- @TayoRockson I find myself thinking that when I do [settle down] I might not be able to fully express myself or be as mobile as I want to be. #TCKchat
- @dp_saxon I hope to “settle down” with someone who’s open to thoughtful and regular change. #TCKchat
- @danautanu The older I get the more I’m tired of starting over. And want the warmth of stability. #TCKchat
- @unsettledtck Our biggest problem is trust: him that I won’t bail and me that he will respect my travel and autonomy. #TCKchat
- @DipKidAmber I think I have an unreasonable expectation for people to handle change as easily as I do. Working on that… #TCKchat
Advice on managing a cross-cultural relationship:
- @bateconsult Shut up and listen. Be observant. Have patience. #TCKchat
- @livingquestions Remember to cut yourself some slack. Staying open & learning about each other is hard work! Allowed to be tired sometimes! #TCKchat
- @Sekhmet_12th Best advice I can give is to take the time to LISTEN, it is literally about being able to understand each other, to compromise. #TCKchat
- @DouniaB_TCK Willingness to listen & learn. Open, honest, constant communication. Patience & understanding with differences. #TCKchat
- @juanjohn Be patient and open-minded. #TCKchat
- @danautanu Realize that communicating across difference includes TCKs trying to understand non-TCKs. #TCKchat
- @livingquestions Laughter is huge! Be willing to laugh about miscommunications/mistakes. #TCKchat
- @mariacelina Be patient and understanding with yourself and your partner. Always communicate. Avoid generalizations. Love. Love a lot. #TCKchat
#TCKchat is steadily growing and we’re always happy to welcome new participants. The hope is that it will continue to reach TCKs across the globe and provide a welcoming environment for thoughts on this transient lifestyle and its impacts. #TCKchat is a community where you are understood, accepted and embraced.
When I asked Amanda for her latest thoughts on #TCKchat, she concluded with this:
“At this point in the game, I’m probably most proud of seeing how friendships and networks have formed as a result of #TCKchat getting people talking to each other. It’s exciting to see the affirming that happens. That your experiences, good or bad (or both!) are valid. That you get a seat at the table. That you aren’t weird. And even if you are, we accept you, regardless.”
Upcoming Dates and Topics
- March 4 Languages: The Joys and Pitfalls of Being Multilingual
- March 18 TCKs and Race: Part 1
- April 1 Local Cuisine
- April 15 Post-University Life and Young Adulthood
- May 6 TCK and the Extended Family
- May 20 TCKs and Race: Part 2 (Racism)
#TCKchat is held on the first and third Wednesday/Thursday of each month with 2 sessions: 1st session at GMT 15:00 and 2nd session at GMT +1 3:00. To figure out when #TCKchat happens in your time zone, visit www.TimeandDate.com On the website, you will find upcoming chat dates and topics, highlights from past topics, a video showing you how to get involved/participate in #TCKchat and information on all of the co-hosts.
Co-hosts: First Session
- Amanda Bate @bateconsult
- Dounia Bertuccelli @douniab_tck
- Michael Oghia @mikeoghia
- Stephanie Taderera @tckponders
Co-hosts: Second Session
International/American Schools Around the World
By contrast to the relatively homogenous community of the Australian school, the international/American schools had more diversity in nationality. They were used to a regular ebb and flow of students from around the world. But even they each had their own unique community and ambiance.
In Mexico, there was a strong influence and presence of the Mexican culture and of Spanish. In elementary/lower school, when we were in more advanced Spanish levels, we did half of our day in English and the other half in Spanish. I remember doing math, history, reading and other subjects in both languages. We learned global history but we also studied Mexican history – contemporary and ancient. We sang the Mexican national anthem and celebrated Mexican festivities and traditions. Even the school was mostly Americans and Mexicans. There were other nationalities, but far less than in other international/American schools I attended.
In the Philippines there were a lot of Americans and Filipinos, as well as quite a few other nationalities, from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America. However, in sharp contrast to the immersion in Mexico, there was little teaching of the local culture in the Philippines. Although the members of faculty were culturally diverse (including locals), there was no particular emphasis on teaching/transmitting the local culture to the students.
In France, the high school community was highly multicultural, with students and faculty from around the world. It was not unusual to hear 3-4 languages being spoken in the hallways, often in the same conversation. Like in Mexico and the Philippines, there was a great deal of respect for other cultures and traditions, but again the cultural immersion was handled differently. Although there were obligatory French classes, most of the immersion efforts came from individual teachers, who strived to teach their students about local culture, traditions and history.
It’s More Than Just Academics
My age in each location, as well as my cultural background, obviously colored each experience differently. I was aware of culture, race and ethnicity early on because of my name and background, so it was never something I could ignore. As I grew older, I paid closer attention to how culture (local and international) was dealt with and how that impacted interactions – both inside and outside school walls.
Over time I learned it really came down to individuals and how they chose to immerse themselves or not in their host country. There were many who chose to step outside of their expat bubble and really learn the language and explore the city/country as locals. But there were also others who remained closed off, never learning the language, only attending expat events or typically expat restaurants, ordering everything through embassy stores etc.
Thankfully my parents always wanted us to learn languages, to understand different cultures and to think outside the expat bubble. They didn’t want us to be spoilt, arrogant or out of touch with the world we were living in. A lot of the cultural education and immersion in our host countries was thanks to them. They made sure we visited different parts of the countries we lived in, tasted local foods, learned about local traditions and saw beyond the typical expat experience.
I will be forever grateful that my parents opened our minds to all the different cultures we lived in. They taught us to look beyond (but not disregard) color, race, privilege, language and any other ‘barriers’. Their way of teaching us about the world made us into curious, well-rounded and accepting individuals. I realize now that is the greatest education I could have ever received.
A TCKchat from a couple of months ago made me realize what a unique and privileged education I’ve had. Not only have I gone to schools around the world (and that is an education in itself), but I have also gone to different types of schools. I’ve attended international/American schools in Mexico, the Philippines and France; local schools in the U.S. and Australia, and went on to study in French and British universities.
What’s interesting is that each school and experience was unique. Even among the international/American schools, each one was different – in size, community, diversity, interaction with the locals and local culture etc. For the local schools, both of my experiences were vastly different, due to age, location and where I had lived before I attended them.
This isn’t just about the schools, however, it’s also about what I learned through them and the countries they were located in. It’s not simply about the academics, but also what I learned about the world, about cultures, and about interactions with different people.
Attending a Local School Down Under
The local school in the U.S. was the first school I ever went to (after kindergarten), so I hadn’t experienced my TCKness or a TCK environment yet. I was technically already a TCK, since I was living outside my parent’s culture and I was born in Cyprus, but for me I was just another kid going to school. I have a few memories from that school but I left when I was eight years old.
By the time I attended my second local school, in Australia, I was 13 years old, living in my 5th country, and had several years of TCK experience under my belt. Suddenly I was thrust into a totally unfamiliar school system, with nearly no other foreigners, expats or TCKs. To make matters worse, we arrived for the last 2-3 weeks of the school year, which made things especially awkward. Starting at the end of the year makes you stand out and feel even more alone. When you arrive at the beginning of the year, everyone is still adjusting to classes. They may all know each other, but it’s still a brand new year. You have more of a chance of finding your feet, or trying to blend in. To add to the already tumultuous situation, it was the first time we had to wear a school uniform. Needless to say, it was not a smooth transition and the first few weeks were not fun.
Despite the initial upheaval, however, I ended up loving it there. I made wonderful friends, I was involved in sports, did well at school, and I was happy. I tried new things, like rowing (which I loved), and went on camping trips with the school, seeing breathtaking parts of Australia. I made incredible memories and long-lasting friendships. One of my closest friends to this day is someone I met in Sydney, and I haven’t seen her since I left – almost 15 years ago. We only spent two years there, but I was devastated when we left. That was definitely something I didn’t expect, considering I had not been surrounded by other TCKs like me. But I think that when you’re young, you’re less judgmental. We were kids, we got along, we had sunshine, beach and teenage dreams. What else could someone ask for at that age?
I’m happy I had that time in Australia and a chance to see a different system, even if it wasn’t always easy. It ensured I didn’t just have one experience and grow up entirely in a TCK/expat bubble. It gave me an even wider scope with which to view the world. From a cultural and academic standpoint, it taught me a lot.
Part 2 coming soon: my experiences with International/American schools and culture; and how education is about more than just academics…