Third Culture Kid Research: Helping us Connect, Learn and Understand

Third culture kids existed long before the term “third culture kid” was coined. It’s the people and their experiences that created the name; not the name that created the people. Much has changed since the first research and naming of third culture kids. The third culture kids of today have access to a much more connected and globalized world than ever before. Internet and social media allows them to stay connected to people and places in ways earlier generations of TCKs never could. This is bound to create a shift in experiences, behavior and research in this domain.

In addition to this connectivity and more globalized world, there is also the abundance of research on TCKs to consider. Now, more than ever, information on TCKs is readily available and accessible. Schools all over the world have brought in speakers to talk to the students. Teachers are made aware of this term and what it entails – many teachers at these international schools are adult third culture kids themselves. Parents are informed about the impact such a life may have on their children. There are books, articles, blogs, forums, conferences, specialists, TCK/global counselors… There are terms to describe this lifestyle, explanations for the emotions TCKs go through, and why someone with such a different background and having lived in such different countries can understand exactly what they’re going through. This may seem trivial, but it has made a big difference for many people. There are countless testimonies of adult third culture kids describing their struggle to fully comprehend their emotions growing up and how they only truly grasped the impact of their lifestyle when reading about TCKs as adults. They could finally understand how to cope with such emotions; they were reassured that those emotions were perfectly normal and that there were many others who went through the same process.

Being able to read stories similar to your own, finding that others have had common experiences to you and can understand you can be very comforting. It helps TCKs realize they truly do have a community that they belong too – even if it does not have geographical roots and its members are spread across the world. Understanding the impacts of such a lifestyle is crucial to have a fulfilling and positive experience. Having the necessary tools to navigate the journey makes the sailing much smoother, for parents and TCKs alike. One of the best ways to prepare, to cope and to understand is by connecting with others who are travelling (or have travelled) the same path. Thankfully there are many opportunities and channels through which to do so – and they truly make a difference. These past couple years, as I have delved into the world of TCK research I have learned a lot through books, blogs, comments, articles, conversations… It has been very fulfilling, enlightening and enriching. My humble hope is that one day I can also bring something to the table and help more people connect, learn and understand.


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