The Unseen Path: The Introspection of an Adult Third Culture Kid

I both fear and seek out the unknown. I grew up with unknowns always being a part of my life. New house, new school, new country, new continent, new language… That’s what life was like growing up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK). I was always afraid of being the new kid, of not fitting in, not making friends, not knowing my way around school. And yet I always thrived once I settled in. I was without friends for long and my toughest transitions ended up leading to my most enduring friendships.

But it was only in my late 20s that I fully realized my capacity to transition and adapt well. Only when I was closer to 30 I started believing I could handle more than I thought. Only recently did I truly understand the experiences and opportunities that scare me the most usually end up being the most rewarding.

Looking back, I wish I had known myself better as a young adult. I wish I had trusted my abilities to transition well, learn quickly and meet new people. I wish I had known what I know now about my passions, about writing, creating and connecting.

Overcome Your Fears

When you’re asked to think about advice to your younger self, it’s not always an easy process. Sometimes you don’t want to think too deeply or honestly about it because it can lead to a difficult introspection. If I could give advice to my younger self, it would all link back to doing more, trying new things, trusting myself and not being afraid.

I hesitate to use the word ‘regret’ for some of my choices, but I do sometimes wonder if I would be on another path if I had made different choices.

After graduating from an American/International school in Paris, I chose to attend university in France. The program was interesting, it was a good college, and I liked the beautiful buildings in a lovely part of Paris. All of that is true, but the decision was equally colored by the fact I would be staying at home with my family… Because I didn’t feel ready to be alone out in the world. I was afraid of doing such a transition alone. Unwittingly, however, I threw myself into another complex situation: studying in French and not fitting in with either the French students or the international exchange students. It was a much harder transition than I had anticipated, and I still felt alone, despite living with my family.

After a difficult first semester I eventually settled in, made friends, learned a lot and enjoyed my time there. I’ll never know if another choice would have been better and I don’t regret attending that university, but I don’t want fear playing a role in any decision I make.

Know Your Passions (and Trust Them)

Before learning my lesson about fear and choices, I had another major decision to make in my years of young adulthood. A few weeks ago I found myself thinking about this particular missed opportunity.

After completing my bachelor’s degree in history, I was looking for work while preparing applications for a master’s program. I was fortunate to find two options relatively quickly: a nine-month job as a part time assistant librarian at my old high school or a three-month administrative internship at the Paris office of a major international newspaper.

Although I had always loved to write, I had never truly considered making it my job. At the time, I believed I wanted to go into international education and it was better to work for nine months rather than three, so the assistant librarian position made the most sense. Again, like for university, these points were all true. But so were my fears about the internship: fear of not being up to par, of being overwhelmed by the tasks required or of making mistakes.

Today, truly knowing myself, my passions and trusting my capabilities, I would have picked the internship. I would have been elated and terrified – but I would never have let my fear stop me from such an incredible opportunity.

It’s important to trust your passions and to find concrete ways to nurture them. It took several more years and a new transition before I finally learned that lesson.

Make Your Own Path

A few years ago, I moved to the US with my husband. It’s my passport country (not country of origin) but I hadn’t lived there since I was eight years old, and we moved to a state I’d never been to before. It was our first move together, my first major move away from family (not including university), and the first time I moved without school, university or a job. There were a lot of unknowns and a lot of assumptions. I assumed it would be easy to settle in, fit in and find a job.

I was wrong. I looked for all kinds of jobs, to no avail. I felt lonely. It didn’t matter I sounded and looked like everyone else. I knew I was different and it made fitting in difficult. Through it all I wrote and wrote and wrote… Then one day my husband suggested I start a blog. I balked at the idea, as I had never written publicly before. But I refused to let fear get the upper hand and shortly after I created my blog. It opened up a world of possibilities, led to friendships, projects and my first published articles. For the first time, I started to consider that my passion could lead to something concrete and be more than a hobby.

My most complex transition opened doors I never expected. It didn’t matter I hadn’t followed a ‘traditional’ trajectory to land on my new path – I made my own. I sought out new opportunities and ventured into the unknown. Despite having been a writer most of my life I had never considered writing as a viable option for college or employment. Only recently I learned and started believing my passion can also be my career. I pushed through my fears to create a path with moveable roots that fits my passions and my TCK nature.

After several detours (or perhaps they were simply part of the journey), I found my path. Would I have ended up here no matter what choices or decisions I made? Is it simply a question of when, rather than if? I’ll never know. What I do know, however, is how important those childhood and young adulthood lessons were in shaping my decisions as an adult.

I am still learning, growing and there are many unknown and unseen curves to this path. I still seek out and fear the unknown – but I no longer let my fear get the better of me. I do not let my fear overtake my decisions. I love the unknown for what it can teach me, where it can lead me and what it has given me. As TCKs, unknowns are a constant part of our lives and it can be difficult to view them as opportunities when you’re overwhelmed by them. With the right support, understanding and faith in ourselves, however, we can overcome even the toughest situations.

If I had to give advice to my younger self, it would be this: “Trust yourself and your capabilities. You’ve been the new kid, you’ve seen the unknowns and you made it through.”

“Don’t miss out on amazing opportunities because you’re too afraid to try – the path hidden behind your fears is usually the one most worth taking.”

 

The Voices of #TCKchat

Complete the phrase: I wish I knew _____ before I went to university:

@oliviacharlet I wish I’d had the knowledge I have today of who I am as a TCK when I moved for university. Would have explored more and made more friends. #TCKchat

@unsettledtck I wish I knew that it takes time to settle in and everyone feels as lost as you. #TCKchat

@TCKFeminist I wish I knew that things like ‘psychological services/support’ and ‘rights and advice center’ matter when picking out a school. #TCKchat

@seachangementor Wish I knew it was okay to tell my parents I was struggling. Wish I knew how to ask for help and who to ask. #TCKchat

‎@TweetingAuthor I wish I knew myself before attending college. #TCKchat

@bateconsult I also wish I knew how bad homesickness could and would be. #TCKchat

What career advice would you give to younger TCKs?

@TCKPonders Your experiences and skills are rarer than you think! Always highlight them and the right job will value them too. #TCKchat

@mishellhmm Promote understanding and openness no matter where you end up working. It’s the value of our unique experiences. #TCKchat

@Jsimens Choose what is most important: career with overseas potential or roots (no movement). #TCKchat

@GaylynnGabbie Get out there. Get out of your comfort zone. Utilize your connections. Don’t limit yourself. #TCKchat

@juanjohn Figure out what you want to do and do it, no matter how scary. If you’re a TCK, you’ve already been out of your comfort zone before, right? #TCKchat

 

#TCKchat General Information

#TCKchat is held on the first Wednesday/Thursday of each month with 2 sessions: 1st session at GMT 15:00 and 2nd session at GMT +1 3:00.

To learn more and view upcoming topics, co-hosts bios and a video showing you how to participate in #TCKchat visit: www.tckchat.com / www.twitter.com/tckchat

Co-hosts First Session:

  • Amanda Bate @bateconsult
  • Dounia Bertuccelli @DouniaB_TCK
  • Stephanie Taderera @TCKponders
  • Meghali Pandey @TCKmeglet
  • Yousef Alenzi @_ra77al

Co-hosts Second Session:

  • Ellen Mahoney @seachangementor
  • Mary Bassey @verilymary
  • Lisa Zenno @tckwsucoug
  • John Liang @juanjohnjedi

Upcoming Topics

  • October: Aging Parents
  • November: Travel Hacks
  • December: A Look Back at the Past Year

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This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Among Worlds, as part of my #TCKchat column. Minor modifications were made to include the most updated information on co-hosts and upcoming topics.

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Sadly, #TCKchat officially ended in November 2016. We loved all of the wonderful interactions, funny conversations and insightful discussions we had. Thanks to all who participated; we’ll miss you!

You can still find me on twitter @DouniaB_TCK. Hope to chat with you there!

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Longing (reprint)

This poem was published in the December 2015 issue of Among Worlds (first published on my blog in 2014).

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I long for something,

Without knowing what.

I long for somewhere,

without knowing where.

 

I long for change,

For that next adventure…

I’m restless and bored,

Ready to start somewhere new.

 

And yet I long to settle,

To put down roots.

To call some place home

And know it’s my own.

 

But where is that illusive home?

That place where I belong,

Where I am neither other

Nor outsider?

 

I am homesick,

But I don’t know for where…

For which country, which place,

Which home?

 

My heart aches,

Without knowing for what.

It longs for something

That I cannot define.

 

Such is the path

Of my third culture kid journey:

Sometimes confusing, often contradictory…

And forever longing.

301

Interview with Ruth Van Reken

A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2016 Families in Global Transition Conference in Amsterdam. It’s the third time I attend this conference and every time I find myself re-energized and grateful for this international community. It’s a space where I don’t have to explain myself or my background; I feel welcomed, understood and heard.

This year we had three spectacular keynote speakers, including the founder of FIGT and Third Culture Kid/Cross-Cultural Kid advocate, Ruth Van Reken. Ruth is so much more than that, however, so in her honor I would like to share my interview with her from 2014. That was the first year I attended FIGT and the first time I met Ruth – her warmth, humor and genuine interest in everyone she meets made a lasting impression. It was a privilege to interview her in 2014 and to hear her speak this year.

This interview was first published in Insights and Interviews from the 2014 Families in Global Transition Conference: The Global Family Redefined

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Certain names immediately come to mind when thinking about Third Culture Kid (TCK) research: Norma McCaig, Ruth Hill Useem, David Pollock and of course, Ruth Van Reken.

It is difficult to find just one word that defines Ruth, who is a missionary kid, an Adult Third Culture Kid, author, teacher, public speaker, and advocate of TCKs, among many other things. She was born in Kano, Nigeria to an American mom born and raised in Chicago, and an American ATCK dad born in Resht, Iran. She spent much of her childhood in Africa, returning to the US. for high school. As an adult, Ruth went to college, became a nurse, and then met and married her husband, David. Also a missionary kid and TCK in his own right, having lived two years in China as a child, David is also a doctor and as he wanted to work overseas, Ruth continued her expat life with her husband, raising three global nomads of her own in Liberia and the US.

As an Adult TCK, daughter, mother and grandmother of TCKs, Ruth knows the impact of this lifestyle and the importance of understanding it. She is dedicated to helping others understand their journey and to spreading the word about this global community. Without Ruth there would be no TCK ‘bible’ (Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds) and no Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conferences.

Finding Words for Her Story

The two publications Ruth is most known for, Letters Never Sent and Growing up Among Worlds, were written under very different circumstances, but they both helped Ruth (and others) understand their own TCK background.

Letters Never Sent

Although she had led a happy life, as an adult Ruth found herself battling depression various times. It was triggered again when her oldest daughter left for the first time to return to the US for school, and Ruth realized it might be linked to her own childhood. A year later, in 1986, the whole family moved back to the US, settling in Indianapolis, which was a new adjustment for them all. It was during these periods that Ruth started keeping a journal, which would later be published as Letters Never Sent.

Finally writing about her experiences, at 39 years old, helped her process the emotions she had felt growing up as a TCK, especially about leaving home and going to boarding school. Expressing those emotions allowed her to finally address them and cope with them.

“This was not a book about a topic but simply a process of self-discovery,” she explained.

Her story resonated with many readers, and it continues to do so today, having sold over 32,000 copies. But when Ruth first wrote Letters, she had a hard time getting it printed because publishers didn’t believe there would be enough interest in her story.

“They said […] that not enough people would care about it as not that many had lived it,” she recalled. “Finally a friend who was a printer said he would print it for me for free and I could repay him if I sold it.”

From there Ruth did the selling herself until her collaboration with author and publisher Jo Parfitt, which allowed her book to receive the exposure it deserved. Jo revamped Letters by adding photos, an epilogue by Ruth, and making it available in print and kindle ensuring Ruth no longer had to sell it herself.

The book initially shunned by publishers would go on to impact people all over the world, who realized they weren’t alone in how they felt. By sharing her experiences and emotions, Ruth has helped others to learn from her lessons and ultimately live better in their understanding.

Letters showed me there was a well of grief that I had not been able to own or express,” she said. “And when we are protecting against the pain, we also cannot dare to live in the fullness of the joy.”

Growing Up Among Worlds

It was while working on Letters that Ruth and David Pollock first connected. He was preparing a conference on TCKs and she sent him a letter asking if he was doing anything to help adults struggling with their TCK experiences. That one letter led to a great friendship and collaboration.

Working on Growing up Among Worlds was a very different process to writing her journal. David had done much of the research but someone needed to put it in writing and make it available to others. In addition to writing it, there was also a need to clarify the whys of such a lifestyle, which were the challenges Ruth took on. Trying to explain the impact of growing up as a TCK also helped her understand herself better.

“As I tried to sort out the why do these characteristics emerge, I began to get new insights into my own story,” she recalled. “I could then use my story and hopefully expand to help others have a language for their story too.”

The Creation of Families in Global Transition

FIGT had very humble beginnings in the Midwest USA. While trying to adjust to life in suburban Indiana after living overseas, Ruth realized that not enough help was being given to relocated families. Although relocation packages included nice benefits and practical information, they lacked support in other areas.

“Topics such as transition, TCKs or spousal matters were not covered,” she said. “There seemed little awareness or appreciation for the enormity of the emotional/ psychological/ social issues that they or their children faced.”

In the meantime, Norma McCaig had started Global Nomads and David Pollock was talking about TCKs to international schools and organizations. Ruth’s memoir, Letters Never Sent had been published and people had begun writing to her, sharing their own similar experiences.

“It was apparent that issues related to global family living were real out in the world but they seemed invisible where I was living in Indianapolis,” she recalled. Then one day while sitting at her kitchen table with three friends, discussing the book she was writing with David Pollock, they realized it would be great to spread this information to a wider audience.

And so began the preparation for the first FIGT conference.

They found a venue, set a date (May 16th 1998) and created a logo, which is still used today. They even found a star speaker: David Pollock. At the time he was Executive Director of Interaction International (formerly Manhattan Youth Services), which he had co-founded in the 1960s. Few locals attended the conference, but many people traveled into town to hear David speak and ‘the magic of FIGT began’.

Although that first conference only had two sessions, it was so successful a second one was planned the following year and by 2001 FIGT had become an official organization. The conference was eventually moved from Indianapolis to Houston where there was a larger international community due to the oil industry, before moving to its current home in Washington, DC.

“Throughout the process, incredibly dedicated and capable board members […] have continued to lead the way to making FIGT what it is now,” she said.

Although David Pollock is gone, his legacy continues, not only through the knowledge he has left behind, but also through his son Michael, who led a Concurrent session with Ruth at the 2014 FIGT conference.

The FIGT Bookstore

Another evolving aspect of FIGT is the bookstore. At the first conference there was no bookstore – there wasn’t even a book table. Ruth’s husband sold them straight from the boxes in the lobby towards the end of the conference.

“No one believed there was enough interest in such a topic to generate many sales,” Ruth recalled.

The main books available at the time were Letters Never Sent by Ruth and Strangers at Home by Carolyn Smith, a US diplomat’s daughter. The following years there were more, including Growing up Among Worlds as well as publications from Jo Parfitt and Robin Pascoe. But unfortunately the choices remained quite limited.

Today there is an online bookstore and a physical bookstore at the FIGT conferences filled with a myriad of expat and TCK-related books.

Future Research and Passing the Torch

Ruth is currently working on new research regarding Cross-Cultural Kids (CCK). She wants to see how certain lessons can apply to all children who have experienced a globalized upbringing or some form of displacement from their parents’ home/culture.

“The details of the stories for a refugee child and an ambassador’s daughter are world’s apart,” she noted. “But both have lost the stability and connection to one world around them where they would have traditionally grown and had their identity mirrored back to them.”

Her hope is that by understanding the TCK experience it is also possible to help children from other cross-cultural backgrounds. She hopes to expand our views of who constitutes a global nomad and to use our past lessons to benefit them.

“If we have identified the gifts TCKs often receive from their cross-cultural childhood […] then is it possible those with other types of cross-cultural backgrounds […] have the same kinds of giftings?” she questioned.

She is also hopeful that future generations of TCKs/CCKs will continue to carry the torch for the global community. “Now we are in TCK Phase Two, watching your generation move into its place in the history of the world and build on the past so lessons learned can be applied to the present and prepare others to live well in a future where I believe CCKs of all backgrounds will be the norm and not the exception,” she said.

Although she speaks of passing the torch to the next generation, Ruth is far from done with her work. She continues to travel to conferences and schools speaking about TCKs and how to help them understand and make the most of their experiences.

Meeting Ruth was a highlight of the conference for me – I was immediately won over by her kindness, humor and warmth. She seems to have time for everyone, despite being in constant demand. She is modest and humble, almost to a fault, which only makes her more charming. She has done so much for this community and yet always downplays her contributions, preferring to give the credit to others. Thankfully those around her are willing to sing her praises and give her the recognition she deserves.

Ruth had endless wisdom to share, both when we spoke at FIGT and when I interviewed her after. She knows that growing up as a TCK/CCK is not simply good or bad. There are challenges and sorrow, but there are also amazing opportunities and happiness. Sometimes we forget that the ups and downs are both necessary parts of life.

“The joy doesn’t negate the pain of the loss and the pain of chronic cycles of separation and loss also doesn’t negate the joy,” she said. “Never ever forget you only grieve for losing something you loved.”

After these many words of wisdom, she shared one final piece of advice, which she has carried around her whole life.

Her ATCK father told her: “Ruth, no matter where you go in life, always unpack your bags and plant your trees […] Maybe you won’t be there to eat the fruit from those trees, but someone else will.”

In an increasingly mobile world, perhaps that is the greatest piece of wisdom.

 

 

#TCKchat: The Struggling TCK

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This article first appeared in the December 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!

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Growing up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is an incredible experience, but it comes with many challenges. It’s not all about traveling to exotic locations and glamorous jet-setting across the world.

People often forget, or don’t realize, how difficult the TCK life can be. It’s easy to overlook or dismiss the complexities of growing up between worlds, between continents, between homes. We didn’t just travel to different countries, we moved there. There was no going back, no returning to the comfort of home and familiarity once we were done visiting and exploring. Each move meant more goodbyes, loss and grief. It meant being the new kid and having to start from scratch all over again. Growing up as TCKs gave us so much and made our lives richer, but it is also a life filled with transition, adapting and perpetual loss.

False Assumptions

Being misunderstood and fighting off false assumptions can be one of the biggest challenges for TCKs. Non-TCKs often make the mistake of assuming that since we’ve moved before, we should have no problem doing it again. TCKs can generally adapt well and know how to handle transition, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for us.

Even in adulthood, these misconceptions persist. A question that often comes up is: if we grew up moving often, shouldn’t we be comfortable and happy moving as adults? It’s difficult to explain: just because we lived that life, doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with it.

We may have grown up with a unique lifestyle, but we are just like any other person – we need time to adapt, to transition and to grieve. Too often we are not given that chance, since it’s assumed we’re ‘used to it’ and we’re ‘supposed’ to adjust quickly. It can be difficult to change someone’s mind and to clear it of pre-conceived false notions. Sometimes it’s simply easier to stay silent, which is unfortunately a common way for TCKs to process their emotions.

Silent Struggles

The negative and difficult aspects of a TCK’s life are not often mentioned, even among TCKs. But just because they’re not as visible or openly discussed does not mean they do not exist.

There are many reasons why we choose not to talk about the negative side. Often when we mention the challenges to non-TCKs, we are dismissed and labeled as spoiled, dramatic and ungrateful. Sometimes it can be easier to cope if we don’t acknowledge the grief and the struggles we face. Other times we may feel we don’t have the right to complain or express any negative thoughts because we know how lucky and privileged we are.

By admitting the tough moments, it can feel like we are discarding all the benefits and opportunities we gained. It can be difficult to accept that joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin.

When I interviewed Ruth Van Reken, co-author of Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds, she expressed this notion with great eloquence:

“The joy doesn’t negate the pain of the loss and the pain of chronic cycles of separation and loss also doesn’t negate the joy. Never ever forget you only grieve for losing something you loved. So if you feel grief for a particular time in your life that is no more, oddly you are affirming the good as well. So in those moments of sorrow, recognize you are also acknowledging the richness of your life.”

The Voices of #TCKchat

At #TCKchat we decided to talk about the tough parts. We know that staying silent doesn’t mean it goes away and that sharing is part of the journey to feeling understood and comforted. So we decided to discuss the complexities of the TCK experience. We chatted about what is/isn’t discussed, people’s false assumptions, which challenges are unique to TCKs, and how to provide greater support for TCKs (pre- and post-adolescence).

What issues were clearly not discussed or avoided in your expat community/ household?

@Astricella There was never any discussion around us children being able to adapt. It was always assumed that this was a non issue. #TCKchat

@baydiangirl How to handle the change as a teen. I felt limited because of the culture shock and fear of not really knowing my surroundings. #TCKchat

@RafalJacyna Inside me a crater was growing between my Polish household and my daily external unPolish life that my parents knew nothing of. #TCKchat

@tck_meglet People also liked to avoid issues around racism and sexism as ‘stuff that just happens’. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Real life racism, classism, culture shock and transitions; the concept of being a TCK. #TCKchat

@unsettledtck Drug issues or addictions were never discussed or brought up. Even when parents would do drugs with their kids. #TCKchat

@bateconsult Domestic violence. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Another big one was how living overseas affected family relationships. Quite a bit of family dysfunction, separation, divorce. #TCKchat

What is the biggest misconception or assumption about TCKs when it comes to transitions and adjustments?

@tck_meglet That we’re looking for a home or we’re just ‘confused’, or that we’ve been waiting to put down roots in a specific place. #TCKchat

@bateconsult Big assumption: that all TCKs are worldly/ global in perspective as a result of their experiences. #TCKchat

@grappleshark That we didn’t need to say our goodbyes. And that we wouldn’t miss our friends, because there’s more to explore. We miss them. #TCKchat

@DouniaB_TCK Just because we’re used to leaving and saying goodbye, doesn’t mean it’s easy. We need time to grieve and transition like everyone. #TCKchat

@verilymary Since TCKs are natural adapters, there is this assumption that we need zero support (SO not true). #TCKchat

What challenges are unique to the TCK experience (childhood and adolescence)?

@marilyngard How to turn our multicultural past into a meaningful vocation. #TCKchat

@tck_meglet Long-distance relationships of so many different varieties. All the coping strategies you pick up to deal with goodbyes. #TCKchat

@DouniaB_TCK Connecting events, music, movies, etc back to the countries we lived in at the time. Creating our timelines through those countries. #TCKchat

@Sekhmet_12th Relationships, social interaction and understanding cultural differences while respecting them and having yours respected. #TCKchat

@wce917 Challenging the expat bubble. Convincing others outside that bubble you do want to make friends and get out of the ‘walls’. #TCKchat

@verilymary Belonging to multiple places at once or none of them at all. TCKs are all or nothing kind of people. #TCKchat

What are challenges for adult TCKs (ages 19 and beyond)?

@mosso_ikan Should I stay or should I go? #TCKchat

@TCKPonders Navigating relationships with non-TCKs, to be honest. #TCKchat

@bateconsult Choosing to be ‘stable’ in a community that sometimes feels stagnant to you because of your experiences. #TCKchat

@MikeOghia Romantic relationships with non-travelers/ TCKs, imposed identity, and a lack of sense of permanence and belonging. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Many of us have to deal with a change in our status of privilege. Lots of us aren’t equipped for that. #TCKchat

@unsettledtck Realizing you can never go back to the places you grew up in. You have no ownership there and they changed without you. #TCKchat

@verilymary The good old ‘who am I’ questions, the concept of settling down, and commitment are huge issues for young adult TCKs. #TCKchat

@Astricella Wondering constantly if there is a place in the world where you’d settle and what ‘settling’ actually looks like. #TCKchat

@RafalJacyna Alienation – you may understand a culture, but you are painfully aware that it is not yours and so you stand alone. #TCKchat

@mariacelina Memories and reality can differ. Some TCKs return to places they loved, re-experience it differently, and become disillusioned. #TCKchat

What aspect of the TCK life doesn’t get enough attention?

@danautanu Sex-education about consent. Sexual abuse, harassment and assault. It happens to TCKs too. Our protective bubble is not real. #TCKchat

@verilymary Issues of suicide, depression (which is high among TCKs), and mental health. #TCKchat

@TCKPonders The confusion over how and where to build a life. #TCKchat

@grappleshark What is the long-term plan for a TCK child? Some parents overlook this entirely. There is no plan. #TCKchat

@unsettledtck Mental health and drug issues. Eating disorders and depression. All of these can fall through the TCK cracks. #TCKchat

How can we create a more supportive environment for a struggling TCK (adolescence)?

@livingquestions Bloomability by Sharon Creech and the new Inside Out movie would probably also be useful for struggling TCKs. #TCKchat

@RafalJacyna Somehow link with and mentor younger ones who experience what we once experienced. TCK networking? #TCKchat

@evnicolas Schools can create TCK friendly curriculum. Also invite mentors for workshops. #TCKchat

@mosso_ikan Social networking has definitely helped a lot! Also I guess more communication in the family and school environment? #TCKchat

@MikeOghia International school teachers are really a great gateway to the TCK framework. Increasing their access to TCK resources. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Family must educate themselves and show empathy and care for TCK struggles. Schools can provide resources, such as books, programs. #TCKchat

@tckwsucoug Open means of sharing personal stories. I think it’s important to be able to freely disclose our stories. #TCKchat

How do we provide support for TCKs post-adolescence?

@unsettledtck Develop more organizations to support TCKs who take gap years before university or who go straight into the workplace. #TCKchat

@livingquestions By helping adult TCKs recognize and connect the dots between their TCK experiences and what they may be struggling with. #TCKchat

@verilymary Finding other TCKs/ CCKs and being able to find myself around them was vital at this point. Mind you, I didn’t know I was a TCK. #TCKchat

@mariacelina TCKchat! In this information age where resources can be made and placed online, we must capitalize on digital means. #TCKchat

@erinsinogba Offline outreach for older ATCKs is also super important. Gotta do it the time-tested, grassroots way! #TCKchat

@grappleshark Connect with them. We are tribal creatures, looking for those who have shared experiences. TCK is a tribe. Get chatting. #TCKchat

#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.

Website: www.bateconsult.com/category/tck-chat/

Co-hosts First Session:

  • Amanda Bate @bateconsult
  • Dounia Bertuccelli @DouniaB_TCK
  • Michael Oghia @MikeOghia
  • Stephanie Taderera @TCKponders
  • Meghali Pandey @TCKmeglet 

Co-hosts Second Session:

  • Ellen Mahoney @seachangementor
  • Danau Tanu @DanauTanu
  • Cecilia Haynes @unsettledTCK
  • Mary Bassey @verilymary
  • Lisa Zenno @tckwsucoug

Here’s to a New Year

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!

#TCKchat: New Kid On The Block

pic163-detailThis 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.

Website: www.bateconsult.com/category/tck-chat/

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

Book Review – Expat Alien

Expat AlienExpat Alien – My Global Adventures

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.

Inside Out and Jumbled Up

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.

#TCKchat: What is it and How to Get Involved

pic161-detailThis 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:

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

Additional 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.

Website: www.bateconsult.com/category/tck-chat/

Co-hosts: First Session

Co-hosts: Second Session

Moveable Roots

In the nearly four and a half years since I returned to the U.S. as an adult, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be an accompanying spouse. Although I knew that’s what my situation would be when I chose to accompany my husband where his work would take him, I’ve only fully realized what it entails by living it these past few years.

When we were growing up, we didn’t have to deal with any logistics of the move, understanding health insurance, figuring out credit systems etc. As children, we had a regular routine, surrounded by many others like us at school. But as an adult, especially as an accompanying spouse, none of that applies anymore. Now we’re the ones with responsibilities and it’s up to us to figure it all out. There are no teachers or fellow students to help you out. This is very individual, independent learning – for better or for worse.

Since we’ve moved here, I’ve had to learn about living in the U.S. as an adult. Just because I have an American accent, people assume I’m from here and therefore I am aware of all the intricacies of daily life here. I only lived here as a young child, and although it is my passport country, it’s not where I’m from originally and it’s not where I’ve spent most of my life. This adds a further layer of complexity to this transition. This makes it a confusing mix of familiar and totally foreign. It makes us hidden immigrants and repats and neither all at the same time.

I’ve suddenly become acutely aware of what it must have been like for our parents – trying to make a home and figure everything out in a foreign place. And I also realize more than ever what a challenge that probably was for my mom, or any accompanying spouse. While the working spouse has a job to go, a routine, people they regularly interact with, the accompanying spouse often has none of those. I’ve learned just how difficult it can be to meet people when you work from home, don’t go to an office/school or have kids.

I had assumed that being an accompanying spouse in my passport country would make certain things easier – no need to get work permits or apply for visas, and no language barrier. And yet finding work has been extremely difficult, despite trying many times and in many different domains. I find myself competing with locals who have lived here, studied here and worked here most of their lives. I clearly have a foreign name, and have lived, studied and worked all over the world, but never in the U.S.

I also assumed I would find it relatively easy to adapt, to speak with people, to figure things out quickly… I had done it so many other times, in foreign places, while having to learn a new language; how hard could it be this time? Well, I didn’t realize how much the culture shock and loneliness would impact me. It was more acute than I expected, especially living in an area where there are very few foreigners and even less (if any) with TCK backgrounds/experiences like us. I have found it quite difficult to connect with people here. I have acquaintances and have no trouble carrying on a conversation, but I have forged few real relationships.

It has been a struggle and a steep learning curve. But thankfully it has also been a blessing in disguise. I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time, which allowed me to reignite my love for writing. I have started building something of my own, one brick at a time – first my blog, then some published articles, then my writer’s residency, published book reviews and soon a book with my name on it (as a writer and assistant editor). Those have led to other opportunities, little bits and pieces that slowly add to the puzzle. There is still a long way to go, but I’m proud of where I’ve gotten.

When we first arrived here, I never imagined that things would develop in this manner. I thought I would find a regular, part-time job and take a more ‘traditional’ path. Instead an unexpected path opened up and I’m continuously surprised by what it’s given me and by what I’ve learned about myself along the way. These last few years have allowed me to plant seeds for a career that I can carry with me wherever future plans may take us.

And what could be more fitting for a TCK, expat and accompanying spouse than a career with moveable roots?

DSC_2563