2014 Families in Global Transition Overview

I had the privilege to attend the the FIGT conference as a Parfitt/Pascoe writing scholar, which allowed me to meet many wonderful people, do a lot of writing and learn a lot about this global community.

Another great thing to come out of the conference was the chance to write an overview of my experiences for Global Living Magazine, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

Well, that article is now available to view on their website, so I wanted to share the link and the layout of the article. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it, and if you’re interested in any further information, please don’t hesitate to ask!

READ THE ARTICLE HERE: The 2014 Families in Global Transition Conference

As seen in Global Living Magazine www.globallivingmagazine.com

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Published Article – Families in Global Transition Conference

I know it has been quite a while since my last post, but I’ve been kept very busy with articles to write following the Families in Global Transition conference I attended in Washington D.C. several weeks ago. As we are preparing a book on the conference, there has been a lot of writing to do and a looming deadline!

In addition to the many individual topics I am covering for the book, I also managed to write an overview of my experiences that has just been published in the May/June Issue of Global Living Magazine!

If you’re an expat or Third Culture Kid, or even if you’re simply curious about the conference and other global happenings, please check out the magazine!

Hopefully I’ll be ready to put up a new blog post soon – stay tuned…

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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.

Published!

Writing this blog and sharing my experiences is something I love to do and it’s helped my writing improve and evolve over the past months. I have always loved to write and it is a deeply cherished hope of mine to one day be published – both in freelance writing and eventually maybe even a book. I recently got my first chance at being published, and an article I wrote is included in a truly fantastic magazine. My elation at this opportunity is even greater because Global Living Magazine is dedicated to the lifestyle of global nomads, TCKs, expats and travelers of the world. An even bigger bonus is that the founder and editor-in-chief is all of those things as well; she really knows this life, understands it and embraces it.

Issue 2 has a lot of interesting articles, that touch upon all facets of the global lifestyle. For expats raising TCKs who may be off to university soon, there’s a great article on the transition they may face. For those interested in writing a book about their expat experiences, you’ll find an excellent article with very helpful tips (I particularly enjoyed that article!). For anyone who loves traveling, seeing new places and trying new things, this magazine is for you. This second issue will take you on an Alaskan cruise, to a wine festival in Provence, France (courtesy of yours truly!), show you breathtaking photos and so much more.

Of course I’m excited that my article is included in this issue, but I really appreciate this magazine as a whole. It caters to people who have lived a global lifestyle and that speaks to me so much. Even if you haven’t been an expat or TCK but just love traveling, you’ll find great ideas and articles in Global Living Magazine.

Make sure to visit the webpage and browse through to get a better idea of the magazine. Stop by magcloud to check out a preview of the magazine and order your own copy of Issue 2 or the premier issue; it will be well worth it.

I hope some of you head over to the website and maybe even purchase your own copy of the first issues. If you do, let me know what you think, of both my article and the magazine as a whole!

Thanks, and happy reading!

The Other Perspective

Recently having spent a much longer time than usual away from a TCK environment, I’ve realized just how different perspectives can be. When you talk with a fellow third culture kid it’s very normal to talk about the different countries you’ve lived in and your experiences there. It’s an integral part of the conversation because those countries are where you’ve spent your life; they are where you’ve made your memories. Another third culture kid would not judge you for mentioning the places you lived and will even possibly ask you questions about them or mention that they lived there too or somewhere nearby. They are connections that bring us together – even if we didn’t live in any of the same countries, we have still lived the same lifestyle, and that is a much stronger understanding than many people might expect. It’s comforting, comfortable and familiar to be surrounded by third culture kids, even if they’re strangers and you’ve just met. When you suddenly find yourself far away from any TCK community and from any third culture kids, it’s a very different situation and experience. Now you’re the odd one out and people don’t really understand you or the life that you’ve led so far. That’s when the real challenge begins.

Hence the other perspective, that of a first culture kid, who lived pretty much their whole life in the same place and you almost seem like a foreign species to them. You can get different responses – some are amazed by such a lifestyle, others think it sounds awful…But whatever they think, they definitely don’t understand it or how it changes you and shapes you as a person. But perhaps the biggest thing they don’t understand is the way we refer so many moments and memories to the countries we lived in. I’ve realized over many conversation with first culture kids that this mentioning of countries, which is simply normal for us third culture kids, is deeply misunderstood by non-TCKs. They seem to think we talk about the places we lived or what country we were in at a certain date or event because we want to show off. Perhaps they think we are bragging or being condescending, as if we think we are better than them because we’ve lived in different countries. But that’s not at all what we’re doing. We built our memories in those countries, we can’t help that. We connect dates and events back to the country we were in at the time. Someone who’s lived their whole life in the same place just can’t understand that. They lost their first tooth in the same place they met their best friend, went to middle school, saw movies, had their first crush, their first kiss…We did all those things too, just spread over 3, 4, 5 or more countries. So when we have a conversation with a first culture kid and they share a memory, we want to share our similar memory…Yet sometimes when we do, we wonder if we shouldn’t have or if we should have modified what we said to not mention the country, like we’re so used to doing.

Now, I do feel I should mention that not all first culture kids react like that, and first culture kids from certain countries are even more open and receptive. I only wrote about those experiences to mention how differently the same comments and conversations can be perceived depending on the background of the people involved. It’s been interesting to observe and I’ve noticed the change in myself and how I speak with certain people. Sometimes it’s frustrating to feel like I need to modify how I would naturally have a conversation, but I’ve also learned that often it’s just better like that. It’s definitely been a learning curve and one that’s not always easy, but I know I’m not alone in trying to figure it out. I will never stop being grateful that my husband is also a third culture kid, because that makes all the difference. I know that no matter where we are there will always be at least one person who understands me, in every way.

Third culture kid, still learning and still growing, signing off.

Which Type Are You?

No, I’m not talking about blood types; I’m talking about TCK types. The reason it’s so difficult to explain what it is to be a TCK is that there is no single definition. There are no rules, there are hardly any guidelines. There is no determined number of countries you have to have lived in; there isn’t a required number of languages to speak; there’s no maximum or minimum limit to how many passports you should hold…I could go on.

So, how do you define a TCK, and how many types are there? Your guess is as good as mine.

Even in my family, we have different types of TCKs. Take me and my sister for example. By the time we had turned 18 and we were graduating from high school, we had lived in 6 and 7 countries each, respectively. We spoke 3 languages fluently at that time, could understand a 4th and had gone to 5 different schools in 5 different countries. We were old enough in most of the countries we lived in to have clear memories from our time there. We also know what it’s like to be the new kid at school – being in a new country, a new school, how lost and strange you feel those first days. That feeling made a huge impact on me, and whenever we had new kids at school I would always see if I could help them out, if they needed anything. I know all too well how it feels, how scary and lonely it can be starting someplace new. We’re definitely third culture kids, through and through.

My brother, on the other hand, who is about 10 years younger than me, had a very different path. By the time he was 6, he had already lived in 4 countries, but most likely only has memories from the last 2, if not just the last one. But after that 4th country, he didn’t move again. He is graduating from high school this year, and he’s the only one of us three siblings to have done ALL of his schooling in the same country, same school. He speaks 2 languages perfectly fluently, has working knowledge of a 3rd, and somewhat understands a 4th. My brother has no idea what it’s like to be the new kid. He’s always been the ‘old’ kid. He never had to learn new hallways, new classrooms, new buildings. He never had to find his way around totally alien territory, surrounded by
unfamiliar faces. Is he still a third culture kid? Or is part of being a third culture kid experiencing that feeling of total desorientation in a place that ultimately becomes home?

We immersed ourselves into the culture of every country we lived in; we embraced everything we could learn and take from it. And we certainly took away so much from every country. Traditions, decorations, food, celebrations, and something much less tangible, but all the more powerful – all those places became part of who we are today. Other TCKs I have met stay much more on the surface of the places they live. They often stay within groups and locations where they will find people from their native country, without mingling with the locals. They avoid local traditions, local stores, neighborhoods…they consider their time there as a transition before they head back home, wherever home may be. They are still third culture kids, are they not? Or does being a third culture kid mean truly experiencing every country you’ve lived in?

Who decides what a third culture kid is or what it means to be one? Can we define what makes a third culture kid?

So, what type are you?

The Sound of Silence

I love talking, listening to music, hearing kids running around and playing outside, but I must admit that sometimes I really love silence. Or at least the absence of man-made sounds. No chatty radio shows, no phone ringing, barely the sound of a car passing by. That doesn’t happen very often, but today I decided not to turn the radio on, and it has been a thoughtful, serene and soul-searching afternoon. Apart from the occasional car marring the moment, all I can hear are the crickets, chirruping their way through the last hours of summer, joined in chorus every once in a while by a bird or two. It’s quiet, peaceful, silent.

It’s in those moments of quietude that I find myself reflecting on my life so far. I run through memories, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to not be a third culture kid, and I think about the future. I don’t think about it in very concrete terms, I just ponder it more than anything. I ponder how the present and the future would have been different if I had not lived the life I did, as a third culture kid. I sometimes wonder if it would easier to be content, to not always compare or wonder how it would be or how it was elsewhere. It’s a good thing to be aware that each and every place has positive and negative aspects, but there are times I do wish I could feel an absolute attachment somewhere. That one place would be THE place, and I would love it unconditionally, and either be blissfully unaware of its downfalls, or at least not really notice them or care about them. I’m not saying I regret my life as a third culture kid or that I am unable to find contentment, but those quiet moments of reflection lead to many complex thoughts. Thoughts that are always present, hidden somewhere in the back of the mind, waiting for the opportune moment to surface. The change of seasons brings with it changing winds, propitious to self-reflection and soul-searching. I love the life I’ve led and continue to lead, but of course I sometimes wonder if the grass isn’t greener on the other side, or if ignorance is indeed bliss…

Copyright - Raya Fayad

I do ultimately come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t trade my life for another, and that I would probably do it all the same if I had to do it again, but that doesn’t stop those thoughts from creeping into my mind during those moments of silent contemplation. Those thoughts generally arise in periods of adaptation, or after an event or simple conversation makes you realize yet again how different you are as a third culture kid, when you’re no longer in a third culture environment. I love how my life here is unfolding, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s been tough to adapt, to fit in. There have been endless challenges to overcome, vast adjustments to make and a lot of effort to put in. When you’re not at school, working or at least have kids going to school, it’s a lot harder to meet people, to settle in, to find a routine. But I’m here, I’m doing it, and it gets better, trust me. If there’s one thing you learn as a TCK, it’s to adapt, to be flexible. Like I said in an earlier entry – we’re resilient, and that’s a key factor to our success. It may be tough, there may be moments of doubt, but ultimately it’s definitely worth it.

Third Culture Kid and Proud

It’s been a while since my last entry and to be honest I think it’s because I don’t realize just how fast time flies by! I’ve had a lot of ideas to write about, but was having difficulty transcribing my thoughts into coherent words. Moreover, I was really looking for a topic that was close to heart, but something that all third culture kids could relate to. And then I received an email, a comment on my blog, and a subscription, all from the same person. That person happens to be one of my high school teachers, a good friend and a fellow TCK.  Then I learned that some teachers from my high school are using my blog in their advisories with their students.

Now, you could wonder why this would be of such importance or even worth writing about. Obviously there was the initial excitement at having my first subscriber and knowing that more people are following my blog. But more importantly, it was a source of great joy and pride to know that what I am writing can reach out to other TCKs, especially those in an environment that is so important to me. My high school isn’t just my high school. I spent 3 years there as a student, then I returned to work there for a year following my bachelor’s degree, and again after my master’s degree. It is probably the place where I feel the most in my element and the most at home. Strange, isn’t it, to say that about a building essentially, rather than a city or country? In truth it’s not about the building though, it’s about the people; they’re the ones that make a place what it is. There’s a comfort in being surrounded by people like you, people who understand your life. Going back to work in the library there or as a substitute teacher was perhaps the most personally and professionally fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. Knowing the students all had similar stories to mine, being able to connect with them, both as an alum from the school and as a TCK was a much more intense experience than I had expected.

I’ve lived my whole life as a third culture kid, in all the roller-coaster emotions and events that it entails. As an adult today, I’m still a third culture kid. This will be the case for a lot of TCKs. It’s not just something you are or did at some point in your life, it’s something that played a role in defining you and will always be part of who you are. Sometimes it’ll feel like a great thing to be a TCK, and other times it won’t be so easy. Being a third culture kid comes with a lot of baggage. I believe most of it is fantastic, and I’ve loved having the opportunities that this life gave me, but sometimes you see that in hindsight. When you’re leaving your friends, leaving a home that you knew so well, knowing that you have to start from scratch somewhere new, it doesn’t always feel like it’s an enriching and exciting adventure that will leave you with an amazing openness and awareness about the world. It just feels awful, empty and hollow. Then you arrive at that new place, make new friends before you know it, and everything is back to how it should be.  Yes, that’s easier said than done, but then again, it’s actually not that hard, is it? We are resilient beings, us TCKs, never forget that. The things we learn and the way we adapt as third culture kids will forever come in handy, even if you are no longer in a TCK environment. The qualities and skills we pick up as third culture kids will only serve as assets later in life. Use them wisely and you’ll go far no matter what you do and where you are.

I love being a third culture kid, even if it’s not always easy (as a child, a teenager or an adult). I love to write, read and talk about being a third culture kid. I love belonging to such a global community. It may be a ‘hidden’ community to those who don’t know it’s there, but for those of us who are a part of it, we know it’s thriving and growing. It stretches from one end of the globe to the other, spanning great distances and yet all the while proving that it is indeed a small world after all. If you ever have those ‘negative’ TCK moments, where you curse the endless moves you did, all those friends you had to say goodbye to, or if you find yourself surrounded by non-TCKs and you feel lost or alone, remember that there’s a whole bunch of us out there, and we understand. We’re lucky to be part of such a global and encompassing community. And trust me, when you’re no longer in a TCK environment, you’ll miss it, and you’ll seek out the comfort of those who are like you. For all its ups and downs, its complexities and endless twists, I love my third culture kid life, and I would never trade it.

I am a third culture kid, in everything that it means to be one, now and always.