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

————————————————————————–

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.

————————————————————————–

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!

#TCKchat: The Struggling TCK

pic164-detail.jpg

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!

—————————————————–

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

#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

#TCKchat: Third Culture Kids and Languages

pic162-detailThis article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Among Worlds.


In March and April, #TCKchat, the bimonthly Twitter conversations for Third Culture Kids (TCKs), covered a variety of topics, ranging from lighthearted, amusing chats about food and language to more serious conversations about race and post-university/ young adulthood years.

We learned which languages are more commonly spoken in our #TCKchat community and which ones people wish to learn. Talking about local cuisine prompted participants to share photos and recipes of favorite foods. Race proved to be such an important topic for many of our participants that it has been divided into three sessions in order to thoroughly discuss its many facets. The chat on post-university/ young adulthood allowed the older TCKs to provide guidance and encouragement to the younger TCKs as they navigate this complex transition.

All of the chats were interesting and enlightening, but for this issue I’ve chosen to focus on languages.

Languages and Identity

Juggling multiple languages has been a part of my life since birth. We spoke three languages at home, and I learned a fourth when I was still a young child and a fifth as an adult. Today I speak them in varying degrees of fluency, but each one is a different part of my identity and tells different parts of my story. I can express certain emotions better in one language, or write faster in others; some I speak comfortably without questioning myself and in others I am more hesitant. But each one holds its own special place in my heart and I can find myself longing for certain languages when I don’t speak them for a lengthy period.

We’ve always spoken French, English and Arabic in my family, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I realized my attachment to French and Arabic. My siblings and I went to school in English all over the world, but my parents made sure to keep up the French and Arabic at home. As children we weren’t always thrilled about that, but as adults we are extremely grateful that our parents pushed us to use different languages.

Recently I had my parents visiting from France and my aunt/ uncle joined us from Montreal for a few days. It had been quite a while since we had all been together, so the days were inevitably filled with much chatter and laughter. I got to hear and speak much more French and Arabic than I usually do since living in the U.S. Listening to them, I realized how much I missed hearing and speaking those languages regularly. They speak to my heart and represent my culture, my heritage and my family.

Secondary Languages and Changing Accents

Thankfully my parents also encouraged us to learn new languages, especially of our host countries, which allowed us to become fluent in Spanish while living in Mexico. Later, as an adult, I learned Italian by immersion, listening to the conversations of my husband’s family. Little by little I picked up Italian and it quickly became a language I love. Luckily, my husband and I are fluent in nearly all the same languages, which allows us to practice them at home, even when we don’t get much chance to use them elsewhere. Growing up as TCKs and attending international schools, we were used to speaking and hearing multiple languages on a daily basis.

My TCK background becomes most evident when my accents unintentionally change depending where I am and with whom I’m speaking. When we lived in Australia and I attended a local school, I started speaking English with an Australian accent. We only spent two years there, but that was more than enough time for my American accent to morph into an Australian one. My French accent is also malleable and changing, depending on whether I’m speaking with my family or with native French speakers from France, Canada, Lebanon or elsewhere.

But we pick up more than accents; we also pick up unique expressions and intonations a language may have in different locations. Learning in a classroom is not the same as learning by immersion – you only truly capture the nuances of a language when you delve deeper into the cultural aspects of it. Language is not just about words, it’s also about culture and heritage.


What Others Had to Say

What is/ are your dominant language(s)? Is it a language from your passport country?

  • @poetic_stranger Dutch and English – my mother tongue is Dutch, but learned English when we moved to Budapest, and my English is actually better! #TCKchat
  • @TweetingAuthor I have one dominant language, it is my passport language, but I occasionally dream in French, which creeps me out. #TCKchat
  • @amunati English and I wish it was Arabic cause not being super fluent keeps me an outsider with my culture…super hard on a TCK.#TCKchat
  • @RhoKers English as well! Even though it’s not my mother tongue. It happens to a lot of TCKs I know! #TCKchat
  • @Astricella French and English. Some would say mostly English now, even though I started with French for the first half of my life. #TCKchat
  • @TCKmeghali English and Hindi. Both from my passport countr(ies)! Except that I use more American English than I do British English… #TCKchat
  • @SarahZYaseen English is my first language but Arabic is my mother tongue. But I have an American passport and my parents are Arab. #TCKchat
  • @EleonoraByron My first passport is Russian but my predominant language became French, and is now English. A bit of a mess. #TCKchat
  • @juanjohn Spoke Spanish first (cuz we lived in Guatemala and Costa Rica) then switched to English when we moved to the US. #TCKchat
  • @jessirue American passport, English is dominant but Russian is a close second! I’ve studied a few others but don’t speak them well. #TCKchat
  • @brettparry English of course from my native Australia. Now speak mainly Polish at home with my wife and daughter. #TCKchat
  • @tckwsucoug Passport country is Japan. Japanese is 3rd on my list. English is the dominant. Then Spanish, then Japanese #TCKchat
  • @verilymary English is my dominant language. Efik is spoken in my home and though I know it, I always respond in English. #TCKchat

Did you learn the language of all the places you lived in as a TCK? How did you learn them?

  • @loniklara If you know a kid, talking to them is the best way to learn. I learned both Finnish and Swedish that way!#TCKchat
  • @TCKmeghali Spoke fluent Arabic with the local kids when I was living in Oman! #TCKchat
  • @jessirue I’m one of those weird TCKs that only lived in one place overseas. Spoke Russian at school and English at home. #TCKchat
  • @wearehyphenated In Hong Kong we spoke English at home, I learnt Mandarin at school as it was a compulsory subject & my mum INSISTED! #TCKchat
  • @DouniaB_TCK Not all, if English was dominant language. But others, yes. Learned at school, practiced with parents & immersed in life there. #TCKchat
  • @juanjohn Spanish from living in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama; English from USA and French/Arabic from Morocco & Egypt. #TCKchat
  • @unsettledtck I learned from just going around with friends and with housekeepers. Sometimes with local teachers. #TCKchat
  • @tckwsucoug Portuguese, Japanese/English, then Spanish. School, but Japanese – I learned at home + supplemental workbooks and comic books and Japanese dramas. #TCKchat
  • @kolbegray Yes, born with American English, Irish English, Indonesian learned through osmosis #TCKchat
  • @RowenaMonde I had no choice but to learn Scottish English. 🙂 I learned fairly quickly as I was a child then. #TCKchat
  • @GaylynnGabbie I was so fluent in Japanese when I lived there that my thoughts and my dreams were in Japanese. Sad I lost much of that.

Benefits of Speaking the Local Language

  • @LuceroViktoria Traveling in China! Such a different experience once I learned some Mandarin and was able to chat with the locals. #TCKchat.
  • @jessirue Translating for visiting friends/family was always fun. Once was asked where I learned English. Made my whole year. #TCKchat
  • @kolbegray In Bali I get this a lot “OH! We had no idea you spoke Indonesian. Sure you can have the local price” *price gets cut in half*. #TCKchat
  • @unsettledtck Whenever I meet people from one of the places I know phrases from, it is a great ice breaker! #TCKchat

Upcoming Dates and Topics

#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

Second Session

#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

Wrapping up the Year (and the presents)

I realize that it’s been nearly 3 months since my last blog post… I’m usually not absent from my blog that long, but suddenly September arrived and these past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. It’s amazing how quickly time flies. One moment it was the end of summer and suddenly it’s almost the end of the year. There have been new experiences, vacation plans that didn’t end so well, new projects, last minute trips and finally holiday preparations.

#TCKchat

Over the past few months, I have been a co-host for a twitter chat for Third Culture Kids (#TCKchat). These one-hour chats happen every 2 weeks (Wednesday at 10am/10pm US EST) and every session has a topic and a series of questions. We have participants of all ages, of all personal and professional backgrounds, located all over the world. However, you don’t have to be a TCK to take part in the conversation, so please feel free to join us anytime!

I joined twitter earlier this year for the ParfittPascoe Writing Residency. Although I never expected to use twitter much, TCKchat is a great way to connect and share experiences, lessons, stories and so much more. I hope to connect further with some of you in that forum!

You can find additional information including highlights of previous chats, upcoming topics, and short bios on the founders and co-hosts here: www.bateconsult.com/category/tck-chat.

Expat Resource Directory

A few months ago, I also started working with Global Living Magazine as Expat Resource Manager to help create an Expat Resource Directory. The aim of the directory is to be an ongoing list of expat/TCK resources, including services, organizations, projects, blogs and active expat twitter accounts/chats. There are resources covering a wide variety of topics, ranging from counseling/mental health, to consulting, education, relocation, TCKs, parenting, finance etc. We’re always looking for great new resources, so all suggestions are welcome (Dounia@globallivingmagazine.com).

This photo below is just a sample page of the directory to give you a sneak peek; the full directory can be viewed in the latest issue (Nov/Dec) of Global Living Magazine and will be updated in all future issues.

ExpatResourceDirectory

Paris: City of Light and Love

After a brief vacation in Florida (that unfortunately ended with all of our personal belongings being stolen), there was a last minute whirlwind trip to Paris to see my family after 10+ long months of only seeing them on Skype… It was short (isn’t it always when you live far away from loved ones?), but very sweet. We visited parts of Paris that I remember so well and also made new memories in some quartiers that I didn’t know as much. Even if it had been over 2.5 years that I had been there, I still remembered the familiar streets, smells and sounds that make Paris one of my homes.

Here are some of my favorite photos from my quick November trip:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Finally I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas (or happy holidays for whichever festivities you celebrate)! I hope you all have a wonderful end to 2014 and an even better start to 2015! I hope to catch you all more in the new year!

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad!