This article first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Among Worlds.
These articles are not written exclusively for TCKchat participants. I write about the topics we discuss through my personal experiences, which I hope others (TCK or not) can relate to in their own way. As always, I would love to hear/read your thoughts and stories, so please feel free to share!
Over the past couple of months the topics at #TCKchat have continued to be varied, thought-provoking and insightful. We finished our series of chats on race, culminating with a conversation about cultural and racial identity. We discussed the Third Culture Kid (TCK) ‘label’, and current/ future research topics for TCKs. We looked at how sports can be an important connector and tool to engage in your community. We also shared thoughts, advice and suggestions on creating and maintaining a global career.
As this issue of Among Worlds is focused on new beginnings, however, I would like to jump back a few months to a #TCKchat we had in September 2014 entitled New Kid on the Block.
Practice Doesn’t Always Make Perfect
The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ can apply to many things in life, but not to everything unfortunately. I’ve been the new kid quite a few times and I don’t think it really gets easier or better the more you do it. Sure, you might get more used it and as the years go by you’ll be more mature so you can handle it differently. But, on the flip side, as you get older, feelings get more complex and there’s more to juggle.
Being the new kid at school is never easy. It can be stressful, embarrassing, upsetting and lonely. Throw in a foreign country, a different school system or a new language and it becomes even more daunting. Sometimes there might not even be the comforts of home and personal belongings – they might still be shipping from across the world as you stay in a hotel.
By the time I was eighteen, I had lived in six countries (on four continents) and had gone to five different schools. I attended international/ American schools in Mexico, the Philippines and France; local schools in the U.S. and Australia; and then went on to study in French and British universities. I know all too well how it feels to be the new kid.
Although I was lucky to have supportive parents and a sister who shared the transition struggles, I still had to navigate the school days on my own. I had to talk about myself to unfamiliar faces, through the nervousness and sadness; I had to correct teachers on the pronunciation of my name; I had to find somewhere to sit at lunch and try not to feel too lonely. I don’t think more practice could have made any of that much easier.
It’s The Little Things That Matter
Although the first days and weeks were tough, I always settled in eventually. I made friends, found my way around the school and one day, I was no longer the new kid. But I knew how difficult it was to feel so lost and alone, and I learned that the smallest gestures of kindness could make an enormous difference.
I took that lesson to heart and decided I would do everything I could to make the experience easier for other new kids. I initiated conversations with them and asked if I could help out. I looked out for them and if I ever saw someone who looked lost or lonely, I would introduce myself, offer to help them find their way, or simply talk to them and get to know them. Sometimes all you need is to know that someone cares.
Having the right kind of support during these transitions is so important, and I am grateful for those teachers and students who reached out a helping hand. I am even more grateful to have parents who were always supportive and reassuring. They did everything they could to help us navigate the tough parts of these experiences and cope with all the changes in our lives. Having siblings also made things infinitely easier – it was comforting to know I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling and what I was going through. We didn’t need grand gestures to help us through those moments. We simply needed a friendly smile, a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on, a comforting hug – something that reminded us we weren’t alone and that everything would be alright.
I won’t pretend that moving was (or is) easy. Leaving behind all that’s familiar and starting somewhere new can be daunting and overwhelming. There are bound to be moments of sadness and loneliness. But it is also an exciting adventure, with wonderful opportunities. Being the new kid is never easy and new beginnings are always a little scary. Yet before you know it, you’ll know your way around school, you’ll be giving directions to tourists, and you’ll be calling that strange, foreign place home.
What Others Had to Say
At #TCKchat we discussed being the new kid – sharing thoughts on how to make friends, who helped us through the transition, how we coped with being the new kid and finally offering up some advice for others going through similar challenges.
What type of a TCK were you when you first moved to a new place? Chameleon? Observer? Did you jump right in or have your guard up?
- @tckwsucoug Looking back though, I always made new friends who ended up being ‘just like me’ a TCK or otherwise, with shared experiences. #TCKchat
- @DouniaB_TCK I was always myself though, so no chameleon for me. I had great family support so I felt I could be me without worrying. #TCKchat
- @mkPLANET I was a chameleon observer, blending in as much as possible while studying my peers. Looking back I wish I’d been myself more. #TCKchat
- @unsettledtck Chameleon/ observer all the way! It behooved me to be a cool kid ASAP so I learned how to read the room quickly and then adapt. #TCKchat
- @TCKPonders ALWAYS had my guard up! Existed on the fringes with a basic friend group till I found my feet & felt more confident. #TCKchat
- @marilyngard Chameleon without a doubt. Changed with the world around me. Resulted in pain all around. #TCKchat
- @CrissXCulture I was 5 years old and a little integrator, playing with anyone and everyone without thinking, as kids do. #TCKchat
- @TCKFeminist I was sort of a hybrid observer. I’d try to be friendly to every person I met whilst quietly figuring out the group dynamics. #TCKchat
- @livingquestions Definitely chameleon. I roomed with my twin sister though so I had TCK support, which made it easier to get involved right away. #TCKchat
What was your strategy for making new friends?
- @seachangementor Looked for kids that were into the music I liked. If they wore a cool band t-shirt on free dress day, I would strike up a conversation! #TCKchat
- @mkPLANET My strategy for making new friends was simply being open. I was thankful for anyone who wanted a friendship with me. #TCKchat
- @unsettledtck Find common interests or overlapping spheres of enthusiasm. #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
- @seachangementor Choose your friends wisely. Don’t commit too soon. #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
- @unsettledtck You are not alone. Everyone else is just as nervous. #TCKchat
- @CrissXCulture Don’t be afraid to talk to someone new. You never know who might be willing to share their crayons with you. #TCKchat
Upcoming Dates and Topics
- September 2 The Struggling TCK
- September 16 Global Citizenship – Explored
- October 7 Travel Chat
- October 21 Global Cuisine – Dessert Edition
- November 4 Entrepreneurship
- November 18 TCK Reads (books on the nomadic childhood/ expat experience)
- December 2 Holiday Traditions
- December 16 End of Year Grab Bag
#TCKchat General Information
#TCKchat is held on the first and third Wednesday/ Thursday of each month with 2 sessions: 1st session at GMT 15:00 and 2nd session at GMT +1 3:00. To figure out when #TCKchat happens in your time zone, visit www.TimeandDate.com
On the website you will find upcoming chat dates and topics, highlights from past topics, a video showing you how to get involved/ participate in #TCKchat and information on all of the co-hosts.
Co-hosts: First Session
- Amanda Bate @bateconsult
- Dounia Bertuccelli @DouniaB_TCK
- Michael Oghia @MikeOghia
- Stephanie Taderera @TCKponders
Co-hosts: Second Session
- Ellen Mahoney @seachangementor
- Danau Tanu @DanauTanu
- Cecilia Haynes @unsettledTCK
- Mary Bassey @verilymary
- Lisa Zenno @tckwsucoug