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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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.

 

 

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!

Fulfilling a (Writer’s) Dream

I’m particularly excited to publish today’s blog post, because I get to share a project that is very important to me and that has been nearly a year in the making.

2014 Parfitt/Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR)

Last February (2014), I was selected as one of four writing scholars to attend a fantastic conference on all things expat and Third Culture Kid (TCK). The conference, Families in Global Transition (FIGT), happens every year and is a great way to learn more about the global lifestyle and meet like-minded people.

The FIGT conference was held in March, and I wrote about it a few times – the welcoming atmosphere, the touching performance of a TCK’s story, and about becoming a writer. As writing scholars, we attended many sessions, keynote speeches and interviewed a variety of fascinating people. After the conference, our job was to write articles on everything we had seen and heard. Some of these articles were published on our blogs or in magazines, but most were stashed away in preparation for a bigger unveiling: a book.

It’s Here!

After months of writing, compiling articles, interviews, book reviews and editing (and more editing), our book finally went to press a few weeks ago. And less than two weeks ago, it became available to buy, both in print and on kindle.

YearbookCover

Please don’t be put off by the book if you haven’t attended the conference or don’t live a global lifestyle. Although the articles cover the conference, they are intended for a much wider audience than simply the FIGT attendees. If you are an expat, global nomad, TCK and/or if you work with them, this book is for you. If you are simply curious to learn more about living a global life, you will also find a lot to interest you.

A Dream Come True

I have always loved writing, but it has only been these past few years that I truly started to envision making a career out of writing. Having my articles published in magazines was already more than I had ever imagined. Now my name is on a book as a contributor and assistant editor. It’s incredibly exciting and surreal at the same time.

Jo Parfitt, who created this writing residency, had wanted to do this for a long time. She said that being able to combine her love for FIGT and her desire to help new writers was like a dream come true for her.

I’m grateful she fulfilled her dream, because in doing so she also made one of my dreams come true.

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?

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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!

Book Review – Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging

Between WorldsBetween Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging by Marilyn R. Gardner

When I found out that Marilyn was going to publish a book, I knew it would be great and I was impatient to read it. I first read Marilyn’s writing on her blog, Communicating Across Boundaries, and I was immediately captured by her words. Her writing is always so honest, vulnerable, insightful and eloquent. Her book is no different.

Although I received Marilyn’s book a while ago (courtesy of the author herself – thank you!), I’ve taken a while to get through it and write this review. It wasn’t because the book is heavy reading or takes a while to get through, but rather because I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to savor what I was reading and have the time to reflect upon it.

Reading Between Worlds is like having a conversation with a TCK best friend. You may have lived in different countries and experienced different things but ultimately you understand each other to the deepest core. You can skip the small talk and trying to explain your background and just get right into the nitty-gritty things. The things that matter, that affected you, that shaped you. The way growing up between worlds is both blessing and curse, beautiful and heart-breaking…But that no matter how tough it can be you would do it all again.

Marilyn covers all that and so much more in this first (and hopefully not last!) book. She has divided her essays into seven topics that most, if not all, TCKs have dealt with: home, identity, belonging, airports, grief and loss, culture clash, and goodbyes. Through these topics we get a glimpse into Marilyn’s world growing up as a TCK and then struggling to adjust as an ATCK, especially upon returning to her passport country. But this isn’t a chronological book outlining each aspect of her life growing up, and I love that. It’s a collection of touching, heart-warming, humorous, gut wrenching essays about defining moments, memories or events. Her descriptions are so vivid and the details so precise that we can almost see, smell and hear everything. We can picture the Chai Shop, smell the curry, hear the raindrops on the tin roof and the call to prayer. We can also feel her sorrow, her intense joy and all the myriad of emotions that come with living between worlds.

On a very personal level, I connected deeply with many things Marilyn wrote. We are so very different in our TCK experiences – I have never lived in Pakistan, but lived in 7 different countries around the world; I grew up as a ‘corporate’ TCK, not an MK; we are of different generations…But none of that matters. I had already noticed how little it mattered when reading her blog posts as I often felt that she was writing my own thoughts and feelings. Reading Between Worlds was the same. She could have been expressing my own joys, fears and struggles. I felt understood and comforted. And I know I will be re-reading her book time and time again.

For those of you who haven’t read Between Worlds yet, please do. You won’t regret it. Everyone can find something to relate to, whether TCK or not. To tempt you and give you a taste of Marilyn’s beautiful writing, here are some of my favorite quotes. I could have included many, many more, but I hope that this selection will push you to read her wonderful book.


“Every good story has a conflict. Never being fully part of any world is ours. This is what makes our stories and memories rich and worth hearing. We live between worlds, sometimes comfortable in one, sometimes in the other, but only truly comfortable in the space between. This is our conflict and the heart of our story.” (p. 29) 

“My passport was my grown-up teddy bear. Its expiration was an identity theft of sorts, arousing a host of feelings for which I was unprepared. I was swept away in a tsunami of soul tears, tears that come from such a deep place that you do not think you can survive them. And in those soul tears, I made up my mind that no matter what, I would not let my passport expire again. […] It was a crucial part of the complexity of my journey of identity.” (p. 58)

“Third culture kid envy is one of the consequences of being designed for travel. It is what I feel when my feet are trapped on the ground for too long while I watch others travel.” (p. 73)

“Being able to travel is one of life’s greatest gifts. It simultaneously keeps one humble and fully alive. And for me the gift and magic begin at the airport. The airport is a place where I don’t have to try. It’s where I can be fully comfortable between worlds.” (p. 91)

“At airports, life seems full of endless possibilities. Whether I’m traveling to Rochester, New York or Karachi, I enter the terminal and get airport eyes, seeing the world through the lens of hope and opportunity.” (p. 105)

“As we tell our stories we realize that these transitions and moves are all part of a bigger narrative, a narrative that is strong and solid and gives meaning to our lives. As we learn to tell our stories we understand not only the complexity of our experience, but the complexity of the human experience, the human heart. So we learn to tell our stories – because your story, my story, and our stories matter.” (p. 162)

“Third culture kids, immigrants, refugees, foreigners. We find each other in unlikely spaces. In the shared experience of other, we find belonging and rest, whether in a short ride to an airport or a long-distance phone conversation. These moments of connection seem to come at the right time, sustaining us until the next encounter, preventing us from falling into an abyss of self-pity and isolation.” (p. 181)

“No matter where these goodbyes have taken place, whether it’s been on hot tarmacs, or dusty river banks; efficient European airports or train stations, the symptoms are the same. My stomach gets those characteristic ‘goodbye’ butterflies, my throat constricts, my body feels restless. Time passes too quickly; minutes count, hours horrify.” (p. 195 & 230)

“All the world feels caught in these goodbyes, goodbyes that bruise and hurt, yet remind us that our hearts are still soft and alive.” (p. 202)


And last, but certainly not least, a quote from Marilyn’s preface:

“This book is a product of that life, a life lived on both sides of the globe. It is a set of essays from a life lived between worlds. […] It is my hope that my words, stories, thoughts, and feelings resonate with those who, along with me, are living between worlds.”

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 Book Review and Thank You

It’s been a great week for me as a writer – first my article was published yesterday in Global Living Magazine and today my book review on Expat Arrivals was published!

The book review is about Valerie Besanceney‘s wonderful book B at Home: Emma Moves Again, which is a must-read for Third Culture Kids, their parents and teachers. It is especially directed at younger TCKs, but I think even adults would greatly benefit from it. I know that I saw myself in the story and I could really feel Emma’s emotions. It is a fantastic book that I would highly recommend to anyone working with TCKs.


This is again going to be a short post to share my publishings, but I did want to thank everyone who has ever taken the time to read my blog. The comments I’ve gotten here have always encouraged and motivated me. Without this blog I don’t think I would have been ready to tackle the writing residency I am currently doing and I probably wouldn’t have been prepared to publish articles either.

This blog was my first real opportunity to pursue my passion and I’m grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment. You’ve helped make my dream of being a writer come true, because you made me feel that what I wrote mattered. That has always been humbling and inspiring.

So, a very heartfelt thank you and I hope you’ll stick around for more!

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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