As an international student myself, I’d like to think that I know quite a lot about what’s it’s like to be a Third Culture Kid (TCK). As you might have seen, my fellow China Team Writer, Saki, also wrote about the effect that we TCKs have when it comes to our bettering futures. On the flip side, I’d like to establish what I know about the effect that being a TCK has on us right now.
Generally speaking, TCKs are definitely not an uncommon occurrence in today’s world. When we tell our families back home that we’re moving to “_______”, which is a seemingly foreign/new country, we’re bombarded with the conversations that begin with “you’re so brave”, “I wish I could make that commitment”, “I heard it’s really _______ there” and so on and so forth. As redundant as it might seem (especially after moving multiple times), it’s definitely true. Moving to a new country has its hardships, and even if you might not notice them individually, your parents might be bearing them for you. There are language barriers, new surroundings, homesickness, or even actual sickness. Sometimes it might not seem worth it at all…until you look at things on the positive side, or, as positive of a side that you can get.
No matter what, being in a new environment will always give way to new experiences, good or bad. By being an international student, you get to meet people who you’d never be able to meet as a student in your home country. It opens doors to new cultures, personalities, and relationships as a whole. TCKs are also able to experience new things that can’t really compare to anything you’d ever expect in your hometown. Sure we might have gotten food poisoning along the way or maybe get lost in the middle of a new city, but it’s all part of the “TCK Experience”. A large difference that I’ve seen between many international schools and public schools, like where I’m from in the USA, are interims to new places within the country, or even internationally. Additionally, international students generally have much more exposure from trips on sports teams or different extracurricular activities that take them to new places as well. It’s because of these experiences that we’re able to learn a lot about other people and places, but also ourselves. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to four different locations in China and participate in different activities and community services as well. The funny thing is, those weeklong adventures were simply a part of the school year. Through these trips I’ve been exposed to new cultures, new foods, and new experiences as a whole. I’ve been able to reaffirm the fact that I’m terrified of heights, but also appreciate the effects and necessities of community service. In the end, I’d like to think that this holds a level of truth for other TCKs as well.
These international experiences ultimately change us in many different ways. We’re no longer just citizens of our home countries, but a smoothie of cultures and experiences that make us up to be the complex people we are today. There’s a level of change that must happen to a student when they’re taken out of a bubble of familiarity and be plugged into a new place to create yet another bubble for themselves. We learn to take things in and adapt to try and maintain a sense of comfort.
So we can’t take this for granted. I’m not trying to say that all TCKs are, but we need to realize just how privileged we are to have had these experiences under our belts as they apply to our lives presently and in the future. According to the International School Consultancy, as of 2015, there are approximately 4.22 million international students, and it’s projected to grow upwards to 5.74 million by 2020. Being a TCK is something that might seem like a burden to some, especially if it’s a new part of one’s life, but in the end, the positives we have received due to our “lifestyle” might potentially outweigh a lot of the negatives of not being at “home”. We’ve gotten the opportunity to attempt to see things from a worldly perspective versus a small window, so we might as well put some good use to the privilege we possess.