I am a Third Culture Kid, which is any person who has spent a significant part of their developmental years in a country or culture other than the one on their passport. The product of globalization, myself and many other children of ‘expats’ (expatriates) end up partially belonging to many countries and cultures without truly feeling ownership of any.
My life, like each chapter of a book, is split into segments. Some are longer, some are shorter. All of them are just as important to the story and make it what it is.
What that means is different for everybody: a mixture of unique, if not all great, experiences like nobody else will have.
For me, it means I’ve lived in three different countries, went to seven different schools, tried (and failed) to learn three languages that weren’t my own, and couldn’t tell you where my hometown was even if you offered me a hundred dollars.
It means cool things like learning how to carve a wooden bow with tribe warriors in Kenya. It means tragic things like being “redeployed” back to the states when I was 9 because of civil unrest in my at-the-time home of Chad, while my mother stayed behind. It means small things like trying to understand my little sister, who’s grown up around so many different languages she can weave between them mid-sentence.
Harder still than having to navigate language and cultural barriers was explaining to people in third world countries that my mom was the reason we traveled, and that yes, my dad was happy to raise two strong girls and take care of things at home. (A concept I have a hard enough time getting across here.)
But mostly, it means not being fully understood by anybody except for your siblings. The nomadic feeling you live with as a result of your travels makes it easier to fit in everywhere, at the cost of ever really feeling like you belong anywhere.
“Who am I?” My passport says I’m an American, but I have felt more at home during week-long trips than I have at my permanent address. This is the kind of question I ask myself on what can feel like the daily.
As a student, college has proven that being a TCK doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When I was a teenager, I constantly had to defend stories of my life from being labeled lies. Now, I can share my experience in an environment that values the diversity of people and their journeys.
I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve lived for anything. I know that wherever I go, I can offer a unique perspective that can’t be replicated. Growing up the way I did might not have been easy, but it taught me that home is much more than just a place.