Saturday, 19 March 2016

Starting a Third Culture Kid Society at University

In my last post I let you know that I was preparing for the Families in Global Transition Conference (FIGT). Well the conference has taken place in Amsterdam. It was the first time ever that the conference took place in Europe. How exciting! By the way the FIGT conference will take place in the Netherlands again in 2017, maybe you can join us?

There is so much I could say about the conference but I just want to start by telling you about a session I 
attended in which two university students told us how and why they started a third culture kids society at Bristol university. We had the privilege of having both co-presidents Dalia Abuyasin and Anna Skoulikari from the Third Culture Kid Society of Bristol University tell their story.

On the TCK society Facebook page they start with a definition of a third culture kid: A Third Culture Kid is defined as 'a young person who has spent a significant amount of time in their developmental years outside of their family's country of origin'. Often people that identify as third culture kids reply to the question "where are you from?" with "it's complicated". 

The TCK social society is a place to meet, connect and share unforgettable experiences with others. It is a place that is open to anyone and everyone interested in spending time in an international environment. You do not have to a third culture kid to join the society. The society was started by Dalia and Anna. They had no idea how many others students would be interested or had lived abroad for a certain amount of time. Now there is a thriving TCK society in Bristol. They even had short videos so we could hear from them members what it was like to transition to university.


It is even more interesting to hear the members tell about what the third culture kid society has meant to them. They did not need to explain things. It felt so familiar. It felt like "home". This is a short video of about 3 minutes. Listen to what the students say:


Dalia and Anna explained to us that they want to encourage other students to start TCK societies at their universities. They want to develop a toolbox to help you and make it even easier to start a group too. It would be really great if they manage to develop a toolbox.

As you might know I transitioned from Zimbabwe to the Netherlands when I was 19 to go to university. It was a very difficult transition. On the MaDonna's Raising TCKs blog I wrote about leaving the African "nest". I hope third culture kids these days have easier transitions to university or college! As you can understand this is a topic I am really interested in. A while ago I wrote a post on 10 tips to transition well to university (specially for TCKs and their parents). I wish there had been a TCK society like this one at the university I went to years ago, it would have made my transition easier.

Did you transition globally to university or college? What was it like? Do you know of other universities with groups specially for third culture kids? Please share them here.

Related Posts:

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Preparing for the Families in Global Transition Conference 2016

At the moment I am preparing for the FIGT conference which will take place in March. It's the first time ever that this conference will take place in the Netherlands. It's the first time it will take place in Europe. It's the first time I will attend the conference and it's the first time I will be presenting at the conference. Very exciting! By the way the conference schedule is available and the presenter biographies. As you can see there are more than 50 presenters, I expect that they will represent all the corners of the world.

While preparing for my session I was searching the internet for new information on third culture kids. I found a nice short video made by teenager Alison. She's a third culture kid herself, she explains what it means, has done some research and she gives advice. It's worth watching.


She conducted a survey and it revealed that the TCKs find leaving friends and changing school the most difficult. It took them a couple a months to adjust to the new surrounding. She encourages TCKs to meet new people and learn the new language. Her last advice is: Stay open-minded and resilient and moving can enhance your life.

By the way I hope you are attending the Families in Global Transition Conference in Amsterdam too. Please let me know if you're coming so we can meet up. 

Related posts: 
My 10 advantages of growing up abroad
Interview with graphic design student Jessica Wen on her third culture kid book project
Interesting interview with researcher and adult third culture kid Rachel Cason 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Families in Global Transition Conference 2016 will take place for the first time ever in Holland!

Maybe you have heard the good news: the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference will take place in the Netherlands next year. The conference is from the 10th of March to the 12th of March 2016 in Amsterdam. For the past 2 years I have been wanting to attend this conference but the conference was in Washington, USA. I had to take days off from work, fly to America and I just was not able to arrange it. I am so excited that the conference has moved to Europe, and even better it has moved to the Netherlands, Amsterdam to be exact. Now I can take the train and attend! If you want to attend the conference and save money make sure you register before 4th January 2016.

By the way the theme of the conference is "Moving Across Cultures: Bringing Empathy and Expertise to the Evolving Global Family". I like the word empathy.

What does empathy do according to the Greater Good Science Center? Empathy:
  • reduces prejudice and racism
  • reduces bullying
  • promotes heroic acts
  • fights inequality
  • is good for healthcare
  • cuts against self-interest, people with empathy are more likely to help people in need
Wow that sounds very promising! Then add all the expertise in too and it is a recipe for success.I have heard that the author of the book "Global Mom" Melissa Dalton-Bradford will be one of the keynote speakers. She is a mother of 4, a writer of books, essays, poetry and a blog. As a family they have lived in 10 countries. She has also written the book "On loss & Living Onward", I think I have to read one of her books before the conference. You can see the trailer of the book "Global Mom" here.

The conference will take place at De Bazel Cafe & Conference Centre, Vijzelstraat 32 in
Beautiful Holland photo by DrieCulturen
Amsterdam.


Good things seem to happen at FIGT conferences. Killian Kröll, the current chair of the FIGT board grew up as a third culture kid (TCK). He was unaware of the impact of his upbringing. During a seminar he first heard the term TCK. That moment changed his life and he found his tribe. 2011 was the first FIGT conference he attended and then he was really sure that he had found his tribe. Read more of Killian's story and the FIGT conference 2015 as written by Lauren Owen.

Just in case you have not heard of Families in Global Transitions, you can visit the FIGT website for more information. The first FIGT conference was held in 1998 and Ruth van Reken the coauthor of the book "Third Culture Kids Growing up Among Worlds" was one of the initiators.

Related posts:

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Interesting interview with Rachel Cason, adult third culture kid, researcher

I am glad to introduce Rachel Cason to you. We met each other a few years ago at a EuroTCK conference
in Germany. When we met she was doing research, she has agreed to answer a few questions specially for you.

 1. Would you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi! Well, I'm an adult TCK, a missionary kid to be exact. I was born and raised in West Africa until the age of 16, when my family "returned" to England to settle there indefinitely. After finishing the last two year of my school education, I took a gap year, working with children with additional needs. I went to Keele university to study French and Sociology, and enjoyed a couple of study abroad opportunities in that time also. In my Masters year I got married, and during my doctoral studies I had my beautiful daughter. Sadly, my marriage was not a happy one, and during my maternity leave my husband and I divorced. I suppose my life has been full of transitions, reaching beyond my childhood years! My daughter starts school this September, so that's another transition for us at the moment!

2. Can tell us about your research?
My thesis examines the ways in which the experiences of Third Culture Kids, or the children of expatriates, impacts upon their adult notions of belonging, identity, and relationship to place. It was prompted by a professor in my final year, who spotted research potential for this relatively understudied population after I did a research project exploring whether or not TCKs should merit consideration as disaporic. Typically, migration research has ignored TCKs, focussing instead on groups united by nationality or ethnicity. I wanted to explore the shared experiences of TCKs as originating in a shared expatriate culture.

3. For what degree did you do your research?
My PhD in Sociology, at Keele University.

4. What is your main conclusion?
This was an exploratory, qualitative study, rather than a quantitative one, so I have no concise statistics to sum things up with :) My main conclusions establish that rather than being rootless, TCKs are very much rooted in an expatriate, organisational culture. I suggest that there are characteristics and shared experiences that reach across expatriate organisations, be they military, business or missionary, and that these shared experiences have a huge impact on the development of TCKs sense of belonging, identity and place. Rather than observing that TCKs all share similar characteristics, I note that while many TCKs share similar worldviews, they are more likely to be reacting to the same experiences, than all reacting in similar ways to those experiences. In other words, there is a TCK culture, rather than a TCK personality. It's hard to narrow findings down, for fear of oversimplifying complex human experiences, but broadly; -

In terms of belonging, I found that TCKs often feel most comfortable in situations in which there is high diversity, and in which they may represent the ethnic minority; such a situation reflects their earliest experiences of culture as mediated by their expatriate organisations. TCKs were often found at the margins of society, often engaging constructively with their marginality (reaching out to other marginals, for example), yet some experienced deep isolation in their marginality.
In terms of identity, I observed many TCKs struggled as adults with the idea that they were getting better at 'blending in' to their passport culture. As 'perpetually unique' children, adult TCKs may need to find new ways in adulthood to express their individuality. For many TCKs, their adult careers proved a means through which they could negotiate their relationship with a local and global world. Nationality is an ambivalent identity, too restrictive for many, and yet crucial in understanding a TCK's experiences in their host country as national identification often mediated their interactions with that country(ies).
In terms of place, my findings counter suggestions that TCKs were 'placeless' and/or didn't find places meaningful or relevant, due to their high mobility. Rather, I found that TCKs had a keen emotional connection with place, and that it is possible that the presence of high mobility in adult TCKs may be a case of feeling propelled towards pepetual movement, rather than their making an active choice between settledness or mobility. Indeed, I suggest that of the many skill sets absorbed by many TCKs growing up in expatriate communities, being able to (or seeing the value of settling) is one that may be lacking.

5. How was it to hear so many TCK stories?
It was an absolute joy and privilege! It was striking though, that for many it seemed to be the first time they'd had this opportunity. We often tell stories from our lives to those around us, but very rarely do we tell the whole story, from beginning to present-day. It seemed a cathartic experience for many. This in itself made me feel the responsability of honouring the stories gifted to me so generously.

6. How did doing the research influence you?
It inspired me to try and find a way to meet the needs of the people I had spoken to. I was not able to do this directly; as a researcher this was beyond my remit. But for the many TCKs like them, I wanted to make sure that my research could be applicable to their lives in a way that would both validate and equip them to meet any challenges they may be facing.

7. What TCK research still needs to be done?
I would like to see more research on the gendered experiences of TCKs; the ways in which experiences in multiple host countries may be wildly different depending upon the gender of the TCK. This may be because of host cultural norms about the presence of men and women in public spaces, for example, or it may be that the gendered narratives of the expatriate organisations in which TCKs are raised merit examination in their own right. Gender is such a basic way in which we interpret personal and public identity, I feel this focus would illuminate the TCK experience hugely.

8. You have decided to start Life Story, tell us about it.
Life Story uses the life story interview as a therapeutic tool. In this way I directly apply my research experience to the process, both in the structure of the interview, and in the subsequent analysis of the interview. Life Story work offers the space to narrate and reflect on one's life story, and analysis of this interview focusses on connecting the past with the present through the emergence of particular patterns and themes.
This process can help anyone struggling to move forward positively in their lives to unlock past patterns of thinking and behaviours that may hold the key to a more empowered future. In this way, Life Story aims to encourage a more settled sense of self, one that is grounded in a full understanding of the past, but whose future is not limited by its history. 
I work with both TCKs and non-TCKs, and life story process is helpful for anyone seeking to find clarity in a fragmented history. I offer sessions by Skype primarily, although some face to face sessions may be possible also should clients be able to travel to Lincoln, England. 

9. Why do you think that telling your life story works for TCKs?
I think that TCKs especially find that their life stories get chopped up and fragmented, their revelation dependent on the appropriate audience or country. The life story interview offers an opportunity to bring all those fragments together in one place, and in so doing, offers an opportunity to gather all our fragmented selves together also. This in itself is a healing process, and also an empowering one, as it becomes possible to make connections between the 'chapters' of our lives that shed light on our current situations and challenges. Increased understanding of these connections then paves the way for positive changes that can move us forward, where we have felt stuck or without focus.

10. What advice would you give those who want to do research?
Stick at it! And follow the truths emergent in your work. Research is a lonely furrow, and it is easy to get discouraged. But though your work will not resonate with everyone, it will matter, and it adds to a body of knowledge and extends the voices that can be heard. That is hugely valuable in and of itself. 

11. What advice would you give TCKs in general?
I've typed an answer to this a few times, and then deleted it. I suppose I'm finding this one tricky because, at heart, I believe
that beyond any profiling or shared characteristics, TCKs are individuals first. Deeply distinct individuals. And I couldn't presume to ever give a group of individuals the same advice. Except this. Be you first, a TCK second. Understanding your TCK experiences and their impact is crucial to this. Otherwise it can be easy to mistake our tendencies for our desires. Unless we can root our 'selves' in a conscious vision for what we want our lives to look like, we will instead be driven by our tendencies, which may or may not coincide with our long term goals.

12. Any last comments?
Thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed! And just that if anyone has any queries or questions at all about Life Story, do get in touch. I am happy to reply to any emails of this nature, and anyone interested in the process is entitled to a free hour consultation by Skype to work through if life story work is something that might benefit them.

If you want to contact Rachel you can email her: rachelcason@explorelifestory.com
Or you can visit her website: www.explorelifestory.com Thank you so much for sharing about yourself and your research.

Readers have you had opportunities to tell people the whole story? What was it like?

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Ruth van Reken speaks on the Impact of Growing up in a Globalized World

Two years ago I had the privilege of meeting and hearing Ruth van Reken speak at the Euro TCK conference in Germany. Ruth van Reken is co-author of the book Third Culture Kids Growing up Among Worlds. You should hear her too.

In this short video Ruth explains what third culture kids are and what cross-cultural kids are, she shares her personal story. She encourages parents who are raising kids cross-culturally to make sure that they know how to prepare their children for their transitions. It's so important to say goodbye appropriately. This TedxINSEAD talk was given in May 2015.


There are challenges for children that grow up cross culturally. The 2 main issues are:

  1. Identity: Who am I? Where do I belong? Where am I from?
  2. Unresolved Grief: this can be a result of all the invisible losses, called "hidden losses". With one plane ride the whole world as the child knew changes. These are the kind of losses there are: 
  • loss of their world
  • loss of status
  • loss of lifestyle
  • loss of possessions (it can be a bicycle, toys, tree houses, pets)
  • loss of role models
  • loss of system identity
  • loss of the past that was/ or wasn't
Parents should not just tell their children how great it will be in the next country, but they should take a minute and say "I understand", it's hard to leave and say goodbye. They should validate the emotions their children feel.

Recently there was an interesting discussion on Goodreads on the topic of unresolved grief. Lois Bushong was the facilitator of the discussion. 

What can we do with the grief? Some people use journalling, music or painting. It can help to talk to a friend about it. Others talk to a therapist. If you need a therapist you could check the International Therapist Directory.

In the talk Ruth poses the following question: How can we help people to use the incredible riches of their childhood? She suggests the following:
  1. Normalize the story
  2. Celebrate the both/ and's (celebrate the positive and acknowledge the challenges)
  3. Identify/mourn the hidden losses
  4. Re-define identity (can we be international?)
  5. Establish portable roots
  6. Recognize marketable gifts (like language, cross-cultural adaptability)
I recently wrote a guest post on MaDonna's blog called Raising TCKs. In it I share my personal story of leaving the African nest, leaving Zimbabwe to go to university in the Netherlands. With one plane ride my whole world changed drastically.

Did you grow up cross-culturally? Did you celebrate the good things and acknowledge the challenges? Please share your story or your advice. I would love to hear from you. 

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