Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Most Difficult Transition For Third Culture Kids

Today I was reading a post on a new blog called La Vie Overseas. It's a nice blog about expat life as a foreign service wife. The post that attracted my attention is called Raising Third Culture Children: the other side. The post is an interview with an adult who grew up in a foreign service family. What struck me most was the answer to the question "I what place did you experience the biggest culture shock?" Now the Adult third culture kid had lived in several different countries: Jerusalem, Ankara, Falls Church (VA), Islamabad, Cairo, and Tel Aviv. The answer was that going to college in Virginia was by far the most difficult. It was actually pretty easy to adjust to all the other countries.

Home: where the tulips grow? By DrieCulturen
Wow! It sounds just like my story. When I was a child and later as a teenager our family moved several times, within cities, within countries and within the African continent. I cannot remember being really sad about leaving every time. It was a way of life, many families around us led the same kind of life. The big shock came when I went to university in the Netherlands. The rest of our family stayed in Africa so it was out on my own this time. I have written about it in an earlier post: Cultural identity confusion and the third culture kids. All my life in Africa I had felt Dutch and now being in the Netherlands all of a sudden I was not like the other Dutch university students. We did not think alike, we did not feel alike, I had completely different associations with certain things. The worst part was that no one had prepared me for this "culture shock". We can all have a "pity me" party now but that will not help. I just hope that there are people out there: parents, teachers, therapists, friends and family who are preparing teenagers for their return to their "home" country or for the transition to college or university. Let's raise the awareness about the challenges these youngsters face. From the comments on this blog I can see that there are many more like me who would have liked a little more help, a little more preparation, a little more support. It's such a lonely road to walk.

Luckily there is some information available on this subject:
  1. A Third Culture Kid's Guide to college: it's at DenizenMag an online magazine
  2. The book "The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition" by Tina Quick. It's a useful book and I wish it had been written when I went to university.
  3. My earlier post "Third Culture Kids going to university"
  4. "The 10 Things every global nomad needs to know before leaving for university" found on the website International Family Transitions.
Please share your thoughts on this subject. Do you know of any useful resources for preparing teenagers to return to their "home"country?

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