Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Interview with graphic design student Jessica Wen on her Third Culture Kid Book Project

Let me introduce you to Jessica Wen. She is the creative inspiration behind the "Third culture kids- Self Identity Accordion Books".
I came across the project on the internet and I am really enthusiastic about it. I am so glad Jessica agreed to tell us more about herself and her project.

1. I really love your TCK project. Each little book contains a unique story just as each third culture kid has a unique story. Please tell us about your project and how you came up with this idea?
Thank you very much for your encouragement. It really means a lot to me! I'm a junior graphic design student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Baltimore, Maryland, United States. I started my TCK book project for a artist book class with Laurie Snyder— it was my final project for the semester, and I really wanted to make a project that speaks for my identity and my background; then... obviously, the TCK idea came to mind. 

I started the project by surveying myself and 4 other TCK friends regarding to each of our unique background. (Lived in how many countries/ speaks how many languages/ definition for being a TCK/ most belonged to which culture...etc.) 

And then, each person's story was individually made into their own mini accordion book. This set of 5 books were meant to view individually as well as together as a whole set. Each book's color, font, and layout were carefully considered base on each individual's personality. The cover for all books were hand cut (debossed) with the characters "TCK". The idea is that each TCK, on the surface level, looks just like an ordinary person with ordinary background. However, once the audience open the book— you started to see the unique international perspective and value. 
2. You are a third culture kid too. In which countries did you live and where are you now?
Yes, I am a TCK! I was born in Taipei, Taiwan (a lovely little subtropical island). My family moved to Germany when I was 3 &4, and then we moved to China when I was 5 &6. Then, I came to the United States for education by myself when I was 16 years old. Now I am still living in the US (Baltimore, Maryland). I am sure I will most likely move to a new country again in a few years, but I just dont know where just yet.... I am keeping my options open. 
3. What do you consider to be the advantages of growing up as a TCK?
This is actually a question on my TCK books, too.  
Personally, I think the absolute advantage of being a TCK is: Maturity, Independence, Understanding of others, world perspective, and being able to speak more than one language. 

4. What about the disadvantages? Have you experienced those?
Difficult to fit in different social expectation; lack of sense of belonging; culture-shock whenever going 'home'... Also, I call this an 'invisible mental switch' — it is like having multiple separate language system/ culture/ social value/ expectation in the back of the mind, and with one switch/ one plane ride... we, the TCKs, need to be able to change into a whole another person in order to 'fit in' with the locals.

5. When and how did you discover that you are a TCK?
The Book "Third Culture Kids, The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds" by David Pollock and Ruth van Reken was certainly one strong force to help me discover myself being a TCK. It is such a wonderful book— I remember I ordered the book from amazon, and as soon as I start reading the first few sentences on the first page... I told me friend who was sitting right next to me at the time "I think I am going to really enjoy this book...", and then, yes, I absolutely loved it.

6. What advice would you give to other TCKs?
Always remember— that there are many MANY of us out there! You are not alone! 
For my own experience, I never knew about term TCK until last year... and surprising, I then realized most of my friends are also TCKs (including my suite mates).

7. "The TCK is part of our identity. And there's def space for more art/ design!" these were the words you twittered to me. I agree completely but please share your ideas on this topic.
I think art/ design is all about expressing the artist's own special voice. 
With our current globalization trends, more and more children are raised as TCKs. Therefore, I think this will soon become a topic with higher awareness— which means, more people will want to express their own special voice through art/ design/ writing/ blogging/ or simply the daily conversations. 

However, I don't think any of these actions is about emphasizing the how special/ different the TCKs are... but rather, a simple act of sharing and exchanging ideas.

8. On Facebook I saw that expat parents wanted to have a nice little accordion book made for their child. I would actually like one too telling my unique story too. It's would be a great treasure. Will this just stay a project or will you expand on this idea? What do you think?
With all honestly, I never thought of expending this project beyond classroom before this interview… 
However, the more I think about it... I'm certainly interested in producing more TCK books based on each individual's unique story. I think its going to be a wonderful experience to meet new people, share my design skills, and even potentially bring in some income. I think its going to be great!! 

For those of you who are interested... send me an email at, and let's discuss!

9. Are there new projects that you are working on at the moment?
At this point, I have about 5 projects going on at the same time, but nothing is directly TCK related... 
It is certainly a busy life style, but I love what I do, and its awesome! 

If you are interested in what I do as a designer, you can find me at the following places: 
Twitter: @JWenDesign

10. Do you have any last words of encouragement? Or can you recommend interesting websites or books for third culture kids?
hmm, interesting TCK websites... 
I personally think Denizen Magazine is amazing (but I am sure everyone else knows it too). 

In terms of some last words... 
I just want to thank Janneke again for giving me this wonderful experience to talk about my work. I am deeply honored! :) 
Thanks again Jessica.
Would you like the story of your life in a small accordion book? Do you have any encouraging words for Jessica?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Breaking the Silence

This is only my second blog post in 2013. It has never been so quiet on my blog since I started it in June 2011. The reason is that I read an article Why Bloggers Fail and the article made me think. Derek Halpern says that "It turns out that most people who start blogs quit within the first 3 months." Well I am glad to say I survived the first 3 months! To tell you the truth this blog is nearly two years old.

So what made me think? He says most bloggers waste too much time creating new content. According to him "the secret lies in your ability to promote the content you already have". So I did a small experiment for a couple of weeks I did not create any new content and I just watched to see whether there were still people reading the blog. To my surprise there were still many people reading content, so that was a great discovery. The only thing I did notice was that there were nearly no new comments so that is a little sad. Maybe I should have done a little more to promote the content I already have.

I made another discovery during the time of silence on the blog. I discovered that when I was not in the routine of writing the blog it became more difficult to start writing on the blog again. It's a little like exercising when you are in the routine of going to the sports club twice a week it's easy to keep doing it but once you stop going it's harder to get the discipline and start going again.  

I have another dilemma. I have this dream that I want to write a book. I need to find or make some extra time somewhere. I have a job during the day and all my writing is done in the evenings or weekends. Maybe if I spend less time writing for my blog I will have more time to write my dream book. Do you have the same kind of problem? Do you have any tips?

By the way the dream book I want to write is about third culture kids. I need your help. What kind of book would you like to read on the topic? Do you have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions that could be useful for me? Please share them. What topics should be addressed? Or do you think there are enough books about expat kids? Please break the silence with me on my blog and let your voice be heard.

Ps. Let me share another secret with you. If you want more comments on your blog then leave more comments on other blogs and see what happens. I tried it and it works, but it requires some discipline and time.

Related Posts:
Book review of the book: Expat Teens Talk 
Interview with Heidi Sand-Hart author of "Home Keeps Moving"
Book: Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child
Third culture kids speaking "I'm not from Anywhere"
Book review of Expat Alien
Interview with Expat Author Apple Gildley (Adventures In Expat Land)