As you probably know I love books and especially on the topic of growing up abroad. I am pleased to announce that a new book on the topic is about to be released and the author Tanya Crossman has agreed to answer some questions specially for you. Thank you Tanya! By the way if you want to know what children or young people say about growing up abroad then you have to read this book. Now over to Tanya.
- Please tell us about your book “Misunderstood”. Tell us about how you were inspired to write the book? I spent a decade mentoring TCKs (third culture kids), listening to them and learning how they
- What is the most important message you have for parents of TCKs? What would you like to say to every TCK?
Being a TCK isn't a bad thing!! Over 80% of the TCKs I surveyed for Misunderstood were glad for their experience, and only 2% would take it back if they could. But TCKs do have a different experience of the world to their parents, and understanding that experience is essential for supporting TCKs well.
- Many people want to write a book someday, but you did it! What was the key to success?
The key to my success has been other people! Wise people I listened to, leading me in directions I would not have gone alone. A mentor read my first attempt and told me I could do much better – that I needed to put my passion in it. A close friend approached me about having my book published professionally, and did the work to make that happen. Then the team at Summertime Publishing helped make Misunderstood better.
- What's your advice for other TCKs or anyone wanting to write a book?
Know why you want to write – what do you care about, and why does it matter? What gap exists that you want to fill? Find anything similar out there, read it well and work out if you have something new and different to say. Secondly, benefit from the experience of others. Cultivate relationships with people who challenge you with wise advice – then listen to them, even when it's hard.
- In which countries did you live as a child and what age were you at the time?
I grew up in my passport country (Australia) but also lived in the US from age 13-15, with my parents and my two younger sisters. As an adult I lived in China for over ten years and also spent a lot of time in Cambodia.
- What was the reason that you were living abroad? If it was work, what kind of work did your parents do?
My father worked for a multinational technology company. When he was assigned to work in the US for two years, our whole family went along. We lived immersed in the local life (local schools, etc.) but we all found a cross-cultural friend or two.
- What did you most like about living abroad as a young person?
I enjoyed engaging with a new physical environment. The houses, food, trees, birds, animals, and seasons were all different. I hoarded new sensory experiences – the crunch under my feet walking across our frozen yard in winter, the soft twilight in summer, the bouncing tails of squirrels – and filled myself up with them.
- What was most difficult?
Learning new cultural norms (especially when people didn't think of me as coming from a different culture) was really hard. Simply existing outside my house was tiring! I didn't have words to express the difficulties I experienced, so I had an unhelpful tendency to blame my frustrations on the entire country. It took me years to unravel my feelings. Now I'm very thankful for my time in the US, even though it was hard.
- How did living abroad influence your choice of career or study?
I think it showed me there's a whole world of opportunity out there, and not to limit myself to what is “normal” in Australia.
- Which languages do you speak? Do you have advice on learning languages for families living abroad now?
English is my native language, and I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese. I've forgotten most of the other 10 languages I've studied, but I have basic survival skills in Khmer, Thai, and Indonesian. My biggest piece of advice is to embrace your ignorance – give it a go knowing it won't be perfect, and be humble about your lack of perfection. Another thing that helped me was watching and listening to native speakers doing life – by copying them I picked up the language as it's actually used, rather than stiffly repeating what I'd read in textbooks.
- When and where did you first hear of the term “Third Culture Kid” (TCK)? How did you hear of it and in which way did it help you?
When I first started working with TCKs I didn't know that there was such a thing as a TCK! I quickly realised there was something different about these kids due to their unique situations, but it was still two or three years before I started reading literature on the topic. David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken's classic “Growing up among worlds” was eye-opening. What really struck me was the section on repatriation – I kept thinking “that's me!” For the first time I realised my time in the US was a TCK experience. It helped me understand why it had been so hard to “go home”.
- How was it to return to your “home country” (passport country)?
HARD. Both times. When I left the US at age 15 I was excited to “go home and be normal”. I was stunned to discover that although in the US I stood out as Australian, to Australians I sounded American. It was quite a letdown. It took less than a year to re-acclimatise but it was still a significant experience. When I moved to Australia 18 months ago after 11 years in Asia as an adult, I was more prepared for what repatriation might be like, and blogging about the process was really helpful for me. The funny thing is that this time I found it comforting when people thought my accent didn't quite sound Australian!
- With which countries do you feel a bond? Where's home?
Ah, always a tricky question! I am definitely Australian – it 's an important part of my identity – but Australia doesn't really feel like “home” anymore. Beijing feels like home – but I have no family there and no legal right to be there, so I don't feel like I'm “allowed” to call it home. I guess neither one is completely home – so the Third Culture is very important to me!
Thank you once again Tanya for answering these questions but in the first place for writing the book. You can visit Tanya's website for more information. Tanya is on twitter @TanyaTCK and on Facebook at MisunderstoodTCK. You can preorder the book Misunderstood on Amazon, for more preorder options click here. We will be doing a giveaway of the book soon, so come back and check the blog for more information. What questions would you like to ask Tanya?