Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Third Culture Kids

I attended the first hosted event of TCKs at UVA. Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are defined as:
“a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture" (Pollock and Van Reken). However that doesn't fully capture their identity because some TCKs have traveled between two or three countries and some TCKs have been to nine countries. Some quotes about what a TCK is that I stole from the section describing the TCK identity:

"A global citizen independent of cultural distinctions yet whose identity lies in his/her membership of multiple cultural groups."

"A TCK is someone who spends a lot of his/her time growing up outside of his/her native country. A TCK identifies himself/herself best with other TCKs. It is almost as if it is a nationality in and of itself!"

From what I hear, you are a TCK if any or all of the following apply:
  • It takes you at least 15 minutes to answer the question “Where are you from?”
  • You swear in a myriad of languages.
  • You have a favorite seat in airports and on airplanes.
  • You've filled out so many customs/immigration papers, you don't even need to know the language to know what they're asking.
  • You don't know anything about the history or geography of your country of birth but know pretty much everything about any other place in the world.
  • An earthquake, heavy storm, bomb threat, or anything else doesn't freak you out
  • You have more than one type of currency weighing down your wallet with typically more of the currency that you don't need.
  • You plan vacations to different countries just to get things cheaper than they are where you live.
  • You have multiple vaccination cards because they keep getting filled up.
  • You have to explain how you learned to speak certain languages, why you can speak some but not read others, and why you still can't speak some even though you lived in the country where they're used.
  • People constantly tell you you're "interesting" or "different.”
  • You practically jump someone when you find out they're also a TCK.
  • The thought of living in one place for longer than a few years and NEVER leaving scares the living day lights out of you.

Truthfully, this is a fascinating phenomena for me. The idea of a global citizen is appealing, and the fact that there are highly mobile family units that travel so much that they "float" in between nationalities is a lot to wrap your head around.

For more coverage, there was a UVA Today article about TCKs and the group on Grounds, TCKs at UVA.

The talk itself was fantastic. Tina Quick was a great presenter. She introduced fairly well the complicated identity of the Third Culture Kid, the benefits and downfalls of being a TCK, and the importance of colleges recognizing TCKs and their different needs from internationals and domestic students. She was engaging, she was humorous, and she was comprehensive. I could feel the weight of her expertise, having been a TCK herself and currently an adult TCK with children. Her book, The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition, which is about how to ease the transition into college for TCKs will go on sale this summer.