Third culture kid: “the children who accompany their parents into another society.”
Third culture kids (TCKs) have it rough. It’s hard to believe this when a lot of us have basically spent a great majority of our irresponsible non-adult lives travelling the world, usually being private schooled, and facing problems which can generally be categorised as “first-world.” But alienation, or the feeling of it, and the loneliness that comes with it is certainly a form of oppression that all TCKs face.
That’s a problem. Being a TCK means you’re not from the culture/cultures you grew up in, and you’re not really from the culture your parents (your life-givers) belong to. You’re somewhere in-between, in a culture hard to define or pin point.
I studied art in high school and dedicated a large amount of my time focusing on what I called “nomadic identity” – it involved many of the common themes: isolation, movement, different cultures, many layers, a sense of detachment, deep nostalgia, and a lack of any tangible home. I then went on to Architecture school for the same romantic reasons: art, and being fascinated by living, and what influences it – in this case the actual structures which shape our existence. Then deciding it wasn’t for me, and that films and social revolution were more my calling (or so I’d like to think) I came to Edinburgh.
It’s so cliché – but really, it’s been surreal. I haven’t lived anywhere for more than 4 years, and even those times have been scattered – months in one place, and months in the other. Speaking English at school, and Bengali at home. Feeling settled only by the idea that I will not settle at all. That what is now will change.
Hopping from country to country goodbyes are just fact, an inevitable truth – unavoidable, discomforting, and always painful.
So it’s true, in a sense… third culture kids do have it rough. Yet would I want my life to be anything different? Not really. And this is not because I think TCKs are more special, or necessary to the world but rather the by-product of the times we are in. Given where globalisation seems to be taking us, it’s nice to know that the world may not be so large, even if that feeling is brought about by being able to Skype three different people in three different continents at the same time.
And on a serious note, with great privilege comes great responsibility. I still won’t hesitate to add the “hope this isn’t ignorant of me” disclaimer to questions I ask, because there’s just too much to know – and that fact is not eliminated by endless travel, nor the wonderful people you meet along the way.
In fact, those who stay still, or at least relatively more still, have seen and known things I’ve missed. And at times, I really do envy and admire them the most.
And to all my TCKs out there – experiencing the highs and lows of moving from place to place – this tumblr is pretty awesome: When You’re A Third Culture Kid.
Shreya Chatterjee studies Social Policy and Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. Her TCK credentials include India, Singapore, Malaysia, The Netherlands and various places across the U.K. She loves art and politics and hopes one day to make a social impact via the medium of film. Having worked with the BFI she can’t imagine working in anything else.
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