Monday, August 17, 2009

Raising Children Overseas

Have you heard of the term TCK? TCK stands for Third Culture Kid, but what exactly is a TCK? The definition, taken from the book of the same title, is as follows:
"A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her life outside of their parents' culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background."

I wanted to encourage those of you raising your children overseas by the following survey results. The survey was carried out by MK CART/CORE. A group of 10 sending agencies (Mission agencies) surveyed 608 ATCK's (adult third culture kids) and it is obvious they do well academically.

*30% of the respondents graduated from High School with Honors

*27% were elected to National Honor Society
*73% graduated from university
*25% graduated from university with honors
*3% were Phi Beta Kappas
*11% were listed in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.

Another survey revealed that a high percentage of TCK's go on to post secondary school education. And yet another survey, done in 1993, showed that while 21% of the American population as a whole had graduated from a 4 year college or university, 81% of TCK's had earned at least a bachelor's degree. Half of them went on to earn master's or doctorate degrees.

This was written by an Australian ATCK who grew up in India.

"Uniquely Me" by Alex Graham James.

I am
a confusion of cultures. Uniquely me.I think this is good because I can understand the traveler, sojourner, foreigner, the homesickness that comes. I think this is also bad because I can not be understood by the person who has sown and grown in one place. They know not the real meaning of homesickness that hits me now and then. Sometimes I despair of understanding them. I am an island and a United Nations. Who can recognize either in me but God?

What is interesting, is that I find reading the above to be quite melancholic, but my children seem to find comfort in it. They are glad to see that others feel as they do. A separate group of TCK's that somehow belong together, whether they were raised in Asia, Africa, Europe...matters not. They belong to each other. They do not call any certain place home, for them, home is a group of people like themselves, other TCK's who have experienced the same type of background.

TIME magazine ran a cover story last year on the skills and abilities that American students will need in a globalized world. They said that the American student needs to develop certain skills in order to compete globally. Whether we like it or not, the world is shrinking and our children and grand children will need to now who to adjust to this globalization.

1.Global-trade literate

2.Sensitive to foreign cultures
3.Conversant in different languages

I couldn't help but think,"Hey, MK's(missionary kid) and TCK's(third culture kid) have a great head start!" I have watched my children communicate cross-culturally with great ease. I am often amazed how my children can Instant Message with several people in different languages at the same time, while listening to an Italian opera. Gives me a headache, but they are often unaware that they are going back and forth between three, or even four, languages.

MK's (TCK's) are able to think out side of the box. Actually, they can't stand to be put in a box at all! They are able to think creatively because often growing up in different cultures, they had to, in order to survive being the minority. They are able to accept that another culture may have a better way. They are often able to see how two distinct perspectives can be combined to produce an even better method.

For parents raising MK's (TCK's), don't feel discouraged about the education you may think your children are being deprived of by not living state side. You are actually preparing them for a bright, fruitful future. God needs followers who are not afraid to go beyond the narrow mental and cultural borders so many of us occupy.

Pictured here are our family's TCK's in the jungle, Christmas 1999. All have been home schooled.(My children and my nieces and nephews, all grew up in Venezuela.)

These are the same children, plus the youngest, Christmas 2007 in the US.
( My daughter Jackie is substituted by my daughter in law, Naomy)
Three have married and two of them and their spouses are in college. One is now a missionary wife and mother, one is a Pastor, three more are attending college in the US.

We are proud of them all!

You know you're a TCK when:

- "Where are you from?" has more than one reasonable answer.
- You've said that you're from foreign country X, and your audience has asked you which US state X is in.
- You flew before you could walk.
- You speak two languages, but can’t spell in either.
- You feel odd being in the ethnic majority.
- You have three passports.
- You have a passport but no driver's license.
- You go into culture shock upon returning to your "home" country.
- Your life story uses the phrase "Then we moved to..." three (or four, or five...) times.
- You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.
- You don't know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof.
- The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.
- You get confused because US money isn't color-coded.
- You think VISA is a document that's stamped in your passport, not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.
- You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a transformer isn't always enough to make your appliances work.
- You fried a number of appliances during the learning process.
- You think the Pledge of Allegiance might possibly begin with "Four-score and seven years ago...."
- Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
- You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.
- You consider a city 500 miles away "very close."
- You get homesick reading National Geographic.
- You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets.
- You think in the metric system and Celsius.
- You may have learned to think in feet and miles as well, after a few years of living (and driving) in the US. (But not Fahrenheit. You will *never* learn to think in Fahrenheit).
- You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.
- Your minor is a foreign language you already speak.
- When asked a question in a certain language, you've absentmindedly respond in a different one.
- You miss the subtitles when you see the latest movie.
- You've gotten out of school because of monsoons, bomb threats, and/or popular demonstrations.
- You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.
- You have frequent flyer accounts on multiple airlines.
- You constantly want to use said frequent flyer accounts to travel to new places.
- You know how to pack.
- You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years.
- The thought of sending your (hypothetical) kids to public school scares you, while the thought of letting them fly alone doesn't at all.
- You think that high school reunions are all but impossible.
- You have friends from 29 different countries.
- You sort your friends by continent.
- You have a time zone map next to your telephone.
- You realize what a small world it is, after all.

I know I have a lot of ex-pat readers and even several Adult Third Culture Kids, as well as younger MK's, what would you add to the above list? Was your Align Leftexperience as a TCK positive or negative?


Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Rita,

Sounds like a fascinating life God's lead you and your family to! I can't imagine all of the blessings that have come to you along this adventure! As well as I'm sure heartache too.

Thank you for stopping by my blog today! I enjoyed getting the chance to pop over here to your blog and read more about you!

Dawn Stoudemayer said...

Love it! : ) I will share this with my kids--thank you for encouraging those of us with TCKs!

Brenda said...

Great post, and so true!

Thursday's Child said...


John_n_Tascha_Piatt said...

Thanks for the post... being married to a TCK can be an adventure too :) no matter how long they stay in one place, they still have their own unique culture...

and it can make for some interesting conflicts ... I have learned much from mY TCK (MK) :)

Jungle Mom said...

Jody, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Dawn, TCK's are the best!

Brenda, you have a couple of great ones yourself. So glad to hear of Paul's job.

Thursday's child, Amen and amen!

Tascha, I did not know your husband was an MK! Where did he grow up? It takes special people to marry TCK's!

theotherryan said...

Interesting, It doesn't suprise me that those kids tend to do fairly well. Stupid unmotivated sloenly parents do not tend to move to random countries and raise their children. Just like the kids who graduate from college would make more if they were left in a closet for 4 years these kids would probably do better than average if their parents stayed at home.

The rest was quite interesting though.