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Posts Tagged ‘life as an expat’

International School Community Member Spotlight #22: Laurence Myers (An int’l school teacher working at International School of Kuala Lumpur)

Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Laurence Myers:

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.44.30 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?
I am originally from Athens, Greece with a father from the US and a mother from Greece. I was born and raised in Athens, Greece and attended a small international school (TASIS Hellenic International School, now International School of Athens). I have been teaching for 19 years internationally and have loved every minute of it!  

How did you get started in the international teaching community?
For me teaching internationally was almost an extension of my life as a student. As I went to an international school as a child I found the cross-cultural connections at such schools to be right up my alley. Of course, as is often the case, my inspiration came from my teachers and professors, the most powerful of which was that of Kostas Gabriel who presently teaches in Chennai. He was an inspiration in believing in myself as a child and I found that, when deciding on a profession, this also provided me with an impetus to assist students in similar circumstances. I also had some good friends who showed me the way, most notably Ralph Barrett who presently teaches in Abu Dhabi. Following their footsteps, and my heart, I was able to fit right in when professional life came calling.  After a couple years of teaching internationally I was hooked. The job offers the perfect combination of discovery and self-reliance with the added dimension of dealing with simply wonderful kids!

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.
I began my teaching at the same school I attended as a child, TASIS Hellenic International School. It was, and still is, a small school with much character and a small but very dynamic student population. It was here, as I took my professional baby steps, that I learned that students are often waiting for an opportunity to see the world in different ways. I taught both social studies and physical education at TASIS.

Following TASIS, and a short stint back in the US to receive my M.A., I taught for five years at Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia. For me this was an eye-opening experience. Like the Greek community, Colombians are open and really want to know about you as a teacher. I found this connection fascinating and discussions with my students in economics and government endlessly rewarding. The country of Colombia too, which had a shady reputation at the time, was a simply beautiful place to be!  Despite the media and the difficult political situation the travel opportunities there were tremendous and I still find that, in so many ways, Colombia is home for me as well. I am also happy to be connected to Colombia through my wife, who has been by my side since those days at CNG. 🙂

My next stop, where I presently work, was the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was here that my professional self was able to succeed in ways that I never imagined possible. ISKL’s professional development opportunities and the support that they offer their teaching staff allows for many teachers to become great leaders in their own right. Though the expectations are high, so too is the sense of professional community. Collaborative, supportive and engaging ISKL has given me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of teaching and learning. It is in Malaysia that my two daughters were born and so our connection to Kuala Lumpur will be life-long.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
In Malaysia it is customary to point with the thumb and not the index finger. As our daughters are quite young trying to get them to remember to point this way is sometimes difficult. Traditionally we point, as most do in the west, with our index fingers. At one point when we went to a restaurant our daughter was pointing at something and we were overly concerned about what that might say about our cultural empathy. We tried very hard to get her to change her finger and were embarrassed to fail miserably. When we went over to the table and sat down to talk about it our daughter told us to look at the next customer, a Malaysian woman, who had just walked in. Sure enough, she was indicating things to the staff using her index finger. My daughter was vindicated and I quieted down recognizing that customs often change as cultures diffuse. Where we are often overcompensating in order to fit into the local culture, the members of that same local culture might be happy to use western gestures and norms.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
As I have matured in my teaching, and as my family situation has changed (ie. single to married to having children) so too has my outlook on what is important in a job. When I was younger, of course, my impression of travel opportunities and cultural experiences was primary, as well as the reputation of the school. Now that I am older with a family I suspect that my next teaching post will be a bit closer to home and one where our children can also have a positive learning experience. It should be a school that allows me personal and professional challenge but also provides children with a well-rounded educational experience.

Specific thoughts on a new position (when that happens):
Is it in a safe location?
Does the school promote whole-child philosophy?
Does the school’s administration support teaching initiatives?
What is the “personality” of the school and does it fit in with our own?
Does the school support an environment of caring for people and for the environment?

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Discovery. Rewarding. Engaging. Relationships. Awesome.

Thanks Laurence!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Malaysia like Laurence?  Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Malaysia on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

Garden International School (19 Comments)
International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)
Nexus International School (18 Comments)
International School of Penang (Uplands) (9 Comments)
Dalat International School (6 Comments)
Mont Kiara International School Kuala Lumpur (8 Comments)

International School Community Member Spotlight #21: Eugenia Papadaki (An int’l school director currently working at The Bilingual School of Monza)

Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Eugenia Papadaki:

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 1.59.40 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I am from Greece, have carried out all my higher education studies in England where I gained a BA in Foreign Modern Languages, an MA in Applied Linguistics and a PGCE (Post graduate certificate in Education) from the Institute of Education, London. I have taught in many educational settings in both the UK and in Italy. I have brought up both of my daughters trilingually from birth, who, now as young adults, speak several languages and who have been my inspiration for founding a Bilingual International school here in Italy 17 years ago.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

My first experience was at the International School of Milan.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

ISM: the diversity of languages spoken by the pupil population.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

I have always been in an administrative position, but if I were to look for a job in an international school for me professional development opportunities and career advancement together with a collaborative learning environment and a real sense of community spirit would be the things that I will be looking for in a school.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Opportunity for growth, an eye opener.

Thanks Eugenia!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Italy like Papadaki?  Currently, we have 30 international schools listed in the Italy on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

American School of Milan (13 Comments)
Sir James Henderson School (7 Comments)
Bilingual European School of Milan (16 Comments)
The Bilingual School of Monza (8 Comments)
International School of Trieste (9 Comments)
Ambrit-Rome International School (7 Comments)
International School of Bologna (8 Comments)
International School in Genoa (10 Comments)
The English International School of Padua (12 Comments)

Discussion Topic: Standing at the check-out counter can get uncomfortable!!!

How much do you need to say when you are going through the check-out line?  Not much usually. Just get your items through the scanner, swipe your credit card, bag your goods up in a reusable bag that you brought and then you get on your way.

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 8.51.08 PMIt is not always that easy though.  Every once and awhile you get a cashier that decides to have a chat with you.  If you don’t know the local language so well, then situations like this can become a challenge for you.  Sure you know the word for “receipt” and “thanks”, but when the cashier strays from those simple words, things can get a little bit uncomfortable.  How embarrassing when you can’t understand what is going on?  How even MORE embarrassing it is when there are many people (locals) standing in line waiting for their turn and rolling their eyes at you?

Even if you do know the local language, it is not always an easy thing to speak up in public.  One colleague of mine just mentioned to me that even after 20 some years of living and working in her host country, she specifically plans the right time to go to her local bakery.  She prefers to go during a time when there are less people there; when they are not so busy.  Even know she is highly proficient in the local language, she is still uncomfortable at times yelling out her order when everyone around maybe judging her on her pronunciation, etc.  It is not always fun to let all the locals know that you are not from their country/not a native speaker.  Whether the other people in the bakery even care or notice, this is a very common feeling to have when living abroad.

Unfortunately you can’t live you life in your host country trying to avoid all linguistic encounters with the locals.  You must eventually go through a check-out line and you will eventually have a cashier trying to tell you things.
One time a cashier confused me by asking me whether I would like to charge more on my debit card so that I could get cash back by him.  That situation definitely threw me off-guard as not many cashiers are outwardly offering that service to their customers. I would guess that is more customer initiated.  Another time a cashier was trying to give me shopping tips; if I would buy three of one of the items I was purchasing, then I was to get a small discount.  Adding a bit of public service help to me, the woman just leaving the check-out counter told me in English that the discount wasn’t that amazing.6337012304_3f3f9f685d_z

Not all linguistic encounters with the cashier (while living abroad) though end up in embarrassment for you.  Some situations might end up being quite funny.  They might be quite memorable for you and a good experience; giving you a good story to share with your other expat friends.  One time in Spain, I was checking-out at a grocery store.  As the cashier was ringing up the items I was going to purchase, she motioned towards a one liter bottle of Fanta.  I thought she was trying to get me to buy it.  In turn, I told her no.  But the cashier kept on trying to give the bottle of Fanta to me.  Finally, I realized that she was trying to just give it to me for free as it was a special promotion (it was a new flavor of Fanta…pineapple!).  I told her “OH, es libre!”  Of course, some people around me and the cashier laughed a bit at me. The word libre does me free, but it is the word free that you would use like when you unlock a cage of a zoo animal and letting them be free. I should have used the word gratis.

This comical situation is what happens all to often to expats.  You are in a situation that you weren’t prepared for ahead of time.  Because of the unpreparedness, you get nervous.  And because you are nervous, your brain does not think too clearly to either try and understand what was being said to you or get the words that you know in the local language out in the correct manner.  It is all part of living abroad I guess.  How boring and monotonous to go through a check out line in your own home country, when you can go through multiple check-out lines in your host country and experience the unexpected?

If you have a culture-related story to share about your experience living abroad, send us a message here and we will see about getting your story as a guest author on our International School Community blog!

International School Community Member Spotlight #20: Jack Murphy (An veteran int’l teacher currently working as an Int’l School Consultant)

Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Jack Murphy:

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 8.53.56 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I grew up on Long Island about 30 miles from New York City. I attended college in North Carolina and did graduate work at Notre Dame University. My career gravitated from teacher and coach to guidance counselor and then to college counselor. However, that developmental process took twenty years.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I taught history and coached in Charlotte, NC for several years after military duty. At a certain point I decided to see more of the world and thought that teaching abroad might offer that opportunity. My first overseas teaching assignment placed me in a castle in Scotland. From that experience onward, with the exception of a few stopover years back home, I was to be an international educator.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

Many international teachers travel the world and work at a variety of schools. I may have taken that tendency to a different level.  During my career I taught, coached and counseled at twelve international schools located on five continents. The schools ranged from smaller to larger, proprietary and private, American to international, IB curriculum and otherwise. Each school was unique but each had energetic, vigorous and dedicated faculty. International teachers bring a certain active and innovative spirit to their profession and students thrive on that spirit. Two of my favorite places were at schools were in Amsterdam and Venezuela.  However, I had the most fun at the International School of Kenya and the Jakarta International School.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

I have experienced many but one that comes to mind occurred at a golf course in Vietnam. After attending an EARCOS Conference in Ho Chi Minh City we took a short holiday in the highlands. We decided to play golf one day and arrived at a lovely course and small club house. Our clubs and equipment were taken by several Vietnamese women caddies but we expected to find them on the other side as we proceeded into the building to pay and shop at the Pro Shop. When we departed the building on the other side and expected to join up with our clubs and caddies we were surprised that the clubs were no where to be found.

After a few long minutes of confusion and panic, two Vietnamese woman pointed to the road and tried to give signal that our clubs were on the course or near the driving range. None could speak English so they pointed, laughed and acted out and what they needed to say. Then they drove us up the road to the driving range giggling all the way. When we arrived at the driving range, near the first tee, their was a French couple hitting golf balls and I immediately recognized that the tall man was swinging my clubs next my golf bag. As we approached I could also see that he was wearing my shoes and my golf glove next to my golf bag.

To make a long story short we cleared up the matter and I set out to play one of the finest rounds of golf of my life. The priceless part was watching the Vietnamese ladies enjoy the hilarity of the mix-up and take it all in stride with lovely smiles, soft giggles and an ability to bring warmth and kindness to what first appeared to be both a stressful and embarrassing to all the westerners involved.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

When I looked for the next school it was the location that counted most. My purpose was to try a new place in a new region each time I moved schools. Secondly, I also wanted to grow with each move and I sought schools that might finance my own professional development and provide opportunities to attend conferences in my field.  And, of course, when I was a younger teacher I wanted to go places that had an active school and social life.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Exciting, inspiring, educating, challenging and fulfilling.

Thanks Jack!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Kenya like Jack?  Currently, we have 9 international schools listed in the Kenya on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

International School of Kenya (13 Comments)
Aga Khan Academy Mombasa (3 Comments)

International School Community Member Spotlight #18: Sheldon Smith (An international teacher currently working at Al Khor International School)

Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Sheldon Smith:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

Currently my family and I reside in Qatar but I got here via Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. I left Vancouver, Canada, June 1998 to meet up with some friends who worked for an international airline and decided to make Kota Kinabalu their base. Previously I founded and was the owner / operator of Woodsmith Hardwood Floors which I sold but still exists today and has become quite a brand in the Vancouver flooring industry. After working in the flooring trade for 17 years I had to give it up. We weren’t aware of the dangers of the industrial components we were using (lacquers, polyurethanes, solvents, etc) and my body literally could not take the toxicity levels anymore. So, I sold ‘lock, stock and barrel’ and began working casually with a friend in a language centre teaching English to Chinese children.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

When I arrived at Kota Kinabalu I wasn’t really looking for work as I had recently sold my business and the rest of my worldly goods before leaving and was quite happy ‘living the life of Riley’. Amongst the people I met was a local lawyer; an Indian man with the loudest voice I ever heard and one of the funniest persons I have ever met. One day, over a coffee, he asked me what I planned on doing since my funds would dry up some day. I told him what I had done and mentioned the brief teaching experience I had before leaving Vancouver. He then sat straight up and asked if I wanted to meet a friend of his, the principal of Kota Kinabalu International School. A phone call and 10 minutes later a very hot and sweaty cyclist pulled up, ordered an ice coffee, declared he was just on his way back from a 10 km ride and introduced himself as the principal in question. Within 15 minutes he had asked me what my plans were and offered me a teaching job at his school. For the next 8 months I spent my Mondays to Fridays with some Taiwanese teens and my international teaching was underway.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

After teaching at the International School of Kota Kinabalu, I taught at a language centre at Medan, Indonesia then at another in Nilai, Malaysia then a small prep school in Bangkok called Sabai Jai International School (Sabai Jai means happy heart in Thai) where I taught the graduating class – K3. From there I began my first real international school experience when I was hired to work at Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok; a franchise-type of sorts based on the Shrewsbury School in the UK, where Charles Darwin was a student by the way. Then, after 5 ½ years, I moved my family to Qatar where after 4 years I still work for Al Khor International School.

The various places I have lived at and the different people I have met along the way have given me a broader perspective for language, religious and cultural diversity. There is beauty everywhere on the planet. I never knew other people would be so interested in what a foreign westerner had to offer or say. Previous to leaving Canada I would, as do most people, head to some hot sunny spot for a 3 week holiday and feel I understood the people and customs of that place. How far from the truth that was. Teaching and living in different communities has helped me to really get to know intimately the traditions and cultural beauty of people up close. I have frequently been invited to local families’ homes for dinners and have had wonderful opportunities getting to know local people really well; almost like I was adopted by some. The students in South East Asia are so well behaved and polite; it really is quite a different experience any teacher from a western country would encounter. The schools I have worked at have been very generous in the salaries and accommodation, and have been very supportive for my own professional development. Over the past 14 years I have met and still keep in touch with so many colleagues. I can travel to almost any country and know someone to meet up with.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

My latest cultural encounter entails a recent charity fair we had at our school. To raise money, some of the local Qatari lads brought falcons to school. Students paid money to pet and hold the birds. The lads looked so proud in their local dress holding their beloved falcons. I certainly don’t recall that happening when I went to school.

Qatar, as most know, has been blessed with copious amounts of natural gas; Rasgas and Qatargas are the world’s leading distributors of LNG (liquid natural gas). This has shot this small country up to the top of the GNP scale – now at approximately USD 80,000 per family. Now about 20 years on, the children have adopted a different approach to what many may expect. Recently, during one of my business studies lessons, I explained how the students needed to come up with a project. Before launching their project though, they would have to do the normal due diligence of enterprise – brain storm, mind-map, SWOT, SMART targets, risk assessment, etc – to support the coursework part of the course which would be externally marked. They looked at each other and then looking quite confused and perplexed one lad raised his hand and asked why. “If I like something, I buy it. When I get bored of it, I throw it away. If I want to make a project, I do it. OK, if it fails, I just do something else. Why do all that other stuff?” Money is a disposable concept here and this not only put smile on my face but it put me in my place.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

I really can’t stress enough how no matter what international school is advertising, investigating as thoroughly as possible is a must. I would also stress avoiding websites that seem to serve as platforms for disgruntled teachers. No school is perfect for every teacher’s situation – being calm, flexible and keeping my sense of humour have been my weapons for personal success. In searching for new post at a new international school, I am interested in the school’s philosophy, aims and goals. I am interested in who the owners are and how keen they are in branding their school. I am not interested in schools which are content in the mid-stream. Personally, I am really looking for upstart schools and working at the school’s foundation level as I did when Shrewsbury International was just beginning. Being a part of the initial growth, seeing the founding students and staff work through the first couple of years and seeing it all come together is so rewarding – very rigourous but very rewarding.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Open-minded            Professional            Dedicated            Discovery            Fun

Thanks Sheldon!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for  an international school in the Qatar like Sheldon?  Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Qatar on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

American School of Doha (13 Comments)
Newton International School (23 Comments)
Al Jazeera Academy (9 Comments)
Qatar Leadership Academy (9 Comments)
Al Hekma International School (Qatar) (15 Comments)
Awsaj Institute of Education (20 Comments)

International School Community Member Spotlight #17: Mary Anne Hipp (A former administrator currently working for a major Int’l Accreditation Organization)

Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Mary Anne Hipp:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I currently live in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  I am a retired Catholic School administrator with 44 years of teaching and administration in public, private, and charter schools.  I have taught from coast to coast in the US and am now leading accreditation teams for a major International Accreditation Organization.  I try to reserve special family time in my schedule to enjoy our two little princesses, Abigail and Zoe.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

Several years ago, I was invited to be on an accreditation team for a private school in the Dominican Republic.  The school and the people there captured my heart and soul.  I actually cried during my flight back to the states because I had been so touched by that visit.  Although I had no idea how this would happen, I knew in my heart that I was going back.  About six months later, I received a call from the owners asking me to serve as the Vice President of their Board of Directors.  That experience has totally changed my life.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

I have been affiliated only with The Ashton School of Santo Domingo by serving on their Board and providing some professional development and parent activities.  Ashton is privately owned and is transitioning into a Christian School.  The factor that has impacted me the most is the remarkable difference it makes when owners can make critical decisions that add to the school’s success and outreach to students, family, and the greater community.  There seem to be few limitations to creative endeavors.  The spirit of the Latin people is evident in the manner in which they live and think.  Naturally, it is a culturally-rich experience that provides international acceptance for all entities.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

I must share two such encounters.  First is the fact that the school’s owner was able to get an extremely successful Soccer Camp instituted for the children of Santo Domingo with a contract with the Milan Junior Camp officials.  Major corporate sponsors supported the camp and it will be continued.  The long range plan is for the Ashton Foundation to open a sports facility to enhance the sporting options for the children in the area as well as those at the school.

The second big smile came in the opening of two classes called the H.O.P.E. classrooms in the city.  These classes are filled with 44 needy four-year-old children who will be sponsored by other individual families for all fourteen years of their education.  This sponsorship includes participation in the children’s school life, attending events, filling gaps in life.  Families that can give the monetary support and not the human support are paired with families that want to give the human support but cannot afford the financial commitment.  The owner sought the sponsorships and built the classrooms. (Check out a video about H.O.P.E. here)

These two smiles would still be in the dream stage in the US.  We miss many opportunities to turn dreams and possibilities into realities.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

As I am asked to help other international schools, I look for the Vision of the owners and the leadership of the school.  Those are key factors for me to be able to work effectively.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Transforming    Exciting    Challenging    Embracing    Engaging

Thanks Mary Anne!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for  an international school in the Dominican Republic like Mary Anne?  Currently, we have 6 international schools listed in the Dominican Republic on International School Community:

• The Ashton School of Santo Domingo (12 Comments)
• Saint George School (Dom. Rep.) (4 Comments)
• American school of Santo Domingo
• Carol Morgan School Santo Domingo
• International School of Sosua
• Putacana International School

Highlighted article: The benefits of international schooling

The benefits of international schooling: First-person account of the life and prospects of international pupils.

The graduation gown of the school was a uniform blue, but when the students lined up for the final photos they could not look more different from one another.

The picture my father took of me and my friends included an American born in Egypt, a Chinese girl, and a Dutch girl – and there was my friend Annelie, who is half-Swedish and half-Sri Lankan.

My school was the Overseas School in Colombo, Sri Lanka, an International School attended by what educators call “Third Culture Kids” – young people who grow up in two or more different cultures and try to live with their own, “third,” mix of this experience.

Around 17,000 German students attended German Schools overseas in 2006, part of a growing group of such children, Melanie Schulz from the German Foreign Office told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The daughter of a German father working in international development, I first went to Sri Lanka when I was barely 17.

Two years later and back in Germany, my world appears very different to me and to that of other teenagers in my home town Dortmund in western Germany.

“It is strange to see people in suburban terraces, who finish school, do local apprenticeships, marry their kindergarten sweetheart, have two children, and just seem to stay in a little world for the rest of their lives,” says Jenni Griewel, 21. Also from Germany, she finished one year abroad in Ireland in 2006.

Ruth Van Reken, from Indianapolis, a former nurse, who now works with children of diplomats, members of the army and missionary workers, confirms the overwhelming experience of children who grew up in different worlds.

“Life is learned in living out a full three-dimensional view rather than through history and geography books alone,” she tells dpa.

I still remember the day when my father received a phone call in our Colombo flat and later told my younger sister and me that the LTTE had moved their attacks from the north of the country and bombed the airport in Colombo just 30 kilometres away from our flat.

Even though we were normally not exposed to Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, I was frightened. When I mailed my German friends in Dortmund about this, nobody knew about it.

Nobody even knew what the LTTE – Tamil rebels fighting for a separate state in Northern Sri Lanka – was.

It is not just that your school pals can come from more than three continents. As a Third Culture Kid, you feel in the middle of things that appear very far away for other children.

For Reken, who spent her childhood in Nigeria and later co-authored the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Between Worlds, everything she does today is connected to her multicultural childhood.

 

“The applications of lessons learned from and in my life shape my entire way of thinking and viewing things,” she says, adding she is now far more sensitive to seeing “hidden diversities” that other people may miss.

As a result, Third Culture Kids can adapt better to the modern globalized world, she points out: “They use what they have learned from life including for many language acquisition, larger world view, comfortableness in moving and living between cultural worlds etc. Perhaps above all is often they can think outside the box.”

However, the impact of the cultural transitions Third Culture Kids are forced to make is not necessarily only positive. Some children don’t learn to grieve and cope with the separations they experience, Reken says.

As a result, they can develop depression, emotional difficulties and career problems in later life.

In German overseas schools it is part of the school’s task to prepare the children for reintegration into their home country, according to Schulz of the German Foreign Office.

Sometimes, however, even the term “home” is not clear when it comes to Third Culture Children.

“I never realized until I was 39 that when I left Nigeria as a child of 13, my entire world died except for my immediate family.

“All my friends, my trees I loved to climb, the sights and sounds of the market that were all part of ‘home’ to me, were gone forever. But I had no language or understanding of it when it happened,” she tells dpa.

Other children, who lived in many countries, don’t know at all what “home” is, she has learned from her work with Third Culture Kids. Basic identity questions remain for them, as well as a fundamental feeling of “belonging everywhere and nowhere.”

I do know where home is, but I now feel an unspoken connection especially with those friends in Germany who have also been far away from home.

Jenni did not want to move back in with her parents when she came back to Germany. “It wasn’t because it was not great there but I just felt it was time to be independent.”

Everytime I see my graduation photos, I am proud to have friends all over the world.

Having lived the experience – and the trauma – that the world is a bigger place, many Third Culture Kids seem to embrace the difference, complexity, and multiculturalism also in their later career choices.

Jenni is now studying to be a social worker. I have applied to study political science in Austria. My Chinese friend is studying environmental studies in Canada.

And Annelie, after living in Sweden, Sri Lanka, the Kashmiri mountains and Spain, plans to study sociology and work on human rights with the United Nations.

Reprinted from the expatic.com website here.