Honoring our amorous affair with our mother magazine, The Blue and White, we hereby present an online-exclusive offering from the latest issue, on campus in beautiful blue print now. Staffer Katherine Whatley, BC ’17, gives us this insider’s take on Third Culture Kids (TCKs).
On the first day of the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP), everyone in our orientation group went around saying where they were from; Connecticut, Ohio, LA, New York. There were squeals and high fives when people came from the same place. Then, “I grew up in Tokyo.” Silence and stares followed by, “Wait, what! No way. That is so cool! What is it like in Tokyo?”
When I tell people I grew up in Tokyo, they’re surprised—and that’s not even the whole truth. I was born in San Francisco to an American father and Australian mother, and moved to Tokyo when I was two. I am fluent in Japanese. Mostly, I leave out the Australian part, just so as not to really flummox that girl from Jersey.
Really, every answer I could give to that question other than, “I don’t know,” feels like a lie, or a cop out. I don’t feel like I’m from anywhere.
I’m a Third Culture Kid (TCK). A TCK is someone who spent much of their childhood outside of their parents’ cultures, and thus doesn’t fully absorb any one culture. I feel connected to all the societies and peoples that I was exposed to during my childhood – in my case, American, Australian, and Japanese – but don’t feel I belong to any of them. Truthfully, the community to which I belong is not those who share my ethnicity or nationality, but with other TCKs. Sometimes it’s hard, at least at first, to make deep connections with students who grew up somewhere with one dominating culture and haven’t had the multi-national childhood that I had.