The term Third Culture Kid (TCK) refers to children who grow up in cultures other than the one of their parents. The challenge is that even the parents are not able to assist their kids making sense of the experiences of the new culture, because it is new for them too! In the modern world, this is a frequent scenario as the means of transportation are as affordable and accessible as ever. When it comes to balancing family and work, children follow their parents. Here is my story of being a a TCK, twice!
I was born in a small Easter European country, Lithuania. Since age 7 I traveled to Mexico with my Mother, who is a professional violinist and received a work contract there. Back in the day, we were two of the handful of white people who lived there. I adapted to the new culture quite well; I was in a loving and interesting environment, the local people who appreciated professionalism were keen on getting to know these people from afar and soon we had many friends. Being a child, I also learned the language really fast, being a girl, I had the need to communicate :). My comprehension of the environment was challenged and perfected everyday at school, so I learned as locals learned and struggled as they struggled. It took me many years to appreciate the benefits of this kind of change, because the fact remains: even for the wisest parents it is a challenge to explain to a child why things happen. After living in Mexico nearly 8 years I became like a local child, speaking fluently in Spanish and developed trusting relationships.
I became a TCK a second time, as we moved to Canada, I was aged 15. Still a child at heart I entered a world of giants: I often felt overwhelmed by the tall and mature students passing me in the halls between study periods, their behaviours were also such as those of adults. Soon I began to give up my old hobbies and games and had to do what I had to do to integrate (for some reason that was very important to me). It was an intimidating environment, and what’s worst I only knew a few words in English. It so happens that my first homework from English class was to read King Liar: a play by Shakespeare! I missed Mexico and Lithuania the same – after all I had spent half of my life in each country.
With more struggles than in Mexico, I began adapting to the Canadian lifestyle and the English language didn’t come easy either. My Mother saw my struggle and helped me a lot by sending me to a boarding school for my final years of hight school. Trafalgar Castle, was a great school, and I felt safe, and at home. In particular this was so because I met all these girls from Mexico, who were there on exchange to learn English. Sadly we were not allowed to speak Spanish (to help learn English!) however we found our ways, even if it meant receiving and passing letters under the doors of our bedrooms during study hall. I was so happy there, and learning English was made so much easier. Making sense of the Canadian culture and language was easier too, now that I felt safe and at home again.
Some years passed and I completed a Bachelor in Psychology, a Graduate Certificate in Theology, still with keen interest on learning about the true nature of a person. When I turned 23, I decided to return to live to Lithuania on my own. It was something I always dreamed of as I began to understand that at the essence of my identity, despite all these different cultures I was part of – I was a Lithuanian. Perhaps only now, after living in Australia for nearly 4 years I came to understand that it is not the passport nationality that defines us but the desire and capacity to love and make this world a better place.