The roller coaster life of a TCK

Third culture kids (TCKs) are chameleons—they have the ability to blend in with their surroundings. 

“TCKs are made of a million different fabrics,” said Science Teacher Faith Hill, who has lived in four different countries and has a pretty good idea of the struggles of being a TCK.

“I hated never knowing where your home was, but being home everywhere,” she said. 

Mr. Evan Evans, chaplain/dorm admin, agrees. “The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any,” he said. 

Many students agreed that being a TCK can be really painful at times. 

According to the Children’s Mental Health Network, children and teenagers need three basic things: belonging, recognition and connection. For TCKs, however, these basic needs are affected with every move.

Sara L., senior, expanded on this thought, explaining how many TCKs struggle with leaving their friends and family behind as they move on to a new place.

Third Culture Kids (TCKs) at Dakar Academy reflect on challenges and benefits of growing up outside of their passport country.

 “We (TCKs) experience pain at a young age,” said Josiah W., eighth grader, “and we can get depressed because of how many places we have lived.”

The U.S. Foreign Service Overseas Briefing Center says that the most difficult time for TCKs is transitioning to a new place, when a sense of acceptance and ‘fitting in’ are critical. They explain that while adults may feel that they have successfully transitioned to a new country, they may not realize that their children don’t feel the same sense of belonging. 

Many TCKs who struggle with leaving their friends and home behind tend to harden their hearts, preventing people from getting very close. But Mrs. Hill has a word of advice for someone who could be struggling with just that. 

“As painful as it is right now,” she said, “there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Many TCK students and adults have seen that light. 

“(Being a TCK) helped me to see that there is always a different way of doing things,” said Mr. Evans.

Mrs. Hill explains that being a TCK can cultivate creative thinking. 

“You get to experience a world most people don’t get to see,” she said. 

Sara L., agrees that living overseas can broaden your perspective on life. “When you are a TCK, you are more open-minded,” she said. 

Some of these benefits can impact a person for life, according to TCK Academy, an online learning and education community supporting TCKs. 

The Academy notes that many TCKs end up working in service and mission oriented fields, reflecting a love of learning, interest in helping, and desire for independence and flexibility. 

“(Being a TCK) gives you a greater capacity to love without expecting benefits,” Mrs. Hill said. “If you don’t focus on the bad stuff, then the richness of who you are will be much greater.”

Originally published by Abigayle C. in Lion’s Eyes, Dakar Academy’s student newspaper.