Social Research: Cross Cultural Individuals

While researching global cultures in preparation for Cultured Kids educational programs over 2 years ago, I came across a term I had never heard before: Third Culture Kid. Coming upon this term could be deemed accidental but pursuing its meaning was not.

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to travel the world. This was a difficult feat whhile growing up in a home with five siblings. The farthest we ever traveled was to NJ to visit family. It would not be until I was in college that I stepped foot on a plane or in another country for the first time. I spent a semester in Spain and visited Greece and Portugal while I was there. What a challenging and incredible time in my life. Sadly, I have not left the country since then (18 years later) but the longing to travel has not ceased.

Fortunately, I have married a man who shares this desire to travel and is now working for a company that would provide us the opportunity to do so. In addition, I see the growth potential for Cultured Kids. I long for increased exposure to other cultures and regions around the world and believe that these experiences will contribute to the depth of our organization.

However, choosing to live a nomad's life, even for a short while (6-8 yrs) will undoubtably impact the lives of our children (now 8 & 6). We will be choosing to bring them into a cross cultural life. I believe that they will be blessed by the experience but I also see the challenges that lie ahead for us as a family and for them as adults.

I recently read a book called, Third Culture Kids, Growing up Among Worlds co-authored by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. There are two main ideas that I have taken away from this book, one of them personal and one of them professional:

  1. Personal - There will be benefits to the adventures that lie ahead for our family if we pursue cross cultural living, but also great challenges. It is up to Jonah and me to do the best we can to prepare for these challenges and to prepare our children for them as well.
  2. Professional - (Adult) Cross Cultural Kids can have any number of experiences growing up among worlds. They could be a military or missionary kid. They could be children growing up in a multicultural home. They could be children of immigrants and/or refugees, bi/multiracial, international adoptees, children of minorities, or boarding school students who are studying outside their native region.

 

When it comes time to leave the US for a life abroad I will do my best to make sure my children are prepared, but at the same time I know that no amount of preparation will keep them from struggling with their identity and sense of belonging. I will pray that the benefits and growth potential for such a lifestyle outweigh the challenges that come along with it.

Similarly, as the primary caregiver for Cultured Kids I am going to do everything I can to make sure our organization does not overlook this population. It is with great excitement and joy that I share our efforts to begin research this summer that is focused on the social and behavioral effects of a cross cultural lifestyle. I have been fortunate and blessed beyond measure to have spoken with Ruth Van Reken who is willing to serve as a resource for this project.

Aside from co-authoring Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Ruth also wrote, Letters Never Sent, a global nomad's journey from hurt to healing and co-founded Families in Global Transition. Ruth's research and life experiences as a Third Culture Kid (TCK), experiences as a world traveler, a speaker, an author, a mother, a wife, and a friend have made an incredible contribution to an overlooked and ever growing population of Cross Cultural Individuals. Her work has transformed lives, brought healing to individuals and families, and has pioneered a path to better understanding the effects of a cross cultural life. Cultured Kids is thankful for her participation in our research project that we hope will one day enable us to provide programs to serve and support this growing population.

Cultured Kids summer research project will be led by Henry Utter, a retired educator, world traveler, and father of three TCK's. I met Henry two years ago when our paths crossed at New Covenant Elementary School in Arlington, MA. Cultured Kids was provided space at New Covenant Elementary School to run our first camp programs while Henry was finishing up a 20 year stint as an educator there. In passing one morning Henry said to me, "Don't forget those Third Culture Kids!". I assured him I would not. Now, two years later, we have joined forces and are beginning to see this through.

Aside from teaching, Henry also spent a decade of his life (along with his wife and three children) serving at Black Forest Academy in Germany. He has also spent time working and living in India. While he seems content to be passing some of his newly retired years in the New England area there is still a sense that he is not done working abroad.

Henry and I will be supported by a handful of students from colleges and universities local to the Greater Boston Area who are studying public health, education, child psychology, and/or human development. It is our hope that through foundational research Cultured Kids will be able to develop and implement programs to support Cross Cultural Families.

Please contact Michelle Goldshlag: michelle@culturedkids.org if you are interested in joining our team or if you are interested in contributing materials and/or experiences that will contribute to the research.