Spring Break: Third Culture Kid Edition

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Budapest, March 2015

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I hate the, “Where are you from?” I guess I have to say Baltimore, but I wince. “I’m sort of a nomad…” and I shrug my shoulders. After living in Budapest, Hungary for five and a half years, my mom and I moved to Baltimore, Maryland. However, I never found myself settled in Baltimore. I struggled as a young kid and developing young adult to truly adapt to the culture. In middle school, we decided to homeschool and we ventured around the globe. I began traveling on my own, and visited friends internationally as well as stateside. During that time, we spent a brief few months in Ghana, and I became acquainted with yet another culture. I continued on by spending all four years of high school in Baltimore, and then was anxious to hustle out and get myself to college.

Where am I from? I do not know. Struggles of a Nomad. Struggles of a missionary kid. Struggles of a Third Culture Kid. I associate many places with home. My earliest memories, rest in Budapest. In order to walk by my preschool, I have to get on a plane. Is that weird? Can you understand how strange that is for me? I left Budapest, but I really never moved on. One should not have to forget the joy I experienced. My time as a child in Budapest was blessed- filled with laughter and love. It was truly unique, and I hope to live through another experience as transcending as my childhood.

Touch down in Budapest for a few days of my spring break, and a roller coaster of feels progressed. The Lord took me to Europe this spring break, it was Him for sure. It was a touch overwhelming. I was in a distracted and excited environment of a conference. I was seeing friends from all over, and people from my childhood. I walked into church and ran into a friend, she hustled over to give me a hug and I was choked up by memories. I was tossed back into my childhood environment. Quickly realizing how difficult the next few days would be without my mom, I knew I had to brace myself for the adjustment.

Sociologist David C. Pollock defines A Third Culture Kid as, “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.” My experience as a Third Culture Kid has left me with little stability, a constant need to be on the move, and discomfort in my parent culture. That might all sound horrendous, but it is actually my norm. It leads me to a different life than most, and it has brought me incredible experiences that most would not have the opportunity to understand.

Understanding my life as a Third Culture Kid:

  • Jet lag. When I was little I would cry because I thought it was a monster, I did not understand. Turns out it is a monster.
  • Planes are a comfort zone. From my airport arrival routine, to the cozy blanket always packed for the plane- I’ve got it down. I always come prepared with snacks, books and magazines. I lurve it.
  • My weather app: Does not solely consist of my current element. I am always on the lookout to see how cold it is Helsinki or gray in Budapest.
  • I frequently play the, “In this time, if I was in Europe…” I would be sleeping, or eating or… I find myself imagining the time of another country than my own.
  • Currency. I grew up on the Hungarian Forint. How about you?
  • I have great friends all over the world. I’m continuing to create new global friendships #cantstop #wontstop
  • I get confused as to which direction the faucets will emerge hot or cold. It takes a minute for me to adjust in any country that I am in, and I currently have to keep asking my roommate which way turns the kitchen faucet scalding hot.
  • The lack of a traditional shower in a non-U.S bathroom does not phase me.
  • Public transport is preferable to cars. I have the best car, but I love a good metro journey.
  • My passport is always close to me. Get me outta here! (The U.S)
  • I am more comfortable in cultures outside of my own, and I have more trouble adjusting to cultural norms from “my own,” country of the U.S. Reverse-culture shock, whenever I come “home.”
  • Few things cause me as much anxiety as, “Where are you from?” I would much rather you not ask me. Have you seen the grimace?

I am attempting to convey, that the lifestyle of being on the move is a blessing. It is also partially motivated by experiences that few can relate to. In my more recent years, motivation of simply seeing the world has been changed to connect to my global friendships and desires for international missions. I can explore for days, drink hot chocolate until my tongue is burnt and roam unique shops forever- but my exploration of God’s globe is bigger than myself. Nearing my senior year of college, (sidenote: Holy Crap?!) I am realizing that real life is not only coming soon, but is happening now. Responsibilities, career goals and life on the mission field are resting heavily on my heart. I aspire to a full life. Which I surely know I already experience. My heart is content- yet as an evolving adult, I will always be adapting to my future. I hope this insight of my personal life can further explain qualities about myself, or give you a better understanding about my adventures.

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Budapest, March 2015

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Budapest, March 2015

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Budapest, March 2015

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Budapest, March 2015

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Budapest, March 2015

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Innsbruck, March 2015

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Innsbruck, March 2015

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Innsbruck, March 2015

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Innsbruck, March 2015

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Innsbruck, March 2015

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Innsbruck, March 2015

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Innsbruck, March 2015

8 thoughts on “Spring Break: Third Culture Kid Edition

  1. I remember vividly landing in Budapest as a 19 year old and hearing Cynthia Norman lecture abt 3 rd culture kids. It hit home so closely that I couldn’t stay in the room very long. It was overwhelming to finally understand that it’s totally normal for a 3CK to watch a
    dear one drive away and think- I might never see them again.
    I had spent 7 yrs in Africa which felt like home, but France was really home… I seriously have struggled with cultural identity. Some of it has only surfaced this past year.
    I *know* what you mean!

    1. I am glad you can relate with this post! It is difficult to live outside of a culture that is in fact your “parent” culture, or any culture outside of your comfort zone. I definitely feel that it is a strength to have experienced many cultures, and I am attempting to utilize these experiences to my advantage!

  2. The sharing of parts of your life gives this post a depth that is very stirring. This is my absolute favorite!

  3. Loved this post. Found it fascinating. I have gone to seminars about 3CKs when I lived & taught abroad. I too have been rocked by reverse culture shock, weeping in a supermarket because there were too many choices & I was running out of time. I LOVE public transportation because it reminds me of my 11 years of life abroad even tho a bus trip in Baltimore is NOTHING like Europe. International cities are on my weather app – Baltimore was colder than Helsinki this winter.

  4. Oops, didn’t finish. I always have a couple different currencies in my wallet at all times. Having been a missionary for a church which has sister churches around the world, I’ve always said I can go just about anywhere in the world & there will be someone there who will love me but the other side of that coin is I have people that I love dearly who are so far away & it may be years before I get to see them again.

    I want to understand why it is uncomfortable for you to be asked where you’re from. Is it because your answer doesn’t fit the norm so that makes you different from most? Rodger Stender once said a returned missionary is like a soldier no longer deployed. Few can relate to their life except those who have done the same. I have found that to be true.

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