News

Struggles of a Third-Culture-Kid

Third-culture-kids seem to live an idyllic life. They travel to interesting places, see bucket-list-worthy sites, and have friends around the world. However, the reality is that they often face tough lives. As a result of their ever-changing lives, TCKs can experience loneliness, confusion, depression, and a sense of mourning over the things and people they have left behind.

To better understand the difficult situations TCKs face, some were asked to share and describe some of their struggles. 

Ella O. expresses that one thing she has really struggled with is finding things that last and never change. She explains, “It seems that every time I start to feel comfortable with someone or something, I have to say goodbye or start something new again. I know the obvious answer is like, ‘God doesn’t change! just trust in him!’ which is true, but it’s hard for me to treat something that’s hard to see or truly grasp the same way that I can with physical things (people, places that I have to say bye to).” It can seem like just when a TCK feels comfortable and secure in their environment, they are once again uprooted. 

Counselor and third culture kid Lois Bushong speaks about the conflicts TCKs face with their lives constantly shifting: 

We cannot ignore the fact that for those who grow up as TCKs, their lives are filled with chronic cycles of separation and loss. Obviously, such cycles are part of the experience for everyone. But for the globally mobile, the cycles are chronic and often relatively sudden and severe. They not only lose a friend here and there, they lose a whole world along with those they love. When these losses are not acknowledged it becomes unresolved grief. Grief that is not acknowledged and left to fester deep in the recesses of the soul becomes depression, anger, or anxiety. 

Oftentimes as Christians, it can be easy to shrug off someone’s frustrations and confusion at life with a simple “just give it to God and trust in His plan,” but for someone truly having a rough time, there needs to be a deeper level of encouragement and communication. Rather than dismissing a friend’s struggles, pray with them and seek God together. Leaving brothers and sisters behind to figure out their own problems is not an option. Instead, it is important to walk alongside them. 

As a half-American and half-Indian teenager, Sophia G. describes how she has a hard time knowing where she belongs and how she fits into both cultures. She states, “I just usually have a really hard time knowing where I belong. Like I don’t belong to either place. If I’m in India people say I’m American, and if I’m in the U.S. people say I’m Indian. And no one understands that I’m half and half.” No matter what country she goes to, Sophia feels like an outsider who can never completely fit into either culture. Similar to numerous TCKs, she lives in between the two countries. 

In her poem “Living In Between,” TCK Dounia Bertuccelli captures the feelings Sophia expressed as the poem describes what it means to live in between worlds: 

In between worlds,

In between cultures,

In between languages,

In between moves,

In between homes.

Living in between.

 

Never fully belonging,

Just used to blending…

Like a chameleon.

Never one of them,

Always the ‘other.’

Living in between.

 

We are many things abroad:

Immigrant, expat, foreigner.

And many things at home:

Hidden immigrant, repat, foreigner.

How do you reconcile

Living in between?

 

Other TCKs like Dylan B. find leaving one’s family to be especially tough. Like he describes, “It’s hard leaving your family, because that’s what we are, family.” Whether it is saying goodbye to friends who feel like family or one’s relatives, goodbyes never get easier for TCKs no matter the number of times they have done it. A piece of themselves is always left behind. Luckily, Dylan pointed out that at least with technology, family is only a text or FaceTime away. 

Despite the seemingly wonderful life they live, third culture kids have their own deep, difficult struggles. They carry with them all the goodbyes, hurt, and sadness, and no amount of traveling or idyllic Instagram posts will change that. It is instead what they choose to do with their pain that makes the difference, and talking with friends can make a huge impact. Reaching out and talking to TCKs about their lives can help them navigate the way they feel. Even if it feels slightly uncomfortable, it is important to get out of one’s comfort zone and provide a form of comfort to a friend. 

Getting into the Word and having God as the rock of one’s life also helps amidst the struggles. He will be there through every move and change; and even more than that, he remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. Clinging to his promises and steadfastness while battling the struggles of life is key to the Christian walk. Life will have its difficult seasons, but God is there day by day seeking us out and welcoming us into his presence.

 

Sources: 

Bertuccelli, Dounia. “Living In Between.” Tcknextstop, WordPress, 18 August 2014, tcknextstop.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/living-in-between/. Accessed 18 December 2020.  

Bushong, Lois. “Depression and Third Culture Kids.” Loisbushong, Pencil Point Design, 17 August 2014, www.loisbushong.com/posts/2018/1/9/depression-and-third-culture-kids. Accessed 18 December 2020.  

www.flickr.com/photos/6167292/6718013977/ 

girlonplanes.com/hiking-to-kjeragbolten/ 

31 Comments

  1. Great job!! As a TCK myself I think that you captured a good portion of what it feels like to be a TCK. To move from place to place not really knowing where you belong. It’s a rough life. Great job again!

  2. A wonderful and relatable (being a TCK) post!

  3. SOOO true!!!! I feel like this sooo much. It hurts very much honestly a lot, (even though my mom says I have the amount of experiences as an average 37-year-old.) it’s hard to live like this.

    For the former-Chinese-TCKs:
    Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Acts 8:4

    • It’s definitely a hard way to live, but we can take comfort in Christ always! Jesus certainly has similar experiences to those of TCKs and He loves to walk with us on that journey 😊

  4. Wow, so actually I must confess, I did not know what a TCK was until Selina’s spotlight. Now that I do, I want you guys to know, that everyone sometimes goes through this! I can appreciate what you guys go through, Well I don’t know if appreciate is the right word, but I think you get what I mean. 😀

    • Yes! I love that people who aren’t TCKs are also enjoying reading and even relating to these articles. I think it helps us understand one another and the struggles we both go through on a deeper level 🙂

    • Ja, same here—I’m not a TCK (and didn’t really know what they were before this), but I do get it!! Especially in online “worlds” where you can get ripped away with hardly any notice—it’s hard. XD Like practically all of my friends are online right now even without COVID, so if I lose computer privileges or something like that, I’m just about completely cut off. XD

      • Yes, I can totally relate to what you’re saying here, but in a different sense, I’m not allowed to do multiplayer games or social media etc so when people start talking about how awesome this stuff is, I can start to feel left out.

  5. Great job! So relatable 🙂

  6. Yes, this is so true. Good article!

  7. OliverMunzer/omunzer

    very interesting article!!! <3

  8. Love this! And that poem was relatable and beautiful:)

  9. Easy to read and underatand for the person who hasnt experienced what you described. Was also impressed by your word choice in several areas. You got a knack for writing 🙂

  10. This is an amazing article! I can relate to all of it being a tick myself xD It goes really deep and right down to the heart. Great job!

  11. This is so true!! I lived in the same city for almost 5 years and when we moved away 3 years ago it was like saying goodbye to family because all our friends there were so close to us (and they still are, even though we don’t see them all the time). Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

  12. I love your articles please write more and more

  13. I’m half American half Indian myself! I used to think TCKs were so cool, but now that I read this article…it has opened my eyes!

  14. Hey Alayna, thank you so much for this article! I think it is very encouraging and inspiring! You touched a lot of TCKs out there!