Third Culture Kids

 I don’t belong to a place, I belong to a group of people.

– Donna Musil

What is a Third Culture Kid (TCK)?

Today, the most common definition of a TCK is

… an individual who, having spent a significant part of the development years in a culture other than the parents’ culture, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures while not having a full ownership in any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into the life experience, but the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar experience.

- Pollock and Van Reken

There are many different names used for TCKs such as “biz kids” (whose parents worked with international business), “military/army brats” (whose parents served in the military abroad), “MKs” or “missionary kids” (kids of missionary parents), “diplomatic kids” (whose parents served in the foreign service), and many other names including “global nomads” and “transient people.”

What are some characteristics of TCKs?

TCKs are extremely diverse. TCKs are able to experience an array of benefits from having had the opportunity to begin traveling at a young age. However, one question TCKs often find difficult answering is “Where are you from?” with multiple variables including their parents’ origin, where they were born, the places they have lived, where their relatives live, their parents’ current location, and possibly additional factors playing a role in where they feel most at home. TCKs hold distinct relationships with many cultures, and more often than not they feel more connected to the host culture than to their parents’ culture.

Because TCKs travel regularly, many of them have problems developing intimate relationships; instead they tend to create an emotional distance from others to lessen the pain that may come with future separation. Often TCKs find a sense of belonging in relationships rather than geographical location, and relate best to others like themselves. In the end, TCKs get a feeling of belonging from being around people who had similar experiences, such as other TCKs and Adults, International Students, Immigrants and "Outsiders" as well as Cross Cultural Kids and Adults.

How do we support TCKs at Puget Sound?

Here at Puget Sound we encourage TCKs to enroll as we find them to be a huge asset not only to our community but to our student body as well. We also invite TCKs who enroll at Puget Sound to join our I-Connect Program so that we can provide a greater support network on campus as well as a great understanding of their unique needs.

While our program is relatively new in incorporating TCKs, we hope to expand it over the course of the years and provide the most support we can for our TCKs who enroll.