So far, I have introduced you to 5 different missionary kids who have shared their experiences growing up abroad in various Asian countries (Nate, Melody, Dorines, Paul, and Evan…click on their name to read their story). Today, I am excited to share Amanda’s interview because she offers the perspective of a Third Culture Kid who is not a missionary kid. Her family traveled abroad for personal reasons, as you’ll read.
If you like hearing from Amanda, you might want to follow up with her on her blogs. She has two blogs of her own that you might want to check out. Her blog Prepped and Loaded (http://preppedandloaded.com/) is designed for TCKs who want help searching for and preparing for college. College prep in America can be daunting for someone who has spent little time here. Amanda, also, has another blog called Moxacity (http://moxacity.com/) in which she talks about her experiences traveling and encourages others to embrace travel as well.
Amanda is someone else who I have met through this blog, so I didn’t know a lot about her at first, but she has been really kind in answering my questions about her experience. I loved reading her answers, and I think you will too!
What is the last good book you read?
Literally, this is a testament to the fact that I’m back in graduate school – but it was Girls on the Edge by Leonard Sax. But to be fair, I’m finishing up a class on Gender Issues in Counseling (I’m getting a M.ED in Counselor Education). But for “fun”, I’m currently reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.
What is your favorite family/kids movie?
Finding Nemo. It’s about adventure, family and facing your fears. What’s not to love?
What have you been listening to lately?
These days, jazz. But I will always entertain a solid 80s or 90s jam on the playlist.
If someone gave you a free plane ticket right now to visit any country in the world for a week, where would you go?
Since it’s only for a week, it’ll either be Argentina or Chile. I have started this love affair with South America over the past few years. I would like to finish up some travel in Argentina. I’ve been east but I would love to do western Argentina. Otherwise, I want to go Chile. I was there rather briefly last year on an unplanned stop in Santiago (airport) on my way to Buenos Aires and decided then I needed to return.
Give me your TCK life map: Where were you at what ages, for how long?
Born in DC.
Moved around the Virginia & North Carolina until about 5th grade.
Moved to Cameroon before the start of 5th grade.
Lived in Buea, Cameroon for six months.
Lived in Limbe, Cameroon for another 9 months.
Moved to the capital city, Yaoundé, during 7th grade.
Came back to the U.S after graduating from 12th grade.
That being said, I’ve done a lot of moving within in the States as well!
Why were you overseas?
My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the mid 1970s. They decided for family reasons to move back to Cameroon.
What reaction did people have when they found out you have lived in a different country/ in different countries?
Well, TCKs come in all different forms. So in my case, I moved back to my parents’ passport country. But my parents were part of the English minority. Cameroon is bilingual in English and French, but the majority of the country is francophone. We moved to the capital ultimately, which is part of that French majority. Therefore, even though, I looked like the local population – I was still an other. I had to learn French, because was not my mother tongue. I didn’t speak either of my parents’ tribal languages, so I was completely on the outs even within the English speaking parts of the region. Plus, I eventually ended up at international schools – so I didn’t have the same life experiences as the locals. I was definitely in the Third Culture Kid subculture that occurs at international schools. In addition, I sounded different. I have a non-descript American accent. In Cameroon, I was the American kid. In the States, I was the American kid who was more African than anything else. Fundamentally, I think people are comfortable with labels so it can be hard to try to figure out someone who doesn’t fit into a neat box. That being said, most people just accepted my version of my life story. They didn’t really have a choice. What are they going to? Argue about your own experiences? In college, it eventually got to the point, where I had enough friends who would just go on ahead and explain my life to others before I got it to it.
What is your passport country, and what shocked you about your passport country when you moved there?
The U.S. This still shocks me every time I go abroad and come back – how big everything is here. It sounds weird, but seriously, we do oversize everything, don’t we? I was also surprised how hard of an adjustment I had coming back for college. I spent most of my teen years hearing how American you are, and then, I get back here and realize, I have no idea what’s going on in terms of slang, cultural references or ideology. It was jarring. The funny thing is, I moved back just before the Internet became this huge deal so I used to blame my unawareness on the lack of connectivity. But now, I talk to younger TCKs, and they are also dealing with the shock of how different the U.S. (or home) is from what they perceived it to be before they came back. So I guess some things never change.
What was schooling like for you? Boarding school? Home school? Public School?
All of the above. Until 5th grade, I was in public school in the States. I was also homeschooled for the remainder of my fifth grade year, when we were first moved to the country. I, then, did one year of boarding school in Cameroon, which was based on the British system. After that, I was in American international school for 7th through 9th grade. I then attended a American/British hybrid international, missionary school for 10th -12th grade. Until then, my middle school only went up to 10th grade so if you wanted an American curriculum, you were either going to boarding school outside of the country OR you were going to be homeschooled.
What do you want people to know about TCKs?
Fundamentally, TCKs are like everyone else, in that, they have a background story. Everyone has a story that gives context to his or her own lives. It just happens that some stories take longer to tell than others. The TCK generally isn’t trying to brag but wants to share that context because it is a relevant part of who they are.
Also, the question of “What was it like to live in __________” can be awkward one. You’re asking about someone’s life and sometimes people can be unknowingly insensitive when they ask certain questions. More often than not, it’s kind of strange when people ask questions as if you’re a weird, foreign being when really that was just the TCK’s everyday existence. I could probably live just fine without one more person asking if I ever saw lions roaming the streets.
Finally, depending on where the TCK grew up, we may get very passionate about a region or a people group. It may seem odd to others, when a TCK has a really strong reaction to issues happening in Botswana or the Philippines or Greece, and they neither look like citizens of those nations or hold passports from there. However, for that TCK that community, location, or those people had a part in forming the TCK’s identity and values, so respect that. You don’t have to understand it, but do respect it.
Interesting, right?! I especially loved hearing about Amanda’s experience with language and accent differences. I think it would be interesting to further study how language influences your sense of identity. Like, do Americans who claim English as a 2nd language feel less American? Or a Thai person who knows Mandarin better feel less Thai? I feel like it would, but how does it effect the way you experience life?
Once again, I love how TCKs like Amanda are bringing up the point that sharing about our experience in other countries is not an attempt to brag or get attention. THat experience abroad has a significant impact on the TCKs life, and to not talk about it would feel like pretending it didn’t happen.
Anyway, I could talk forever on these subjects, but I’ll let you go. Thank you so much Amanda for your willingness to share your experience!
I don’t have a featured TCK for next week. Actually, school is coming to a close, and I am preparing for a year abroad in Thailand. I’ll do the best I can to post at least every Thursday, but I can’t guarantee anything over the next few weeks. If you are a TCK and would be willing to share your experience, email me! (firstname.lastname@example.org) I would LOVE to hear from you!
Have a good week everyone 🙂