Have you lived and worked overseas as an adult or accompanied your parents on international assignments as a child, and upon return to your home culture felt like you had “Come Home to a Strange Land” ?
Engage in thought provoking discussions with Dr. Paulette Bethel around issues of identity, transition, cultural fusion and repatriation to the place we call “home.”
You are invited to a webinar hosted by Families in Global Transition and USA Girl Scouts Overseas:
The New Normal : Obama and Other Third Culture Kids Using The Gifts of Their Global Childhoods
Pundits throughout the presidential campaign struggled to define President-elect Barack Obama by traditional measurements of race or ethnicity. They wondered if his vision for "no blue States, no red States, but the United States of America " was possible. Could any nation move beyond its political or racial divisions to some sort of unified whole?
While the debates on talk shows on these issues seemed endless, they missed one basic reality about Barack Obama: he grew up as a third culture kid (TCK) -- a child who spends a significant period of his or her developmental years outside the parent(s)' passport culture. The themes Obama describes in his autobiographies – his search for identity, his wondering where he belongs in the traditional slots – are common concerns for the countless children being raised among different cultures in today’s society – not just TCKs, but what we now call Cross Culture Kids (CCKs) as well – children of immigrants, biracial or international adoptees, and more.
The gifts of the TCK and CCK experience are great in number and depth – a broad world view, the ability to be a cultural bridge, linguistic skills, and a sense of confidence to think "outside the box" are well documented benefits of this background.
In this webinar we will explore how this "new normal" -- the reality that fewer and fewer children grow up in traditional mono-cultural environments – presents new opportunities for our globalizing world. We will look at the common benefits and challenges such a childhood brings. And we will consider both how to recognize and use the gifts so many adult TCKs bring with them to the workplace, to the community, or to their governments.
Whether you are a TCK yourself, or are interested in how to leverage others’ TCK skills in the service of improved understanding, communication, and effectiveness, please join us for a fascinating, interactive discussion.
Date: Jan. 29th, 2009
Time: 7:30 AM Eastern,
12:00 Noon Eastern,
5:00 PM Eastern
To register, please email Laura Thielges on or before January 28 at email@example.com and indicate which timeslot you’d like to participate in. You will then be sent an email with instructions for attending the webinar. Participation is limited to the first 100 people who respond.
Girl Scouts of the USA has recently released some interesting research on the affects of the recent election on girls and youth. See more from the Girl Scout Research Institute here:
Please join me for the next interview in my ongoing series of the TCK Academy teleconferences. I will be interviewing Donna Musil, Army Brat/ATCK, writer, director and producer of Brats: Our Journey Home. Some of you may recall a previous post where I talked about this film
I am really excited about this teleconference interview. I had some time to meet with Donna in person this week while in Denver on business. What a blast!! Especially since she introduced me to a great restaurant that served the most wonderful Creole/Cajun cuisine!!! Actually, I am thinking about making Donna my newest BFF, especially if she can find one or two more restaurants that remind me of my "home culture" and its distinctive food!!
The one thing that I took away from my meeting with Donna was that she is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the needs of global nomads, TCKs and brats from all sectors, cultures and backgrounds. You don’t have to be a military brat to find your story in Brats: Our Journey Home. Donna’s work offers a universal message of belonging, coming to understanding and acceptance of the gifts and challenges of living a global nomad lifestyle.
Donna was raised an Army brat and has lived and worked in Germany, Korea, Ireland, Copenhagen, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and Paris. As a child, she moved 12 times in 16 years. Her father was a JAG officer and military judge. When she was 16, her father died, and two weeks later, her family moved to Columbus, Georgia, where she finished high school.
For the next 20 years, Donna moved 19 times, graduated college, and worked in a variety of jobs, but always felt “different” from her fellow Americans. In 1997, she learned that she was not alone. While surfing the Internet, Donna discovered a Web site for her Taegu, Korea high school. A few weeks later, she attended an impromptu reunion in Washington, DC. It was revelatory. For the first time, Donna felt like she “belonged” somewhere, and thus began her journey “home.
According to Musil, “It’s really about reconnecting and finding a home…. Finding a home not in a place but with a group of people.”
During our conversation, Donna will discuss the making of her seven-year passion, Brats: Our Journey Home, finding that place of belonging, being comfortable with who you are in the mix of paradoxes, the positive and the challenging legacies that “third culture kids” experience around the globe, and how BRATs/TCKs can develop an ability to “fully employ your strengths and have compassion for your weaknesses."
Ever feel like you want to learn more about this Third Culture way of life? Or, do you long to be around others who have experienced and/or understand what it means to be an internationally mobile, global nomad? So let me ask … If you really could find a place where these questions and more are answered in just 3 days, would you be interested?
What if I told you that such a place exists … a place where you could go to soak up valuable information, gain professional insights and experience ah-ha moments that would leave you thinking about what happened long beyond? And… in the process, you would walk away feeling as though you had participated in a life changing experience that has significantly improved the quality of your personal and professional life?
Well, I may have the perfect solution for these yearnings …. because, this is exactly what happened to me several years ago, when I encountered my first the Families in Global Transition Conference. I haven’t looked back since!
FIGT is the premier “grass roots, think tank” conference for those involved in an internationally mobile lifestyle, and offers something for just about everyone -- TCAs, TCKs, parents, educators, military family services, school counselors, marriage and family therapists, cross-cultural coaches, corporate, missions, relocation specialists and more. Besides the many benefits that can be derived from attending this conference, FIGT provides a great opportunity to meet a pretty amazing group of like-minded people who understand the struggles and successes of expatriate families and individuals and are deeply interested in promoting and growing understanding.
This year, I will be there as one of the conference speakers, and I am excited about having the opportunity to speak about third culture lifestyle topics that are near and dear to my heart. While in attendance, I definitely plan to soak up as much knowledge as I can from many internationally known experts that will be presenting cutting edge research and thinking during this 3 day conference, and I am looking forward to quality time spent engaged in Espirit DeCorps and “knowing” camaraderie. As with my experiences, if you decide to attend, you may discover that many of the people that you will meet at this conference may become life-long friends.
At any rate, the conference is March 6-8 at the Omni Houston Hotel, and also includes pre-conference workshops. I have included the contents of the FIGT Press Release for your information:
10th Anniversary ‘Families in Global Transition’ International Conference March 6 -8, Omni Houston Hotel
HOUSTON, TX, January 16, 2008 – It’s not always easy being a family expatriated by a corporate relocation, a military transfer, a missionary assignment, a diplomatic move or an overseas educational opportunity. In fact – more often than not – it’s a huge challenge for parents and children alike which requires support from many fronts.
That’s the topic of the 10th Annual Families in Global Transition International Conference at Houston’s Omni Hotel, March 6-8. The conference theme is: Supporting the Family: Accomplishing the Assignment.
The conference is a grass-roots “think tank” for internationally mobile families. “Expatriate families and their needs are often overlooked. This is the only conference in the world that brings together representatives of the corporate, military, missionary, diplomatic and educational sectors,” said Joyce Blake, executive of the nonprofit organization that sponsors it.
Blake said this will be the third year the conference has met in Houston because of the overwhelming number of families moved around the world by oil and gas companies whose corporate headquarters are in the city. “There is a need for expatriate support wherever families relocate, but the need is particularly striking in Houston,” she said.
Human resources personnel, relocation experts, educators and counselors attend to discuss the challenges and benefits of living abroad and returning home. FIGT is proud to announce that the outstanding 2008 program is again recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) / Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) as an excellent resource and opportunity to earn from 6.5 to 12.5 credits for your PHR, SPHR, GPHR professional certification!
Five pre-conference, skill-building workshops are offered, which include:
• “Welcome Aboard YOUR Cultural Transition Journey: A Family Resiliency-Building Program • Navigation Tools for Successful Expatriate Transitions • Could You be an Expat Entrepreneur? • International Marriage Mentoring: 12 Conversations • Wise as Doves and Innocent as Serpents: Promoting Organizational Health in International settings
Concurrent sessions focus on: • Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) • Family and organizational transitions • Repatriation, HR, ROI and educational transition • Cross-sector best practices • Concerns of expatriate teenagers and spouses
Space is limited for the 3-hour, pre-conference workshops. Visit www.figt.org to register and learn more about the sessions and presenters. Early Bird discounts available through January 31, 2008. For information about conference fees, registration and schedules, visit www.figt.org or call +1.317.888.9678.
This past week, I unexpectedly met 3 ATCKs -- two over dinner and one in a doctor’s office. The two young ladies, whom I met over dinner, and whom did not know one another prior to this evening. I could not help but notice how the two of them began to click as they increased their conversation, each sharing that they had difficulties with having people understand them, their interests or their world views. On the surface, they appeared to come from totally disparate walks of life, yet on some core level, there they were, having an intimate conversation about interests and getting together to “hang out.”
As the evening moved along, I discovered through conversation that they were both TCKs – a term wholly unfamiliar to them. As I explained the term, they leaned forward, as if I was speaking language that they had yearned to speak, but did not know existed.
The other young lady from the doctor’s office became extremely excited as she recognized that I had seemed to connect with what she was sharing with her coworkers about her lived experiences. I must admit, they seemed to be drawing blanks as she spoke. She turned towards me to continue her conversation, once she detected that I seemed to possess some understanding of the intricacies of her world and that of her TCK children. I cannot begin to describe the smile that went across her face, as I shared with her that there was now language for her experiences and resources available to support her and her children.
Is it that my skills at detecting who might be TCKs are improving, or is the TCK population growing?
The first time that I became aware of Dr. Rapaille and his work was while watching him on a PBS FRONTLINE special, where he discussed how he became involved in this work and his discovery that there is a different imprint for different cultures and that that the code for each culture was different. Accordingly, Rapaille asserts that this imprinting has to take place in early in childhood in order to create the mental connections.
For example, he described how the smell of “coffee” can evoke visualizations and memories of “coffee" upon waking in the morning. As an example of cultural imprinting, Rapialle cites a story from about 30 years ago, when the US tried launched a campaign to get the Japanese to switch from drinking tea to coffee. Rapaille stated that “when you know that there's a very strong imprint of tea in Japan -- it's almost a religious dimension there -- you cannot really have a strategy to get them switch from tea to coffee.”
My immediate thought was, “It make sense to me,” because the mere mention of coffee during this program almost instantaneously led to childhood memories of waking up to robust aroma of drip roast coffee and chicory in my home. Especially memorable is the scent of coffee at the home of my maternal grandmother, as well as remembering wonderful little demitasse cups of café au lait that both of my great grandmothers “dotingly” allowed me to drink when visiting them at their houses.
To this day, I still love the being awakened by the scent of coffee. Even more so, I love discovering wonderful coffee blends from around the world. I have been known to brew a fresh pot of coffee as a comfort food and pull the covers over my head to cocoon on a rainy day or after a particularly stressful week. For my kids, who spent their formative years in Asia, I might be their reaction to the smell of rice being cooked in our home.
After years of living in Asia and Turkey, I have grown very fond of drinking tea, but I do not recall any strong messages or memories being evoked at the mere smell of tea being brewed.
This started me wondering about TCKs, cultures codes and their cultural imprinting given their trans-cultural upbringing, especially for those whom have lived in several countries during their formative years. After all, Rapaille asserts that the imprinting of the culture code has to take place in our childhoods while the reptilian brain is still forming.
I posed this question to Ruth Van Reken, and she responded with “That's a good question. There must be something there because why is it we feel so at home at during our ‘reunion of strangers’… what is the connection? I've talked about it in terms of what we share in the [TCK lived] experience that then makes us connect because of what it does for us a persons in the emotional part of us… but maybe through this discussion, you can put a better name on it?"
Is there a dominant “culture code” or reference system that influences the ways in which TCKs do things in their personal and professional lives? Or, perhaps, is it a confluence of culture codes and imprinting? Are there culture codes that are specific to the TCK/ATCK experiences? Is a key culture code for TCKs airplanes? Moving Boxes? Smells? Sounds? Can a set of culture codes for TCKs be named, and if so, can they be used to help others better understand TCKs and the unique complexities that are part fo the everyday fabric of their lives?
So I ask: Can you identify any specific culture codes that might be universal to the TCK experience, and if so, what can they reveal about this shared experience that seems to so inexplicably connect TCKs from all backgrounds and walks of life?
The other day, my husband interviewed an individual for a position that she was seeking. During the course of the interview, the subject of being part of a military family came up. She described some of the challenges of moving herself and her children across cultures during her husband’s career, and shared personal anecdotes about entering new countries and cultures. More importantly, she recanted re-entry and education challenges for herself and her children. Although she clearly enjoyed these experiences, and had worked with her children to embrace these benefits, as well as providing parental guidance on navigating the challenges, it was clear to him that she wanted and needed more information and resources.
He asked her if she was familiar with the literature regarding TCKs. She was not familiar with the term, and had no awareness that there were already resources available to assist her and her family to transition successfully across cultures. In a few months, they will make another cross-cultural transition from the east coast to the southwest. And, as I have been told on many occasions, this particular move may as well be to another country, due to the vast differences in lifestyle and cultural mores.
Although there has been an explosion of awareness, research and resources dedicated to helping TCK (much more is needed for TCAs), there is so much more to explore and think about when it comes to the world of TCKs and TCAs. I know that the Department of Defense has made providing information and resources to families regarding the challenges and benefits of relocating military families across cultures a top family-oriented priority. Over the last few years, they have sponsored research, and have actively participated in activities, such as, the Families in Global Transition Conferences, and the Military Child Education Coalition.
As my husband was providing this mother with a list of resources regarding TCKs, he told me that an expression of relief flashed across her face. I suspect that he was a little excited, because he had just joined the legions of us who know how meaningful having knowledge and awareness of this topic is to the sustainability of internationally and domestically mobile families.
I am sure that most of you can vividly recall the first time that we discovered that there was a label and explanations that made sense regarding our experiences -- the moment that that light flickered across our faces, as we said to ourselves, “This makes sense. I make sense!” I know that I do!!
With this Mother’s new awareness, hopefully, she will be able to tap into some of these resources and spread the word about the availability of information on third culture experiences to her friends, family and associates.
What does it mean for you to have grown up in a mostly homogenous or monocultural community, and then to have found yourself suddenly immersed in an internationally mobile lifestyle?
Anthropologist, Dr. Ruth Useem first coined “third culture” in the 1950s while doing research, along with her husband, John Useem on an expatriate community in India. The used this generic term to cover the “interstitial” cross-cultural styles of life created, shared, and learned by persons who are in the process of relating their societies, or sections thereof, to each other. The 'third culture' is interwoven with the home culture or 'first culture', which is interwoven with the experience in the host or 'second' culture. Dr. Useem also brought her three sons along on this assignment and also began to observe the impacts to the children living in this interstitial lifestyle, and by extrapolation, they began to refer to the children of the expatriates that they were researching “third culture kids.
One of the distinctions that has been made concerning the impact of this lifestyle that has been made for children who have accompanied their parents on overseas assignment is the significance of having these experiences during their developmental years and the subsequent impacts to identity development, amongst a myriad of other gifts and challenges.