An unsettled but very happy Third Culture Kid: Part 3

  • Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • An unsettled but very happy Third Culture Kid: Part 3

TCK life – part 3

Cecilia continues her TCK story.

On the road again

Cecilia in Chennai
Cecilia in Chennai. “This was taken on my old school campus. It was really wonderful getting to visit again this past year after seven years away!”

After four years in the U.S., I was ready to get out. By my third year I was in the thick of planning where to move with my parents. With State Department posts there is no guarantee that you will get your first, second, or even fifth choice but you can at least see what is available at your level and list them accordingly. We were torn between Istanbul and Chennai, and ultimately a return to India proved to be the better option because of job stuff.

It meant a lot that my dad actually discussed the move with me and let me feel a part of the decision-making process. While I know that this is not always possible, NEVER keep your child in the dark until the last possible instant. I have a couple of friends whose parents did this and it always ended up worse because they did not have time to cope and say goodbye. If a move is a real possibility, tell your children and treat them with respect and honesty.

The international school connection

Going back to India was amazing. Sure, I was headed to South India this time and to a much smaller school, but I was returning to other people like me.

I have gone to international schools my entire life and so I really cannot speak for those TCKs who ended up in local schools. International schools have a culture all of their own and if I am from anywhere it is the international school environment. With fellow students from all nationalities, private school privileges, world-class teachers, and the opportunity to travel frequently, what’s not to love? I again made some bosom buddies who understood me and I experimented with all the regular stuff that teenagers abroad experiment with. I got to go to clubs, I drank, I engaged in somewhat reckless behavior with auto rickshaws. And I learned from every mistake. I also was very lucky to make these mistakes surrounded by people who loved and cared for me deeply and made sure that I was never in any serious danger.

Relocating again!

When it came time for me to leave my senior year of high school, I was miserable. After going through the option of staying with friends on a three month basis to round out the year, my parents wore me down and convinced me to move to Manila with them. I have rarely been so grateful to them for forcing me to do something that I did not want to do. My parents were stationed in Manila for a total of four years. That meant that I would spend three years of college visiting them in a country that would have been foreign to me if I had not gone with them. I would not have had friends and I would have felt isolated whenever I visited. Because I did what no teenager wants to do and was uprooted my senior year, I relished my visits back to Manila. I had a community to return to. I have more friends around the world than I would have had otherwise. I have more people that I am connected to because of random occurrences than if I had just stayed put. I think it is really important to remind your child that even if moves are terrifying, there is always a silver lining. There are always new friends to be made, new experiences to be had, and a new country to make your own.

TCK benefits

This is the real benefit of being a TCK. We are able to move and adapt at will. Sometimes it is forced but we can do it. We are equipped with more life skills by the time we graduate from high school than most people are by the time they graduate from college, if not graduate school.

Never think of moving abroad as a deprivation of any sort. It is the greatest gift you can give your child. I am forever grateful to my parents for dragging me around the world with them. It is worth every neurotic questioning of where I am from, worth not being able to articulate my background, and it is most certainly worth a few tears shed.

by Cecilia Haynes 

Cecilia is a diplobrat who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Calcutta, Taiwan, Beijing, New Delhi, Virginia, Chennai, and Manila. Finding that repatriation did not agree with her, she moved to Hong Kong after graduating from university. From there she ate a trail through Lhasa, Dharamsala, and Xining before finding a wealth of sun and food in Alanya, Turkey. Her itchy feet have stilled in the Mediterranean Sea, at least for the year.

Need to talk 1-1 about your move and life overseas with someone who 'gets it'? Consider me your own, personal expat expert! I'm here for you.

Your one-stop-shop for a successful life abroad

Expatability Club

An expat community and advice hub where you’ll never feel alone or unsupported. With an Expat Expert in your pocket for real-time support.

Let's stay in touch!

Subscribe to my newsletter and be first to hear news and updates from Carole.

By subscribing you also agree to receive marketing emails from Carole Hallett Mobbs. You can opt-out of these emails at any time. My full privacy policy can be seen here: Privacy Policy

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Hi Cecilia,
    Im a 16-year-old TCK and I recently found out I will be moving in my senior year to Manila, and I have a few questions. I have been moving around my whole life, I was born in Washington DC, but just after 3 weeks, I moved to Africa for 10 years. I grew up in Mali, Ghana, Rwanda, and Zambia, then came the time to move again and it was back to Washington DC for 3 years. Then the moving again, this time to Indonesia (for what was supposed to be 5 years), where I am now.
    I have recently found out that due to my parent’s foreign service jobs, I will be moving in the middle of my senior year of high school and can’t graduate with my class, and yes I will admit I have shed some tears. I also have ad the privileges of a constant International school environment my whole life. We found out there is a good chance I will be moving to Manila for the end of my high school. While reading this article I found it crazy that you had to move in your senior year to Manila, and I have a few questions. Did you go to an international school? ISM? Did you do the international baccalaureate the IB? What was it like moving in senior year? What is it like living in Manila? Did you connect with anyone, is it worth trying to find friends?
    Anyway, I would love your advice, Thanks so much for the article.

    1. Hi Maya,
      I’m Carole, the owner of this website. This article was written many years ago by a guest – it’s unlikely she will see this.
      I’ve heard great things about Manilla, and I’m sure you’ll be just fine in your new life 🙂

  2. Hey Cecilia,

    Thanks for the blog! I share a similar background as yourself (though middle east based- Kuwait, UAE, Oman), and i agree with some of the points you mentioned. While i am grateful for some of the experiences i was able to have, my opinion is that the long term effects of living abroad can be both a blessing and a curse.

    As a child raised in Kuwait, i have fond memories of running wild with some of my (then) best friends for about 13 years. My sister and I were given a few weeks notice that we were to be moving to the UAE. Having just started junior high, the transition was a devastating change in my life which i think still has an affect on me to this day (now in my mid twenties). I never acted out like some teens, but kept it in. I often wonder how things would have been different had it never happened. My sister (2 years older) adjusted well, the transition for me was not as smooth, and it still feels like i am looking for ‘home’ or for some form of meaningful connection that doesnt seem to exist.

    For any parents reading, i would suggest putting in some careful thought about the timing of major moves, and the long term effects on your kids/kid, the outcome is different for many people and i know alot of expat kids that are very happy. And some that are lost, despite being given every opportunity money can buy.

    My parents now nearing retirement are hoping to move to where ‘the kids’ are, my thoughts to that would be… good luck with that. Expat kids generally have an inherent need/curse to constantly be on the move, despite a desire to be settled. It would be great to live in the same city or country/continent as my whole family, but a reality that i know will never happen.

    1. Hi S,
      Thank you so much for visiting and commenting on Cecilia’s guest post. It’s wonderful to hear your experiences as it demontrates that not everyone has a smooth time of expat life. I agree that timing is vital, and communication more so.
      I wish you well.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Want some personalised advice?

Find out how I can help you make your expat life a success!