Category Archives: third culture kids

Diagram of a Third Culture Kid

I found out about the term Third Culture Kid while I was in University and after I was married.  Since this time I have continued reading, researching, and searching out more answers about being a TCK.  Not only for sharing with others or for understanding of myself but because I now raise two of my own sons in a cross cultural world.  

I like to write and share about my experiences growing up in my nomadic lifestyle because I hope to reach out to another person, whom like me years ago had no idea what it was to be a TCK.  Nor how life impacting being a TCK was to every facet of their life.

It is all part of who I am and who I have become as a mother raising her two sons.  It is why I love to move and travel.  It is why I feel more comfortable in an airport than visiting family relations who have never lived abroad.  


Here is my story of my realization of who I am and where I truly belong. 

FALL 2003
Newlyweds and currently attending Harding University, my husband and I were excited about attending our first missions forum as we were keen to do mission work upon graduation.  This was my answer to how I would get to live overseas again and I may have been a little more excited than Ryan. So excited in fact that I mistakingly I locked and shut the passenger door of our car.  Which would be fine except that Ryan had stepped out to go to the bank and the car was still running with our keys in the ignition.  Not to mention the bus from the University was presently waiting for the last of us stragglers to get on board to leave for the mission forum.  Campus security was not going to be able to get it unlocked with the coat hanger technique and there was no spare key back at our on campus flat.  The university faculty member attending the mission forum was now overseeing our ‘break into the car’ situation.  He at this time was carrying his daughter’s car keys which he did not normally have on him.  The were to a completely different make and model car than my husband’s red saturn coup. However the professor thought to try it and in one quick moment the car was unlocked.  It was a miracle.  To this day I can see no other reason for it.  Perhaps it was God’s way of telling us that this weekend would be more important than we would truly realize that weekend.    

Since Ryan and I had started dating were inseparable.  Yes we were one of those obnoxious couples.  As newly married I still do not see why we split up to go to different sessions at one part of the missions forum.  But for whatever reason Ryan wanted to listen to one speaker and I felt strongly compelled to hear another.  It was a young woman talking about growing up on the mission field and it was lead by a former missionary kid (MK).  I sat near the front of the room and listened to what I thought would be an interesting foresight on being a missionary family.  She started talking about her life and about the term TCK and her reactions to moving to the US.  In the missionary circle, this term TCK I would learn soon after was widely known.  I however grew up in a military circuit where its more uncommon to grow up on military bases overseas and not return the the US after one tour. TCK meant nothing to me until she started to explain what it meant for her ‘returning to the US’, to the home of her parents’ culture.

When she was finished I was doing all I could to hold back the tears. I remember what it was like moving to the US, and how a lifetime of moving never prepared me for how hard it would be to try to fit into that world.  My own parents did not understand why it was so hard on me.  After her lecture I composed myself and went to talk to her about what she had said.  I told her how finally it had clicked and I felt like I knew who I was or where I belonged.  That knowing I was a TCK was more impacting than I would have ever thought.  She gave me a lot of comfort and information on Third Culture Kids. From there I practically ran to find my husband so that I could share with him this revelation of my life to him. I cannot remember if tears finally were shed at this moment or not. But there was definitely a release of emotion felt. I just let it all out and shared to him everything that was racing through my brain, my heart and my soul. 

From then on life and the understanding of it changed for us.  It is kinda hard to explain unless you have gone through the same sort of experience, whether you are a TCK or not. It was like going through life thinking I knew who I was, though I never really belonged to a country or culture fully. I never fully felt excepted by an country or culture. Moving back to the states I felt isolated, alone, and as if I was a ‘nobody from nowhere’. Now all of a sudden there is a spotlight on me and I can see clearly. I know who I am and I belong somewhere, even if it is not a ‘place’ per se but belonging to a small group of people. It was a tremendous weight lifted from my shoulders. Even though I still had a lot of emotional baggage and looking at my life to do, I felt I finally had a sense of direction to go from.

Though I had grown up as a TCK, this was the beginning of my journey as a ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid).  

The rest of the weekend was insightful and blessed. We got in touch with a group called Let’s Start Talking which sent us to Bangkok, Thailand that summer to teach English and build relationships with the Thai people.  It began our life together as a married couple who would eventually keep traveling overseas until we finally made our home abroad.

A Third Culture Kid meme

As a nomadic person by birth I have made a lot of acquaintances and friends in my thirty years of life. Whether a person comes into my life for a few minutes or a couple of years, there is one question that will always be asked.  

The question: 
“Where are you from?”  

Of course here in England it gets slightly altered with the wording:
“Where in America are you from?” 

In my first year back to England I would answer without missing a beat “I’m not.”  

Which of course leads me into a much longer answer.  

This photo pokes fun at my situation that is being a TCK. 

Travel Thursday: Moving Abroad

Travel Thursday.  I love to travel.  I also love to move. By ‘move’, I do not mean down the street or across town.  I love moving to another country and better yet another continent.  It is the norm for me and this nomadic lifestyle has been a major part of my life since I was born in England to my American parents.  With the weekend right around the corner, I find Thursdays are the perfect day to start talking ‘travel’. I hope to share to you all my love and passion for being a Wanderlust Third Culture Kid.

“Honestly I feel more at home in an airport and on airplane.” – Bonnie Rose

My Childhood. I grew up on military bases up and down Europe until I was seventeen years old. Unfortunately that meant I would spend my senior year graduating in the USA as well as adopting to the (new to me) USA culture.  Every cloud has a silver lining and for me it was getting to spend the summer after graduation in Italy to see my classmates get their diplomas.  For the next decade I would spend my life living through out the mainland USA and on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.  My  nomadic needs were catered to with time spent in Australia, Thailand, and Cambodia between the years of 2002 and 2011.  Though I carry an American passport and have an American accent, my goal had always been to use my UK passport and return ‘home’ to Europe.

My friends and I at the Naples American high school graduation – 2011 in Naples, Italy

Moving Abroad.  Since Ryan and and I started dating 11 years ago, he has been aware that I would want to live in Europe.  Straight out of University we went ahead to achieve that goal through following a path to be missionaries.  When that door closed the door to the USAF opened and through it the next six years.  While my husband worked as a linguist our dream of being stationed in Europe was not in the military’s goals for us.  I will say that the 3ish years in Hawaii living an island wife was not half bad. 😉  In the Summer of 2011 with my husband fresh out of the military, we took the leap and moved to England.

If you have a goal to move to another country, make it a goal and do it! Take your dreams and your wishes and pair it with action.  I have talked to a lot of people since the summer of 2011 about why we made such a big move.  In response back I have heard frequently the statements of ‘oh I wish I could do that’ or ‘wow, I couldn’t imagine just moving to another country like that’.   I will be straight with you. Moving abroad will not be easy, but if you want to do it then figure out a way so it does not become a future regret. I love the mantra that ‘Life is Short, Live every Moment’.

This was our last photograph taken with our sons before we left.  They would join us once we were settled.
This was the last photograph taken of us together before our plane left for England. 

How We Did It. Moving abroad is not an easy feat. While I thought we were both prepared for our move we did learn a lot along the way.  We chose to move to England without either of us having a job lined up, nor a place to stay.  That is not the whole story, so please do not go by that strategy to move abroad.  You definitely need to do your research and figure out how you can get a visa.  A simple tourist visa will not allow you to live and work inside a country and every place has its own rules.  Know the restrictions and what you will need before you hop on a plane.  The easiest way to move to another country would be with a job that you already have, that will send you to work there.  While we tried that with the military, this way did not pan out for us.

Another way to get a visa to live and work is to look at getting a student Visa and attending school.  My husband decided to use his GI Bill from the USAF and get his masters in England.  We moved abroad with my husband accepted to University of Sussex in Brighton, England and I was traveling under my British passport.  OOPS! That is right, we made mistakes along the way. So in a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ fashion, I will repeat that you know the guidelines for acquiring the correct Visa.  You will want to confirm with several sources or you will end up like we did.  Though we read online that Ryan could apply for his student visa in the country, that ended up being a misprint of bad information on the website.  My husband had to leave the country, apply for his visa in the USA, pay to have it expedited  and then return to join me.  The paperwork and dealing with people can end up in costly mistakes if you are not careful.

At Heathrow airport my husband looks for wifi as we wait for our train.

Navigating our way to Victoria Station with the Underground.

First Arriving into England
Though we did not have any personal contacts in Brighton, we did plan out our journey down to Brighton and reserve a place at a hostel.  We did not know at this point how long it would take to find jobs, so living in a hotel would be far out of our means.  Hostels however are perfect if you are traveling sans kids and was one of the reasons we chose to leave our kids with family while we figure everything out. Staying in a hostel for us was smart. However traveling with the amount of luggage we brought proved to be a bit challenging and did result in a little heart ache.  Anything I knew we needed needed to be in our suitcases I packed.  On vacations we pack like pros, but moving to another country changes the game plan a bit.  If you do come to Europe, know that there may not be lifts (elevators) like there are back in the USA.  We had to take several trips many times up and down different flights of stairs across the train stations all the way to Brighton.  Which was not as terrible, as it was that I broke my camera lens trying to shuffle bags.

Another tip of advice.  There will be plenty of time for photos.  When maneuvering your luggage, keep your camera where it will be safe. 😉 

I was so excited to be home in Europe after so many years.
Everyone we met was so polite and helpful and we were smiling the whole way to Brighton. 

Outside the Brighton rail station on the coast of England.  

Ryan eventually got his marriage visa, went to school, and worked part time. I began work for the next year at a salon and our kids joined us in September to start the school year in England.  After all was said and done I am so glad that we decided to just do it.  Our family has only come closer together living here and being married to my expat in England is everything for which I had hoped.  We have since moved to Bath, as of the end of December 2012 and we currently have no further plans of moving.

Where would you move to if you could go anywhere in the world?  Have you or do you currently live abroad from your ‘home’ country?  I love to meet other expats and future expats! 

* Photographs belong to Bonnie Rose and cannot be used without written consent.

I am a TCK and an Expat

TCK (Third Culture Kid): A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. (read more…)

Ex-Pat: An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”). (read more…)
I was born and raised in Oxford, England from 1982-1984.
I went to primary school in Norfolk, England in the early nineties.
 Moved back to England with my husband and sons in Brighton from 2011 – 2012.
I lived in Stuttgart, Germany in 1995 – 1998 and attend 7th & 8th grade at Patch American  HS.
This photo was taken on my birthday with my friends before we went on a shopping trip. 
I lived in Naples, Italy in the 90’s for 4th-6th grade and again for 9th-11th grade.
This group photo was taken at our house with our church family. 
In 2002 I spent the entire summer in Australia for a church campaign group from my University
and on a lone backpacking trip up the coast from Sydney to Port Douglas.  
The summer of 2004 my husband and I spent in Bangkok, Thailand for a ‘Let’s Start Talking’ campaign to teach english.
I returned to Thailand and Cambodia in 2006 for the Asian Mission Conference.  
We lived on Oahu, Hawaii from 2007 – 2010
I worked as a fashion photographer, hairstylist, and airbrush makeup artist. 
In December 2012 we moved to Bath, England and currently live here.
Took this photo on a timer during our first snowfall of 2013.

Pink & Third Culture Kids

I have really missed the theatre. I have had at least two clients who are active in either the professional or amateur levels of theatre companies here and so its been on my mind a lot recently. I just saw and am applying for a job with a theatre company in London as a Hair & Makeup assistant. It is double the hours I am working now and about 5 times my current earnings. I know I may not be a contender since I will be out of the country for two months this summer, but I can a least apply. Either way I think I want to really look at applying for Theatre jobs with my major at Uni and my past work in the last few years has not been to far off from the same sort of work. Would really like to be in a more skill/trade field than a customer service field. Keep me in your prayers. Would love to see what doors open from this.

Update: The application for said job below as it turns out is due in ten hours. I just submitted my application. Perhaps this will not be the door God opens for me, but looking forward to new opportunities.

‘Pink': flowers on the walk home.
 #Nofilter #pink #photoadaymay #photoadaychallenge
‘Culture': Third culture kids: the experience of life among worlds.
 #tck #tcks #thirdculturekids #culture #photoadaychallenge #maycreative

Watching Thunderbirds with my son on his sick day from school.