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Half a world away, the news feels close to “home”

An aerial view of damage to Wakuya, Japan after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the area in northern Japan.

Throughout the years, the stories in the news haven’t changed much. The names, the dates and the locations have changed, but history, as they say, likes to repeat itself.

The world is in conflict. About 70 years ago, it was World War II. About 50 years ago, it was the Cold War. About 10 years ago, it was the “War on Terror,” which still rages on.

Mother nature wreaks havoc. About 50 years ago, it was the Valdivia earthquake. About 30 years ago, Mount St. Helens erupted. And more recently, Japan was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami.

But even as events happen half a world away, for a Third Culture Kid, the news feels close to “home.”

Part of being a TCK is growing up in a close-knit, global community. TCKs have cultivated relationships with people of other nationalities, as well as a deep understanding for other countries. All these things combined can paint a vivid picture in our minds when there’s something going on in the world, whether it is a war or a natural disaster.

“Because of the makeup of an international community, you know someone personally – or by second-person relationships – who is immediately and directly affected by an event overseas,” said Julia Smithwick, 31, an American TCK who has lived in Indonesia.

The experience of living abroad gives us a personal perspective on global issues. Most TCKs are able to visualize the events beyond what they see in pictures or on the news, because many of them have been there. They know firsthand what the buildings and roads look like. They can hear the language echo inside their heads as they visualize people’s reactions.

“You imagine these situations quite vividly,” said Esther Brumme, 30, an American TCK who has lived in China and France. “It doesn’t seem so far away.”

Also, TCKs may better understand the culture behind an international incident, which colors their perception of an event. Anyone who has visited Indonesia knows how scarce its resources are, and therefore how difficult it is for Indonesia to bounce back from the 2004 tsunami.

People sometimes “miss out on the fact that there is real suffering in those places,” said Kyle Ladner, 20, an American TCK from Malaysia. “Instead they see the situation as a problem that needs to be fixed.”

Many TCKs have also lived through various international events.

For Sheena McLeod, 19, a Canadian TCK who grew up in Indonesia, the recent tsunami in Japan brought unpleasant memories. “My heart broke for the [Japanese] people,” she said.

It reminded her of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

“Asia is as home for me as home can get,” she said. “…That makes the hurt more real.”

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