Having grown up in India, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey – countries where there is immense awareness about Islam – my most unique experience as a TCK Muslim was when I was studying abroad in Shanghai.
Not being plugged in to the local culture greatly hindered my knowledge of the language and prevented “real” life from happening. Though getting involved in activities in a new country may seem daunting, it is crucial to being able to best enjoy and profit from your time overseas.
The typical Third Culture Kid has moved at least once by their 5th birthday, and will move at least four times in their life. They speak at least two languages and have a 4-year college-degree. Data based on an informal online survey of 200 Third Culture Kids.
Other TCKs may declare, with varying degrees of bravado, how an almost insatiable wanderlust propels them to exotic locations around the globe. In my case, the impetus was a critical need to flee the scene and rebuild.
Foreigner! I am in Shanghai, 12-years-old, the only white person on a Chinese basketball team, the subject of hilarity as I run the wrong way on the court, having misunderstood the instructions, related in speedy Shanghainese. Bun dan! the coach shouts at me, and my teammates giggle shrilly.
No one, not even other third culture kids, can understand exactly what your life has been like growing up around the world – except for the people who shared the same childhood.