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.


  1. so interesting... I just wrote a post about myself being a TCK and explaining what we are for next week on my blog!

    1. Oooh awesome Casey, I look forward to reading that next week. I have always been writing about it, but finally decided I want to share more about TCKs, especially now that I am raising my own. I'm hoping to write about it a couple times a month. xx

  2. This is very common; not knowing the term tck; hopefully finding out & experience that "aha" moment!
    I wrote about repatriation this summer & bringing TCKs "Home". Comments Showed it's an emotional topic. You can read here if you're interested. http://globatris.se/2012/06/05/cominggoing-back-home-home/
    Looking forward to more tck posts!

    1. Oh I would definitely like to read that one. Thank you for sharing! xx


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