Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Transition

by mendibpng

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Although transition happened very differently for me as a child (compared to how my kids experience it now) we share a lot of commonalities…the adjustment to living in different places is just one of them:

I experienced transition every time I left my parents and went to live at boarding school. Home and school were completely different environments for me.  During the school year, I lived at an institution where all the students were expected to follow a similar set of rules and schedules, and yet I felt fairly independent most of the time, responsible for myself. I learned very quickly at a young age to fend for my own physical and emotional ‘stuff,’ like buying my own toiletries, etc. In most of the dorms I lived in, there were 20 or more students looked after by one set of dorm parents. The number of roommates I had varied, usually it was two but one year we had all of the 8th grade girls in one room together!

At home I either shared with my little sister, or I had a room to myself. My parents had expectations for us girls but were able to give us individual attention, something I lacked at school except for a few trusted adult mentors and class sponsors. I had a lot of freedom at home as far as schedule because I was always on holiday there BUT I wasn’t used to my parents telling me what to do. I remember the huge suitcases my dad would pack for us girls, full of clothes and possessions that we needed (or wanted) for the school term. Often our field director would comment about the Hobbs girls huge suitcases under his breath. 🙂  For me, having my favorite things with me was comforting when faced with a big transition. Even now, I like to have my comfort objects with me when I travel!

Similarly to my experience with transition, my kids have two homes: one in the village and one in Ukarumpa . (Although every 3-4 years, there is the big transition of going back to Wheaton, IL, as well.)  Transition for the kids involves external things: packing, planning for weeks in advance, and storing things for our return, as it did with me. Just like my parents let me take things with me to school, our kids take a backpack with the things they will want with them for the village stay. Josiah takes nearly all of his possessions to the hostel as well. Our kids also have the internal adjustment of saying “good bye” to loved ones in both places. Since relationships are highly valuable to them, leaving is painful, particularly if they know when they get back from the village that a close friend might be gone for good.

On top of the emotional adjustment, they have to transition mentally to a completely different way of life in the two places. For instance, in the village, our kids are home schooled, while in Ukarumpa they go to school with their TCK friends. It’s a huge adjustment! They are also together 24-7, which means sibling rivalry (or the opposite, they learn to get along well!) happens a lot.

We have a lot of conversations about transition and how it affects each one of us. Sometimes transition makes relationships difficult, but we try to have grace for each other when we know we’re going through it. For the smallest ones, we expect a lot of tears and tantrums during the first week. The older ones might pull into themselves a bit before they are ready to go outside and play with their neighbors.

For a really good books about transition, I would highly recommend

“The Way of Transition, by William Bridges
“Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes” also by William Bridges


p.s. thank you all for your comments on my last post! I really enjoy hearing about your experiences and having the opportunity to discuss things further.

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2 Comments to “Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Transition”

  1. Transition sucks. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it 🙂

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