Third Culture Kids (TCKs)

Logan International Airport, Boston
Logan International Airport, Boston

The beginning of a school year is always an exciting time.

For returning students like myself, it’s uplifting and energizing to see the familiar faces again after a long summer. (Or even longer for people who studied abroad!) For the incoming first years and transfer students, it is the starting point of their journey here. One can easily notice the vibrant energy of a fresh start just by walking around campus.

If you are reading this and you are amongst “the new ones” in the Clark community, please pat yourself on your shoulder.  Leaving home, diving into a new environment and a new life style is rough – for anyone. It’s scary, it’s tiring, and it’s overwhelming. But don’t worry; you may take a few months or a few years, but I bet one day you will catch yourself calling Clark your ‘home.’

My name is Michino Hisabayashi, and I identify as a Third Culture Kid (TCK).

What is a TCK, you might ask? A TCK is an individual who has spent a significant portion of their developmental years outside their parent’s culture. TCKs have typically interacted with two or more cultures that shape who they are; the effect is that many of us feel conflicted when faced with the question, “Where is home?” Answering the question, “where are you from?” can be tricky because we don’t know how detailed our answer should be.

I would answer that question with an entire story: I am a Japanese citizen but I spent my ‘baby years’ in Hong Kong (age 0-2). I then started kindergarten in Japan but went through most of elementary school in Thailand (age 5-10). Later, after living in Japan for a little less than two years, I moved to my most recent ‘home’, Bangladesh, where I graduated high school (age 12-18) before starting college in Clark University. That’s a lot to try and condense into a single sentence!

There are a number of TCKs in Clark: all of us from very different ethnic/cultural backgrounds and upbringing. Some of us have been through a highly mobile life growing up, hopping around different countries; some of us are bi-cultural TCKs, having two or more places to call your ‘roots’ because your family tree is multi-national; some of us are U.S. abroad, coming back to the states after spending a portion of your life elsewhere. Each of us has different stories, but somehow we share a unique connection as TCKs.

Before coming to Clark, I didn’t quite think of myself as a TCK. Thinking back, I now realize that most of the students in my high school were TCKs, and it was not something out of the norm. Coming to Clark is when it really hit me. Being able to talk about what it means to be a TCK – both with TCKs and non-TCKs – has been quite a rewarding experience.

It’s been said, “College is where you find yourself.” As cheesy as it sounds, I think I can say it’s true that people leave Clark with a better sense of themselves and how they want to impact others in their life. As the new TCK Student Coordinator, I’m excited to help strengthen the TCK community, as well as reaching out to the rest of the Clark campus. The beginning of the year signifies a chance to meet new people. I am looking forward to establishing connections with other TCKs and helping others understand more about the ‘Third Culture.’

-Michino Hisabayashi


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