Event Recap: TCK Conference 2016 @Clark

Clark University hosted the 4th Annual TCK/ Global Nomads Conference on Saturday, February 27th. Check out our website for more information on the conference! Here’s a recap by Charis and Fileona. 

[Charis] I never identified myself as a third culture kid (TCK). It always just felt like a foreign concept meant for those who could not identify with a national identity, but I had no trouble identifying myself with Thailand. Last year, when I heard of the Annual TCK/ Global Nomads Conference that Clark hosts, I just thought that it was irrelevant to my life and, while interesting, wasn’t something I wanted to spend a Saturday doing. This year, I thought differently.

Maybe it was because the past summer was the longest time I’ve spent at home in the last six years that I had the chance to reflect my place in Thai society and my experiences of ‘belonging’. When I heard about the TCK Conference this year, I thought maybe I should check it out to see what it really means and how it relates to my life.

So at 10:30 on Saturday, I ended up in a room in Jefferson, listening to Melina Toscani’s (Clark ’16) presentation on being Internationally Schooled.

The first presentation I attended of the day (Photo by Charis) 

Melina had run a survey of TCKs and non-TCKs on their experiences of going to international schools. The respondents ranged in age and nationality, but several themes were clear.

Saying ‘goodbyes’ was one. Some TCKs got used to it and some got tired of it. Many non-TCKs remember saying goodbyes to the TCKs. Some even talked about avoiding making friendships with TCKs because of the pains of parting ways. I related with this immediately. While I wasn’t used to saying goodbye, many of my high school friends grew up as TCKs and had little trouble moving on.

Melina Toscani presenting responses from the survey (Photo by Charis) 

Then, there was the theme of identity. Being a TCK itself constitutes a form of an identity. Some respondents told the story of the division between TCKs and non-TCKs in their schools. There was the idea that being a TCK meant embracing various aspects of different cultures that may sometimes be conflicting – but you find a way to make them work.

After Melina’s presentation, I attended a presentation by Leeron Hoory and Nicole Ohebshalom titled Searching for my Mizrachi-Self. Before this presentation, I had never heard of the term ‘Mizrachi’. As I listened, I first thought of the Arab-Israeli conflict and immediately questioned the implications of the division between the Arab Jew and the European Jew identities on Israeli conceptions of Palestine. Once I heard of Israel, I just thought of politics and controversies.

Leeron Hoory introducing Nicole Ohebshalom’s video presentation. (Photo by Charis)

Listening to the presentation, then, was very eye-opening and humbling for me. It reminded me of the complexities of our world – of identities and conflicts, of the nonexistence of black and white lines. I have always looked at the conflict between Palestine and Israel as a conflict between states, and didn’t realize the widespread tensions – both national and local – that exist because of the conflict. The Palestinians are not the only ones that are excluded in this current situation – Jews within Israel are too. Leeron’s and Nicole’s stories are testimonies to this fact.

After that session, we headed to Tilton for lunch. I had the chance to meet some students and staff from Amherst College, and other Clark alumni. The hall was full of laughter as we listened to Teja Arboleda’s journey as an ‘alien’. He challenged us to explore the question of identity through his life story.

Lunch with students and staff from Amherst College. (Photo by Charis)
A time to mingle and eat. (Photo by Charis)

Then, we went for the afternoon sessions. I attended Laura Owen’s presentation on The World Is Our Home: TCKs as Global Citizens and What We Should Do With it. In this session, we were encouraged to share our stories and discuss the meaning of being a ‘global citizen’. While this definition can vary, the central idea is empathy. It is realizing and appreciating the connection between all of us individuals as human beings of this world.

Laura Owen on Global Citizen (Photo by Charis) 

I got sick after that session and had to leave early. However, the conference introduced me a little more to the concept of being a TCK. I still don’t identify myself as a TCK, but listening to various stories have prompted me to recognize that while this word doesn’t mean much to me, it’s an identity for many people who don’t find their identities elsewhere.

[Fileona] The TCK conference gave me good insight into how terms like “identity,” “race,” “ethnicity” and “culture” are divisive yet incredibly redundant. Teja Arboleda (Clark ’85) and Farah Weannara’s (Clark ’16) game show: What Are You Anyway? The Ultimate Identity Game made the definition of such terms, for lack of a better work, incredibly absurd. Below is a photo of the multiple choice answers for “What is a TCK, anyway?”

What is TCK, anyway? (Photo by Fileona)

The last word in the question, “anyway” was a cool subversive challenge against how such terms confine us. Race, ethnicity and cultural identity can sometimes be incredibly divisive. Key to the TCK experience, as Teja said, “is navigating the being of being more than one thing.” This navigation is basically the realization that in the end no matter how multiracial, multi-ethnic, multicultural our experiences are, the fact is that humans are much similar that we’d like to think.

Once this had been established, I attended another session Life in Transition: The Evolution of Home’ over Time by Juan Gabriel Delgado Montes (Amherst College).

Juan Gabriel Deldago Montes raised the possibility of categorizing our definition of home according to our age (Photo by Fileona)

For the TCK, home is not a definite spot, since it has been several places over the course of time. This session went along with this year’s conference theme: Redefining Home, evolving identities in a global world. For international students and most emerging adults, this echoes a common question, “Where will my home be?” The session discussed that as we grow, home will change from being a specific country to being several countries to even the possibility of home being a person (spouse/partner). Discussing where we could look for “home” was perhaps a good end to the conference.

-Charis and Fileona 

We hope to see you at next year’s conference! 

Conference Attendees (Photo by Fileona)

(Cover image by Fileona)



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