The transition to college or university is a tough one. It’s tough for students who have grown up in the same culture all of their lives. How much more so for the global nomad/ third culture kid (TCK) who has been exposed to many cultural traditions while growing up? This double transition needs to be taken seriously. Here are ten things to keep in mind when making your college transition:

  1. Understand what it means to be a global nomad / third culture kid (TCK). Your international lifestyle has impacted you in more ways than you can imagine. You have reaped many benefits from your cross-cultural, highly mobile childhood and have or will face many challenges too.
  2. At some point you will have an ‘encounter experience’ which is when you are woken up to the fact that you are different from your more traditional domestic peers. It is not you, as a person, who is different, but your life experiences that make you different. This encounter experience commonly takes place upon repatriation, often times for college/ university. Learning to live positively with those differences will help you to thrive in your new setting.
  3. Everyone goes through an adjustment when they arrive at their college or university. TCKs have the added burden of having to adjust to a new culture too, for their home culture will be foreign to them in many respects. Everyone will experience the same emotional ups and downs, insecurities and fears. You are not alone in that respect. Don’t be fooled by the happy faces. It’s a facade.
  4. The cycle of transition is fraught with an array of emotions. Feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, homesickness, and loss of self-esteem are normal and to be expected. They will pass with time but if you find yourself stuck in a downward cycle for too long and are not able to move forward, you need to seek help.
  5. It is not uncommon for TCKs to feel as if they don’t belong even in their home country. This comes as a surprise because they expect they will fit right in. You have no shared experience with them. It will take time to feel at home. It is a process.
  6. Global nomads find their sense of belonging with others who have shared a similar experience – other kids who have lived the expatriate lifestyle. Look for other TCKs on your college campus. Many so-called ‘international students’ are also TCKs and will have had similar experiences.
  7. Learn the practical life skills you will need for independent living before leaving home. This might include doing laundry, managing a check book, driving a car, taking public transportation, setting up a phone or Internet account, and learning to take responsibility for your actions.

coverglobalnomadsguidetouniversityTina L. Quick, author of The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition

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