Hey guys! It’s been a while, and yes I know, I know … I start almost every post like this these days. I’ll continue to ask that you forgive me, so please forgive me, again? Sometimes, I forget that I actually LOVE writing for y’all.
This post was inspired by a 2-minute presentation I did for seminar series I’m taking this semester. Thank you Diana for the ice breaker session and thank you Alicia for your interest in me that ultimately sparked this post.
Hi, I’m Wendy and I’m a Nigerian … Nah, wait, that ain’t right. You know how normal people have a habit of introducing themselves with their name and where they’re from? I’m an exception. In fact, the question “where are you from?” gives me anxiety because I’m really never sure how to answer in a way that it would make sense to who’s asking. Let me explain…
I’m a ‘third culture kid’. Well, I’m an adult ‘third culture kid’ at this point. Sometimes I also forget that I’m not a kid and I gotta adult. If you’ve never heard that phrase, you’re welcome! You just learned something new!
Third culture kids (TCK) are people raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of the country named on their passport (where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years. They are often exposed to a greater variety of cultural influences. The term can refer to both adults and children, as the term “kid” points more to an individual’s formative or developmental years, but for clarification, sometimes the term adult third culture kid (ATCK) is used.
In my case, it’s more than three cultures, so I’m more like an MCK (multi-culture kid). There are a couple articles I believe explain it really well. There’s a Buzzfeed article that is literally my life, and there’s also a BBC article I think does justice. Click the links and enjoy, please! You’ll understand me a little better if you do.
If you read the articles, I hope you enjoyed them! So, what makes me a TCK? I’ve tried to write the answer a couple of times and it was quickly becoming a 5000-word essay, so I’ll summarize by telling you about the 6 different countries on 3 continents that I’ve lived in.
My roots are from Nigeria, a country in West Africa. My parents are both from the same state (Ogun State), and town (Ijebu-Igbo), but I was born in a city called Port Harcourt in Rivers State. Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups and over 520 languages, with our official language being English. For one country, we are very very very diverse. Let me reiterate, we are extremely diverse. The British colonial masters did a very poor job of drawing borders, to be honest.
Anyways, back to me! I lived in Port Harcourt long enough to complete elementary (primary) school. I get a lot of flak for not speaking my tribe’s language (Yoruba), and the fact I was born into a different tribe is usually my number one excuse. For the record, I can’t speak any of their (Rivers State) major languages (yes, one state has multiple languages) but I can speak Yoruba (there are also many variations of the language). I just don’t do it a lot because my accent isn’t exactly the best.
Next, I moved to Douala, a city in Cameroon where I completed middle school (junior secondary) at an international school (American School of Douala). Do you see a pattern yet? I’ll draw your attention to it later. In Cameroon, not only was I exposed to new African cultures, but I was also exposed to the culture of everyone that went to my school since it was where I spent most of my time. Can you think of all the people you’d meet at an international school? By the time I left the school, I had friends from South Korea, Philippines, Australia, Denmark, Belgium, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, India, United States, United Kingdom, and of course Cameroon. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life.
Next up, I moved to Luanda, a city in Angola where I completed high school (senior secondary). Again, I was at an international school (Luanda International School), and it was an even more amazing experience. In addition to the countries mentioned before, I made friends from Brazil, Argentina, Solomon Islands, Portugal, Venezuela, Cape Verde, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Norway, Russia and many more that I can’t remember at the moment. We also had teachers from various countries, so it was the ultimate international experience.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I was moving and who I was moving with? It was all thanks to my dad’s job, he got transferred a lot and we (including my mum and 3 siblings) didn’t even move to half of the places he was transferred to. We only moved when my dad felt like his location would have a family-friendly environment and we could get the best education possible. At this point, apart from English, I can speak Yoruba and I understand French, Spanish and a little Portuguese.
After high school, my family moved to Sugarland, Texas in the United States, and around the same time, I got admitted into a university in the United Kingdom. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Leeds and my master’s in London. For the duration of both degrees, I would shuttle between Texas and the UK. Once I was done, I moved back to Texas. While I was job hunting and trying to figure out life, I decided to move back to Nigeria alone (yes, without my family). I wanted to experience my ‘passport country’ by myself, and it was an experience, to say the least.
In Nigeria, I was able to discover myself, figure out my place in this world and what I really wanted to do with my life. After serving the government in my passport country, I moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland to join my family who had moved there a year prior. That’s when I started my PhD and we’re still on this journey!
Did you figure out the pattern yet? If you did, let me know! If not, here’s the pattern … every move coincided with the end/beginning of an education level. It was never planned, it just happened, and being the first child, the coincidence only happened for me and not the rest of my siblings. I didn’t mention the duration of stay in each country, because I still want to have things to talk about, but my shortest duration of stay was in Angola, where I lived for 3 years. I lived in every other country mentioned for 5 years and more.
There is my TCK-ATCK-MCK story! When I’m in my ‘passport country’, they consider me a foreigner and when I’m in other countries, I’m still considered a foreigner. So when you ask where I’m from, these are the many things that go through my head. Although I haven’t been to all the countries of the world, I’ve interacted with or at least met a person from almost all the countries of the world, and best believe that St. John’s, Newfoundland is not my last stop.
Hi, I’m Wendy and I’m a global citizen!