10 advantages of being a Third Culture Kid at university

Being a Third Culture Kid at university means sometimes feeling like you don't belong. But other times, it can be extremely useful.
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav

This post was written by a member of the Debut Contributor Network. Aayushi Sharma reveals how good life can be for Third Culture Kids at university.

In the 1950s, American sociologist, Ruth Hill Useem, created the term ‘third culture kid’ (TCK) to describe children who had grown up in places outside of their parents’ native country.

Over the years, I’ve come across many articles and blog posts about the struggles of being a TCK. Many people, including a few friends, have talked about the difficulties of feeling like an outsider in both, the countries they were brought up and their parents’ home countries. Yes, fitting into both worlds was a challenge, but I believe we all became accustomed to this lifestyle growing up. I may have also jumped the gun and hated most aspects of this lifestyle.

It wasn’t until I came to university (actually to be completely honest, it wasn’t till I graduated) that I truly understood how lucky I was to have grown up as an international kid. Here are a few things I’ve realised as a TCK at university.

When someone asks “where are you from”, you can make your life sound like an adventure

third culture kid at university

Sometimes a ‘simple’ answer like “I was born in India, brought up in Hong Kong and then moved to the UK where I completed my undergraduate degree.” is just not enough. You will undoubtedly get a lot of interview practice as people incessantly question your background (lol)

Being able to speak multiple languages allows you to make friends easily

third culture kid at university

Being able to talk about TV shows and movies from different countries, sing all kinds of songs, discuss politics and have some understanding of the cultures that people come from, makes you so much more approachable than you think. In my experience, saying “Hello! How are you?” and a few more phrases in another language engages people to continue having conversation with you.

One of your friends, somewhere in the world, is awake to text or call you back

third culture kid at university

No matter how homesick you are, or how badly you want to share a meme, or just want to chit chat, there will always be someone awake, somewhere in the world, who will respond to you!

Travel comes easily to you

When university becomes tough, you can tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if you become an expert at anything else, at least you will have mastered the skills of travel. Guess it’s safe to say that you are basically a guru and no one can beat you at it. Budgeting? Check. Flight tickets? Check. Accommodation? Check. Itinerary? Check. Visas? Check. Money? Check. Packed bags? Check.

Your passport is so full of stamps from the countries you’ve visited, you could probably sell it for a fortune

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You have travelled from one corner of the world to the other and have so many stories that you could probably write a best selling novel. Or maybe even a book series. One could say you’re the real life Phileas Fogg.

You are a walking, talking currency converter


Honestly, who needs Google when your brain can convert currencies at the speed of light?

Beating jet lag is as easy as 1-2-3

third culture run

Those late night conversations where you and your friends complained about how awake you felt at 4:00am taught you exactly what to do when jet lag hits hard. Using remedies like “make sure the flight arrives early in the day and stays awake till late at night” to “Don’t drink any caffeine”, you have solutions that guarantee an early night in.

Your friendship groups are extremely diverse

third culture kid at university

Your friends may be a different race, gender, sexuality, or even religious belief, which is fantastic for almost any conversation about life, politics, religion etc. You can get varying perspectives from all kinds of people, which may sometimes lead to some really heated arguments, but it teaches you to be more accepting of everyone’s beliefs and opinions.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where they come from, what their preferences are, or what they believe in, you love each and everyone of them. And you can’t imagine how miserable your life would’ve been without them.

You realise that ‘home’ means people rather than places

Traveling around has taught you that, no matter where you go, you will always be more attached to the people than to the place. You will move and will discover new places, but it will be the people you meet that will make you feel comfortable and ‘at home’.  As cheesy as it sounds, home is where the heart is. Plus, you probably have a home in every part of the world, which is always a positive 🙂

You feel incredibly blessed to have made memories all over the world

  You are aware that you will have to say goodbye eventually, so you are and will always be grateful for the people you have met, the things you have experienced and the chances you have taken in that place.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that growing up a third culture kid was all rainbows and sunshine. It had its challenges (if you’re interested, turn to our one true God – Google – who will guide you to lots of articles which discuss the flip side of this topic). Having said that, over time I have come to realise that the number of positives outweighed the negatives and for that reason, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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