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"Seeking Liminality"
by Abrar Agha
Journalism—American International School Dhaka
May 22, 2001

All third culture kids have to deal with change, and thus have to keep themselves flexible and open-minded. Moving every two to three years, tolerance becomes a virtue, and the only possible way to deal with the change, is to change yourself. The five people I interviewed for this article are typical cultural chameleons.

"The first few times I moved it was quite tough on me," said senior Naseef Sami, a TCK veteran who has lived in seven countries. "I didn't want to leave my friends, but once you get used to it, it becomes a lot easier. Personally, I've learnt a lot through my travels. Yeah, I do enjoy it, and you could say that it has helped me become more of a complete human being." Naseef, as a result of his parents' occupations as diplomats, has resided in countries ranging from China to Saudi Arabia, and even India.

Jung Gun Shim, grade 10, also finds it relatively simple to cope with change. He is a completely different type of global nomad than Naseef, and has been lucky to live in places where the cultural heritages share a commonality.

"For me, it isn't too bad dealing with change. The students who go to the international schools in the sub-continent, are usually very similar. To deal with the changes, I also had the advantage of being involved in SAISA (South Asia International Schools Association) tournaments, through which I made many friends. To survive, you have to be willing to deal with change, and personally, I enjoy that."

Their contrasting degrees of mobility distinguish Jung Gun and Naseef. Jung Gun has only lived in three different countries, as opposed to Naseef's seven. While Naseef doesn't consider any single place home, Jung Gun has no problem labeling his passport country, Korea, as home. A justification to this could very well be that Jung Gun, has yet to be exposed to an environment divergent to the one found in Korea. However, it must be said that both of Jung Gun's second homes, Pakistan and Bangladesh, have an established coterie of Koreans, who are all very close-knit, and prefer to mingle with one another. Therefore, when Jung Gun returns to Korea, it is relatively easy for him to associate with the sounds, smells and feelings of the location.

To incorporate, yet another view into this article, I interviewed senior Sanaa Khan, who is a TCK veteran of five countries. " I think that living in five different countries has shaped me into more of a complete human being. At times, it can be difficult to adapt with the changes, but you have to keep yourself open, and tolerant of the situation. Sometimes, when you become too reflective, you begin to sulk, and I think this can put you down. Sure, occasionally letting out the tears doesn't hurt, but you can't be too reflective, and you must invest in activities that keep you busy. I am happy to be traveling, however, eventually I want to settle down." Like Naseef, Sanaa has lived in very different countries. For example after leaving the US, she had to immediately board a plane to Iran.

Sushil Dahiya, grade 11, has a very different story. When he moved back to India from England, Sushil, who had previously lived in three other countries, found it extremely difficult to cope with the change. "Apart from friends, I faced problems in studies. The courses were much harder in India than in England. I had to wake up during the nighttime to do my homework. At school in India, there is a lot of pressure on you to do well. I remember that if you did anything wrong they would resort to violence, and beat you with a ruler or something. Although, I'm Indian, it was hard to get used to the culture. Somehow, I think living in India has made me very tolerant." Even though Sushil had this nightmare adjusting to the Indian culture, in the long run, he feels his travels have helped him. Whatever the destination, Sushil adjusts with ease, and through his experiences can easily be labeled as one of the most tolerant guys one will ever meet.

My interview with Sushil, only confused me further on the real nature of TCKs ; therefore, in order to seal my research, I interviewed senior, Kakuli Bhatt.

Kakuli, who is very happy to be a traveling third culture kid, had some very enlightening observations. "The way I deal with change is that I embrace it with open arms. You might have to be a little flexible, but as you travel, things get easier. Losing your friends isn't really a problem, because you still keep in touch. The only thing is that you just don't see them as often as you like. When I go to India, I don't really fit in, but then again that's been the case wherever I've gone. I don't really consider any place in this world as home, it's more of a combination of places. It's been an enlightening experience, and I'm glad I was exposed to such a life-style. Being a TCK is probably one of the best things that has happened to me in my life." As one can see, Kakuli really loves her traveling. Her travels have taken her from Brazil to Yemen, and presently, Bangladesh.

AIS/D (American International School Dhaka) is a breeding ground for TCKs, and it's obvious that most students have an easy time adjusting to this environment. A TCK must possess the following traits to overcome the obstacles associated with being one: they are, tolerance and flexibility, and the willingness to deal with change. Certainly, in their own unique senses, Naseef, Jung Gun, Kakuli and Sanaa embody these virtues, both in terms of academics and social relationships. They are true global nomads, who add to the already diverse populace of our school. They are living in liminality and enjoying the experience.

We welcome your comments, and we invite you to share your own experiences of international mobility through poetry, stories, or other prose.

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