Sophia Leite is a junior at George Washington University majoring in International Business. She was born in Brazil but has also lived in Angola, Portugal, the United States, and studied abroad at the East China Normal University in China. Her childhood was spent attending international schools and she hopes to continue to travel throughout her adult life too.
I was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil but at 20 days old I was already living in Ilha da Madeira, Portugal. I lived there for a few years before going back to my hometown. Two years later I was off to Rio de Janeiro, and soon after São Paulo. Right after that I moved to Luanda, Angola where I stayed for five years before leaving for Lisbon, Portugal. I currently go to university in Washington, DC but am currently spending six months studying abroad in Shanghai, China. Confusing? Believe me, I know.
I am not the only one with this lifestyle; in fact, there’s a huge community of us. We call ourselves Third Culture Kids (TCKs). A TCK can be defined in multiple ways, but ultimately is someone who as a result of their parent’s job has grown up in cultures different then their parents. Although each one of us have different stamps in our passports, there are quite a few things that we can all relate to and understand just from growing up as a third cultured kid.
You are in a constant identity crisis
Your family is from one place, you were born in another and you’ve grown up in three more. If you don’t need to see a psychologist after this, you’re my hero. Who are you cheering for in the World Cup? Where is your permanent address? What time zone to celebrate your birthday in? Ugh, so many unanswerable questions.
You have friends from every single continent in this world
Your friend’s diversity is comparable to that of the United Nations. If you don’t have friends from every continent, you’re not a true Third Culture Kid.
Your accent becomes American and you don’t even know why
Is it just me, or do most third culture kids end up with an American accent after just a few years of attending international schools? I wish I knew why, maybe it’s because of the teachers or the American movies. I’m, but it is definitely a thing.
Speaking two or more languages is the norm
After moving to so many places, you’ve definitely picked up on new languages. Considering how many places you’ve been to, you most likely also know how to say “hello,” “happy birthday,” “I love you,” and quite a few swear words in many more languages too.
Your passport is your life
Most people secure their passports for security reasons, not you. If you are a third culture kid like myself, your passport has great sentimental value to you. This is something that truly represents your life style so you most likely guard it with your life.
You know time differences and exchange rates from the top of your head
Considering you travel a million times a year and your friends and family are in different parts of the world, it is only normal that you have the time differences and exchange rates memorized.
You are incredibly thankful to this experience
Even though being TCK can be a real struggle sometimes, you are thankful to have grown up experiencing all of this, because this is the reason you are the way you are and you wouldn’t want to have it any other way.