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Being a TCK and Staying Connected

May 13, 2022

Do you know what being a TCK means? Thanks to my parents' professions as teachers they left their motherland of the United States and were international school teachers. I was born in Lima, Ohio, where I spent 3.5 weeks of my life until the doctor gave my mother permission to take me back to the Congo where my parents were teaching. I then lived in Cairo, Egypt, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Bangkok, Thailand. Coming to Boston, Massachusetts for college was my first time living in America.

According to Wikipedia: “Third culture kids (TCK) or third culture individuals (TCI) are people who were raised in a culture other than their parents' or the culture of their country of nationality, and also live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years.[1”. I am honored to say that I am a TCK.

As a result of living in a variety of countries and attending international schools. I was blessed with having classmates of 62 nationalities. One of the biggest challenges was that the community I was in was ever changing. I had an American passport but I had never lived there. My roots were not rooted in any one country but in all the places I lived. It was so hard to because making good friends took time and then before we knew it one of us moved again. Back in the day there was no Facebook, Instagram, or email to stay connected or to reconnect with friends.

I will never forget my first best friend Melina’s mother telling me that Melina and her family were moving back to Paris, France. I was around 6 years old and my best friend, the friend I spent almost everyday playing with each other after school.

Our parents tried to comfort us by saying we could write letters and visit each other during the summers. Melina and I became pen pals and over the years we wrote a large amount( I had boxes and boxes of them saved) of letters. I can still remember the feeling of going to our mailbox and seeing a letter from Melina. Even more of the excitement was reading, responding, and mailing her a letter.

I quickly learned that as a TCK I would be writing letters for years to those who I love and cherished as friends. One day another of my best friends was leaving. We had spent one of my favorite years, 5th grade, together with a bunch of close knit girlfriends. I remember going to the airport to say “see you later.” As a TCK I learned early on that saying “see you later” was easier than saying “ goodbye.” I knew the world was small and the chances of meeting again were likely if people made the effort to keep in touch. This particular friend, whom I won’t mention her name because she may be embarrassed, gave each of us an envelope with a hand written card. After shedding lots of tears at the airport I went home to open the card. She had recently gotten a haircut and included a few pieces of her hair. The card read something to the effect of, “ I wanted to give you a piece of me so this is the closest I could.” I still have that card and her hair somewhere, and over the years I kept in touch with this friend via writing letters. We have now ended up living in 3 of the same cities spanning from 3-5 grade, college, and till our early 40's.

There is something magical about keeping in touch with your friends via snail mail. I get nostalgic thinking of the good old days when people took more time and effort to stay in touch with people. One had to make an effort to find paper or a card and take the time to sit down and write a letter. Going to the post office was another part of the experience. If you were lucky the postal worker licked and put the stamp on your piece of mail. I encourage you all to purchase a card from and send it to someone in your life. Let's keep snail mail and human connections alive one mailbox at a time!

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