College Time for TCKs

I’m going to turn into a stereotypical mother of a college-bound student for a moment and state that I can’t believe the time is here. After the minutes that could seem like hours and days that could seem like years that can come with caring for fully dependent toddlers, your kids hit school and all the cliches you heard about time going so fast become your reality. That little girl who spent one full year of her life following every sentence I spoke with the word, “why”? is now heading off to college to discover answers to that question and so many more.

And she’s heading to another continent that has been frequently, misleadingly, dubbed her “home”. I have a feeling my TCK daughter will be feeling less like the Dorothy magically transformed back to the comfort of Kansas, and more like the Dorothy whisked away to Oz. For TCKs, “home” can be hard to define, and the return to the country of their origin, or their passport country, can bring more confusion than comfort.

To my daughter’s chagrin, her counselor-trained mother has decided that this last year together should be spent arming her with information regarding what to expect. We’ve reopened some of the earlier discussions on what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. We’ve thought about possible challenging scenarios for first year college students and brainstormed possible solutions (what if your roommate turns out to be a huge Justin Bieber fan who dry heaves at your Beck poster and really just wants to study make-up tips and cocktail mixology 101?). And we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the unique university transition that befalls TCKs.

For my daughter, this has meant that in the midst of IB orals and extended essays and finding ways to keep balanced (she runs and is a cupcake cooking connoisseur to alleviate stress), we have blocked out time (and by we, I mean I) when things are somewhat calm to peek inside a beginning of the year book purchase of mine, The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition, by Tina L. Quick.

Is it the first choice on my daughter’s free time reading list?  Probably not. My analytical daughter is somewhat skeptical of the charts and graphs and doesn’t really relate to the writer of the personal journal entries. Still, many of the areas of focus are important ones, and the idea of addressing such issues with our TCKs leaving for college, and gaining insights and background information regarding possible challenges, is a great one.

With the mantra “knowledge is power” frequently in mind, perusing this book together has been a nice way to share the experience of saying goodbye and starting new journeys. We’ve addressed many facets of the TCK transitioning experience, including building a RAFT (Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, Think Destination) before leaving, expecting changing emotions, dealing with homesickness, and potential sources to go to for help and information for the general college population, and for TCKs/Global Nomads in particular.

I think international schools and/or families would be well-served to invest in their young people’s futures by helping their transitioning college students to address their unique situations, the possible pitfalls, and tools for coping, thriving and connecting with others like them. Classes and discussion groups for students and/or parents would be a proactive way to help students to better prepare for their university experiences. Perhaps even personal anecdotes from international school alumni would help to individualize the experience for transitioning students.

I’m hoping the time spent sharing this book and the discussions it leads to with my daughter provide a foundation to help her to better navigate the start of one of the most incredible times of her life. Selfishly, it’s been a way to finagle a bit of time from her busy schedule, and have some reoccurring one-on-one chats with my first-born in the midst of those moments that did, in fact, go faster than I would have ever believed possible. To quote my daughter, “why”? To answer the voice of sadness yet pride inside me, because it’s time. Her time.

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