A little dance of white lies. That’s how Steph Yiu describes her reaction when someone asks her where she’s from. Yiu was born in Singapore and has lived in Hong Kong, Taipei, Edinburgh, Portland (Oregon), Chicago and Boston. Her “dance” depends on where she is or who she’s with and sometimes it can lead to uncomfortable levels of explanation. “It’s amazing the assumptions people make based on where you’re from or what you look like,” Yiu said in her plenary presentation before an audience of about 100 participants at the third annual Third Culture Kids and Global Nomads Conference, Feb. 21, at Clark University. Third Culture Kids (TCKs), also known as Global Nomads, are people of any age or nationality who have lived a significant part of their developmental years in one or more countries outside their passport countries, most often because of a parent’s occupation.
In her talk, “Finding Home,” Yiu said she began to explore TCK topics and issues while working at a newspaper in Chicago. She soon discovered that her little dance of lies was not unique. “When people ask, ‘Where are you from?’ they’re really asking ‘Who are you?’ and ‘How can I relate to you?'” said Yiu, who went on to become founding editor of DenizenMag.com. “For TCKs, it’s extremely important to figure out an answer to this.”
The 2015 Clark conference theme was “The Synchronicity of Diverse Narratives: Global Stories and Lasting Connections.” Each year the conference offers a variety of sessions of interest to TCKs and their allies, as well as faculty, staff and administrators who work with these students. It is organized by Clark students and co-sponsored by the University’s International Students and Scholars Office.
This year, Farah Weannara ’16 served as the TCK Student Coordinator and conference chair. She is a Dutch and Thai citizen, but has lived in different countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, France and the Netherlands before coming to Clark for her undergraduate studies. Weannara is a junior majoring in psychology and management. Santiago Deambrosi ’17 was the student co-chair. He is originally from Buenos Aires and has lived in Argentina, Honduras, Uruguay and Colombia. His home is currently in Washington D.C., where his family resides.
“My whole life I have been seeking home; a place to feel safe, a place to grow, a place to be me. But how does a TCK find ‘home’ when we spend our entire lives in transit and can barely answer the question ‘Where are you from?'”
The organizers were delighted to note how the conference has grown since the inaugural event in 2013. Thoughtful proposals were accepted and attendees and presenters came to Clark from Boston College, Rhode Island School of Design, Brown, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Framingham State University, Wellesley, Hampshire College, and the New England Conservatory of Music. A group of high school seniors from Lawrence Academy came as did professionals from the SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont.
“I started as a presenter for the first conference during my first year at Clark University and I could not have imagined being able to organize it one day and meet so many amazing people,” Weannara said. “I hope to continue this conversation and keep sharing stories.”
Here is a list of topics offered, along with the presenting students:
“Voices of Transition: Finding Home at University” — Ravina Wadhwani ’15, Clark University
“How Racism Helped Me Adapt and Love” — Simon Escapa ’17, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
“Brother/sister… But Maybe with Different Stories: TCK’s Take on Growing Up With or Without Siblings” — Michino Hisabayashi ’15, Clark University
“Where am I from? Building Connections through the Study of History” — Melina Toscani ’17, Clark University
“Existing in the Grey Zone and Dealing with Ambiguity” — Sakshi Khurana ’16, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Farah Weannara ’16, Clark University
“How to Connect Deeply to Others When I Cannot Stop Running Away?” — Trang Nguyen ’17, Clark University
Alumni Panel — Maisha McCormick ’13, Bhumika Regmi ’14, Aksheya Sridhar ’14, Clark University
“Making the Transition into University: A Third Culture Kid’s Journey” — Alexandra Nesbeda, Kaitlyn Gentling, SIT Graduate Institute
Keynote speaker Yiu writes: “My whole life I have been seeking home; a place to feel safe, a place to grow, a place to be me. But how does a TCK find ‘home’ when we spend our entire lives in transit and can barely answer the question ‘Where are you from?’ As the editor of DenizenMag.com, I have worked with dozens upon dozens of TCKs as we use stories and narratives to figure it out. What is a home? Why is it important to us? And how does this journey shape our lives, careers, and relationships?”