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20 July 2018

Reflections of a Graduated Third Culture Kid

Often when we hear stories or testimonies from a Third Culture Kid (TCK), it’s a reflection many years down the road. We rarely get to hear from one who is living it.

Judit graduated from an international school in the Philippines this June, and she shares with us how it feels to be a TCK:


One of the first things people ask me when I meet them is, “Where are you from?” The answer has never been easy: I was born in the Netherlands, have a German passport, but grew up and consider the Philippines home. Usually I say “Germany” because that’s what people are looking for, but that’s not really true.

Now, I’ve graduated and left the Philippines, and the question of where I’m from will not become any easier as I transition to living in Germany. I want to reflect on my years as a TCK in the Philippines, because it would be an understatement to say that who I am is because of how I grew up.

I’m writing this reflection right after saying goodbye to all my classmates. I wasn’t prepared for how hard the goodbyes would be, and so I write as someone who has just reached the peak of leaving and the pain that comes with it.

That brings me to my first point: being a TCK is hard. It’s hard to move countries every few years and see your close friends leave you. There hasn’t been a year of my life without a difficult goodbye, and I can no longer count how many times I’ve said goodbye to someone not knowing if I’ll ever see them again. By now I recognize my stages of leaving and farewell, because I’ve moved so frequently. By the grace of God, I’ve managed to put off bitterness and remain positive about my life – but that doesn’t negate the hardships of being a TCK.

But my second point is just as valid: being a TCK has enriched my life and brought me so much joy. I planted rice with a remote tribe, swam in a volcanic crater, and saw some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I have friends and classmates on literally every continent of the world, and my closest friends hail from four countries in two continents. I’m a blend of cultures and traditions, and am blessed to have such a rich worldview.

A very rich life filled with many goodbyes and transitions is probably a good way to describe my life until now. Honestly, being a TCK can be extremely challenging at times (like when you graduate) but I know there is a purpose to my strange life and that I am so thankful for my experiences. Do I wish I hadn’t been born to eager missionary parents? Absolutely not, because I would have missed out on the best memories and friends.

“Where are you from?” is still an anxiety-inducing question, but I guess for now my ideal answer will be, “From everywhere.” That sounds cliché, but it encompasses my multicultural background and the hardships that come with having your roots in a myriad of places at once.

Will you pray for the Philippines?

  • For TCKs like Judith as they move on from being a TCK living with their family on the field to the next stage of their life, perhaps in their passport country or perhaps somewhere else.
  • For their parents and siblings (if any) as they feel the gap left behind by the newly graduated child/sibling.
  • For the support network around the graduated TCK and their family through this transition.

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