I grew up, like many of you, navigating multiple cultures. I was raised by white British missionaries in Niger, France and England. I was home-schooled, international schooled, and local schooled (in England). I grew up speaking a mix of Hausa, French and English. People would ask me what it was like growing up abroad, and I would be baffled as to how to reply, thinking, “What is it like not to?”
At the age of 16 I ‘returned’ to my passport country, completed my A-levels and then took a gap year working locally. I spent the next decade at Keele University, beginning with my Dual Honours degree in Sociology and French, and then my Masters in Social Sciences, followed by my PhD in Sociology. Sociology gave me a ‘hook’ by which to understand my own multi-cultural and transitional story, and how it connected up with other people’s stories.
Developing the story
Transition and change is a theme of the TCK life, and this is not limited to geographical transition. My own identity development and sense of community has been continued to be challenged by motherhood, divorce, subsequent moving, chronic illness and pain and new community-building.
My story is, like yours, made up of many chapters. I have discovered the joy of bringing those seemingly fragmented and disjointed chapters together so that they tell one story; whole and complete and with the delicious anticipation of future chapters waiting to be written!
My Story as Practitioner
My doctorate gave me the opportunity to explore my preferred methodology: life story interviews, and I heard many Third Culture Kid stories in two hour interviews. I am so grateful for the openness and generosity of the TCK and expatriate communities that allowed me to hear so many stories and deepen my understanding of the long term implications of early mobility on issues of identity, belonging and sense of place.
Working with the life story interview, I decided to apply it to the individual TCK narrative as a mechanism for personal development and growth. Offering the life story process to Third Culture Kids as a service to facilitate greater self-knowledge and self-expression confirmed my sense that our stories really are the foundations of our identity and sense of belonging.
Continuing to expand my training and experience, I have qualified in a Level 5 BTEC Diploma in Counselling. I receive excellent supervision regularly as a supportive element for my work. I have a particular interest in trauma experiences and healing and pursue CPD (continuing professional development) opportunities in this area as often as I can. I am insured with Holistic Insurance for both counselling and life story therapy, and am an Accredited Registrant with the National Counselling Society.
There is still so much work to be done to support adult Third Culture Kids as they live their TCK experiences out through their various life stages. I’m so delighted and honoured to be a part of this work and feel so incredibly lucky to work with such a wonderful and diverse group of people. I often tell people I have the best job in the world – and I feel the truth of this daily!