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Globe-Trotting Students Make Challenging Transition to College Life

April 15, 2010 — Making the transition to college life can be challenging. Students must adjust to a new environment, new friends and new classes.

Kim Sine, a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia, had some other adjustments to make.

"I didn't know how to define myself," said the East Asian studies major.

This is because Sine is a "Third Culture Kid," a person who has spent a great deal of her childhood growing up outside of her own native culture. "I was born in Houston, Texas, lived in China for two years; Houston again for one, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for one year, Manila, Philippines, for seven years, and my family has lived in Bangkok, Thailand, for almost four years."

Sine said it was challenging to meet new people at U.Va. because she constantly had to retell her story. When asked where she was from, "I never knew what to say," Sine recalled. "If I said the Philippines, then I always ended up having to answer a bunch of questions and tell my life story."

There were other hurdles. When she moved into U.Va., her family moved from the Philippines to Bangkok.

"When I went back to my parents' home, I hated it and wished I could be with my high school friends in Manila," she said. "I was jealous of people from Virginia who could drive for two or three hours and immediately be with their best friends whenever they wanted. I had to arrange around time zones in Seoul and London to try and talk with my best friends online!"

Sine joined a student-led organization called the Global Student Council and met others who, like her, had spent their childhoods growing up outside their own native cultures. She says they really related to one another and decided to form their own student organization, Third Culture Kids. Their members have lived in more than 40 countries, including Bahrain, Iceland, Nigeria, Russia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela.

"At no point in history has there been so much mobility of people as now," said Vice Provost for International Programs Gowher Rizvi, whose office offers programmatic support to TCKs, as the group members refer to themselves. "The 'Third Culture Kid' is one of the most visible symbols of that mobility in our global society. They are truly citizens of the world."

The student group will hold a free event April 20 aimed at helping other Third Culture Kids make the transition to college life. "Global Nomads Transitioning to University: Why Is It So Difficult?" is free and open to the public in room 402 of Wilson Hall from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Speaker Tina Quick is an adult TCK who spent 19 years living in six different countries. She is the mother to three college-aged TCKs and founder of International Family Transitions. Her new book, "The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition," will be available for sale at the event. A panel discussion will follow her presentation. Refreshments will be served.

— By Jane Kelly

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