Ten Things Every Global Nomad Needs to Know Before Leaving for University

1. Understand what it means to be a global nomad / third culture kid (TCK). Your international lifestyle has impacted you in more ways than you can imagine. You have reaped many benefits from your cross-cultural, highly mobile childhood and have or will face many challenges as well.

2. At some point in time, you will have an “encounter experience” which is when you are woken up to the fact that you are different from your more traditional domestic peers. It is not you, as a person, that is different but it is your life experiences that make you different. This encounter experience commonly takes place upon repatriation, often times for college/university. Learning to live positively with those differences will help you to thrive in your new setting.

3. Everyone goes through an adjustment when they arrive at their college or university. TCKs have the added burden of also having to adjust to a new culture as well, for even their home culture will be foreign to them in many respects. Everyone will experience the same emotional ups and downs, insecurities and fears. You are not alone in that respect. Don't be fooled by the happy faces. It's a facade.

4. The cycle of transition is fraught with an array of emotions. Feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, homesickness, loss of self-esteem are very normal and even to be expected. They will pass with time but if you find yourself stuck in a downward cycle for too long and are not able to move forward, you need to seek help.

5. It is not uncommon for TCKs to feel like they don't belong even in their home country. This comes as a surprise because they expect they will fit right in. You have no shared experience with them. It will take time to feel at home. It is a process.

6. Global nomads find their sense of belonging with others who have shared a similar experience – other kids who have lived the expatriate lifestyle. Look for other TCKs on your college campus. Many so-called 'international students' are also TCKs and will have had similar experiences.

7. Learn the practical life skills you will need for independent living before leaving home. This might include doing laundry, managing a check book, driving a car, taking public transportation, setting up a phone or internet account, and learning to take responsibility for your own actions.

8. Leave well to enter well. Come to closure before leaving by reconciling broken relationships, affirming those who have been important in your life, saying farewells and thinking ahead about your future. (David C. Pollock's RAFT Model)

9. Enter your home country the same way you would a foreign one – there will be fewer surprises that way. Buy a guidebook to your new country, even if it is your home country. Attend International Orientation at your new school. Enter as a foreigner and keep an open mind.

10. Global nomads tend to want to make relationships quickly. They get into deeper levels of communication faster than their domestic peers in order to see if there may be a connection with someone. Their non-mobile, domestic peers tend to wait and see if a relationship will develop before getting into these same levels of communicating. TCKs may think their domestic peers are too difficult to get to know. Give them time and extend some them some grace. Listen to their stories and ask questions about their lives so they can hear about yours.

Click here to check out The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition, available from Amazon from March 2010.

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