Third Culture Kids Conference: Redefining home, evolving identities in a global world

March 24, 2016

Navigating the being of being more than one particular thing.

For Teja Arboleda '85, keynote speaker of the annual Third Culture Kids/Global Nomads Conference held on Feb 27 at Clark University, these words described his own journey through multi-national, multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural identities.

As one of several conference speakers, Arboleda presented a talk titled “Proof that Aliens Exist: A personal account of landing on foreign soil,” sketching a biographical timeline of his fluctuating identities while acknowledging his status as “foreign no matter where [he] went.” Overcoming this alien state for Arboleda came with a recognition of his unique background and that our humanity makes us “more similar than we would like to think.” 

Arboleda related his shared experiences with Third Culture Kids (TCKs), also known as Global Nomads. TCKs are often defined as “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.” Central to the TCK experience is the notion that home is a shifting concept attached to culture and identity. Fittingly, the theme of this year’s conference at Clark was “Redefining home, evolving identities in a global world.”

Each year the conference offers a variety of sessions of interest to Third Culture Kids 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 (ISSO).

TCK Conference Student Coordinator Santiago Deambrosi ’17 was pleased with the results of months of hard work. “Everyone enjoyed the conference and gained a lot of insight from it. It is great to see Clark as part of a larger story, creating a space for TCKs and Global Nomads to talk about, reflect on, and share their experiences.” 

More photos from the conference are on the Clark Flickr site.

Deambrosi, a junior majoring in math and physics, is originally from Buenos Aires and has lived in Argentina, Honduras, Uruguay and Colombia. His family now resides in Washington D.C.

Conference co-chair Melina Toscani is a senior majoring in International Development and Social Change with a concentration in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Born in Argentina, she has lived in the United States, Uruguay, Guatemala, Peru, Brazil and China. She led a conference session about the unique experiences – positive and negative -- of students attending international schools, based on her own survey of more than 127 TCKs and non-TCKs.

“I was particularly proud that we had the largest and most diverse group of people presenting and attending this year's conference,” Toscani reflected. “The sessions covered a wide range of issues that both TCKs and non-TCKs could relate to, and provided a great space for important discussions on identity to take place. I look forward to seeing how the conference develops in future years, and hope it becomes as much of a staple of Clark University as Gala and Spree Day.  I also hope to be invited to the annual Alumni Panel after my graduation!”

Several past conference participants and organizers attended. Among them was presenter and past-coordinator Farah Weannara ’16. “Watching this conference grow from a 30-person gathering to a 90-plus-person event is like a dream to me,” she said. “I feel so privileged to have been a part of this dialogue and to have met so many amazing people through this work.”

This year’s sessions addressed a variety of topics from the TCKs leadership capabilities to the where the TCK finds “home.” Highlights included Tayo Rockson, CEO of UYD Media, recognizing TCKs as instrumental for global change, and Arboleda’s live “game show” format, which deconstructed the concepts of race.

Attendees and presenters came to Clark from Rhode Island School of Design, Barnard, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Amherst College and Harvard University. A group of professionals included members of the SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont, UYD Media, Abroad with Disabilities (AWD) and the Expatriate Archive Center in The Hague, Netherlands.

The sessions covered a wide variety of topics. Here is a list, along with the presenters:

“Internationally Schooled: The TCK and the Non-TCK Experience”- Melina Toscani ’16 (Clark University)

“Student Leadership as TCK”- Sakshi Khurana ’16 (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

“One Size Does Not Fit All: The Position of TCKs in Campus Diversity and Intersectional Identities”- Alison Cho (SIT Graduate Institute)

“Use Your Difference to Make a Difference”- Tayo Rockson (founder and CEO of UYD Media)

“What Are You Anyway?! The Ultimate Identity Game”- Farah Weannara ’16, Clark University and Teja Arboleda ’85, Clark University

“How TCK’s with Disabilities can Influence Their Community to Embrace Cultural Change and Inclusion.”- David Murcko (Abroad With Disabilities, AWD) and Lindsay Kravit (AWD)

“Searching for My Mizrachi-Self”- Leeron Hoory (Holistic Health Coach) and Nicole Ohebshalom (founder of Radiance Living Wellness)-“Proof That Aliens Exist: A Personal Account of Landing on Foreign Soil”- Teja Arboleda ’85

“Fearing the Grey World”- Nickie Boridehpaz ‘17, Clark University

“The Only Permanent Thing is Change, but do We Document it Appropriately?”- Kristine Racina (Director, Expatriate Archive Centre, The Hague)

“The World is Our Home: TCKs as Global Citizens and What We Should Do with It”- Lauren Owen (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Clark University Alumni Panel with Aksheya Sridhar ’14, Avril Perez ’11, Bhumika Regmi ’14, Kimberley Villamor ’15, Maisha McCormick ’13, Michino Hisabayashi ’15, and Teja Arboleda ’85

“Finding Home within a Campus Community: Ways International Student Advisors can Welcome TCK Students” - Colleen Callahan-Panday (Associate Director, Office of International Students and Scholars, WPI), Patricia Doherty (Director, ISSO Clark University)

“Life in Transition: The Evolution of ‘Home’ over Time”- Juan Gabriel Delgado Montes (Amherst College)

~ By Fileona Dkhar ’17