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Young global nomads.

Living in a modern fast-paced world, many people of this generation have had the good fortune to live in a multi-cultural world. The late Ruth Hill Useem, an American sociologist and anthropologist, introduced the concept of the "Third Culture Kid". A TCK typically grew up in foreign countries and was exposed to multiple foreign cultures due to their parents' jobs. Whether they were diplomatic kids, business kids, or oil "brats", TCK share many aspects regardless of their nationality.

Saudi-born Noor K., 16, has lived most of her life in Singapore and Brazil due to her father's diplomatic career. She believes that living abroad has made her blessed with "foreign knowledge". Having seen the world and experienced foreign cultures has made her see how big the world is and how many differences there are, even in limited places. "Living in different places has made me really reflect on my life and it made me appreciate what I was given. It's quite interesting to meet different people. That has broadened my knowledge on other places in the world that I haven't been to yet, but that I might visit some day." Maha Nasef is another diplomat's daughter. She was born in Jeddah but was raised in Washington D.C. and went to school there. By the time she turned 18, she had traveled the world quite a bit more than her peers.

Living in the US benefitted her English language skills a great deal; it made moving to other countries and enrolling in international schools a lot easier. Nasef was exposed to various cultures in Mexico, Austria and Finland. She believes that made her more open and accepting of many cultures. "Sometimes it seems as if I know more about other cultures than my own, as I haven't been able to live long enough in Saudi Arabia to learn all about it. I know that some day I will, but for now, I know the more important things about it." To many TCK's, being exposed to a new foreign language brings a smile to their face, if they get a chance to learn it. In schools, the emphasis is often on the English language. This decreases chances of communicating in the country's language.

Aisha Fuad is a Singaporean who has lived in Dubai almost all her life. She's been taught at one of the many international schools there and found it easy to understand the Arabic language surrounding her. "I find language the best part of meeting someone from a different culture. It makes me smile, especially when I already know it, yet people think I can't understand." Aisha is currently living and studying in Hungary. She finds it easy to blend in because of her exposure to many different nationalities and cultures at her school and Dubai. She says that coming from multicultural Singapore it's easier for her to understand and respect other cultures.

Not everyone is amused by the idea of moving around from one place to the other. Some find it difficult. Dr. Reham Gassas, a couple and family therapist at King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh, said that the multiple moves could have both a positive and negative impact on a young child. She uses narrative therapy to focus on listening to the family and the child narrative of how they viewed the move and how it impacted their lives, their strength, the challenges they went through and how they survived going through all those changes. It is natural that there would be both positive and negative impacts on their lives.

Gassas is a TCK herself. "It benefited me greatly in terms of being flexible, tolerant of differences, and having a reasonably good response to coping and adjustment." Professional help comes in when children or families struggle with an experience, or, in therapeutic lingo: When they have a negative narrative. Steps are taken to help them frame their narrative and help the family create a more positive and optimistic view on their life. The optimistic view of their experience will foster resiliency, flexibility and embrace tolerance in accepting differences among people.

Ulfah Al-Kaabi struggled after having moved around a lot and it took a toll on her personality.

"When people ask me what place I call home, I find that a very difficult question," she said.

Moving from the United States to Egypt and changing schools and cultures put her in a spot where it was difficult to assess her place in society. Being torn away from everything and everyone she knew was horrible as she says. Even changing from a lenient American school system to the tougher British school system shocked her. She believes that living in Egypt has helped her turn feelings of resentment into thankfulness.

"I prefer the balance in Egypt as an Arab country. One is not forced to do anything. It has the Islamic essence in the country but also accepts other religions. It is open minded but not too open. It has the equilibrium between the Western and Arab culture." Ulfah calmly says, "Until now I have never really had a place I could easily call home. I feel like a foreigner everywhere I go. When I visit Saudi Arabia I am considered an American. When I am in the States I am considered a Saudi. They say home is where the heart is, so for now I am on a search to find my heart." It's clear to see that there are both pros and cons to such experiences but in the end there is always a growth in personality and experience.

Email: life.style@arabnews.com

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 26, 2012
Words:952
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