It always brings a smile to my face, the memory of when I first came to the United States on a student visa to pursue my education in a liberal arts college in Missouri. “So let me get this straight, your Venezuelan passport was issued in Mexico and your American F-1 (student) visa was stamped in Colombia?” said the immigration officer as he leafed through my documents. “Yes sir…” I responded feebly. This was not the first time someone’s curiosity was aroused concerning my permanent moving around, nor would it be the last. However I embraced my Third Culture Kid status a long time ago, my personality and character developed around the fact that every 3 years or so my family would pack up our house and move to a new city. After an explanation that I am sure left the immigration officer more confused than when it started I was free to continue on my voyage to Springfield, Missouri, where I had decided to attend college. Third Culture Kids are defined as those who have spent a significant amount of time outside the parent’s culture. My folks are both Venezuelan’s and lived there until they went to the United States to pursue an education, but both returned to Venezuela and that is where I was born. However the location of my “home” changed soon after that.
All in all I have attended 8 different schools, lived in 9 different cities and the longest I have stayed in one place is 4 years, my University period. Although I answer the question of “where are you from” with “Venezuela”, inside of me I have this bubbling feeling that nudges me to respond with a far more complex and profound answer. By not growing up in Venezuela I have experienced interactions and met people that have fundamentally altered what being a Venezuelan means. Don’t take me wrong though, I am not complaining! I reserve a space in my heart for the country I was born in, but the inexplicable concoction of cultures I am now is something I would not give up. Whereas most of my American friends go home over break and hang out with their friends from High School, my friends are all over the world, each either pursuing a personal path or still accompanying their families to another new location. The pleasure of meeting so many different people from so many different countries with such a wide array of personality traits has been an enlightening experience, it has helped me craft my ow understanding on social interactions and many other issues. In Colombia for example, I met other Third Culture Kids who wanted to come to the United States like me, but I also encountered those who were perfectly content seeking an education right there in Colombia despite the fact that they were not from there. Third Culture Kids encounter diversity of thoughts and opinions at such an early age that we have a different way of approaching every day situations. Many of my friends have never ridden in a taxi before, but for me it is the go-to method of transportation at times, specially after living in Mexico City, one of the biggest cities in the world. Communicating with family might involve a 25 minute drive to your hometown but in my case it involves using Skype or FaceTime which means I always have to have my phone charged, if not my mother would more than likely call the national guard to confirm my well being. For me, having a fully functioning phone is always vital, and for a different reason that you might have.
Relationships are indeed a complex manner, but even more so for someone like me. I have learned to not assume stereotypes are real, they have been proven wrong many times as I moved to a new place, so I analyze my new surroundings as I immerse myself in it. If I believed what people assume of Mexico for example, what could I expect to find when I moved there? All opinions I had formed where broken the moment I first landed in Mexico City. A beautiful country host to generous and friendly people with a developed society and economy that is often misunderstood in the media as the battlefield between drug lords. Same for Colombia and El Salvador, my expectations of both did not become reality! Colombia helped me become who I am today, build up my self esteem and made friends that I still communicate with today. Becoming a Third Culture Kid was not always easy, constantly changing the environment I had barely grown used to was somewhat of a tough experience, but now as I am about to embark on the next stage of my life I look back with profound happiness and I am content.