Center for Global Engagement hosts event for third culture kids

Many college students in the United States remember Saturday mornings filled with cartoons and sugary breakfasts. But for students who grew up outside of the U.S., many of those cartoons and sugary items were not always available. With this in mind, the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) hosted an event for third-culture kids (TCKs) Thursday, Sept. 18 as part of Global Focus Week to allow them to experience that aspect of American culture.

The CGE website defines a third-culture kid as “someone who spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.” The website explains that while TCKs absorb elements from many cultures, they do not feel that they truly belong in any culture. Events such as the one Thursday night give TCKs an opportunity to spend time with others who understand that lack of belonging as well as allowing them to experience elements of their “home” culture that they might have missed.

A table filled with cartons of milk and a vast variety of cereal boxes stood in the hallway. For some students, the sight of familiar cereals brought back fond memories of visits with American grandparents. For others, the amount of choices was almost overwhelming.

“I grew up in a post-communist country,” one of the students who had lived in part of the former Soviet Union said. “We didn’t have this many options.”

The comment sparked a conversation among other students. Several of them remembered feeling shocked when they entered the cereal aisle in Wal-Mart for the first time while on stateside assignment. One student said she still stays away from the cereal aisle as much as possible.

“I just don’t eat cereal,” she said. “(The amount of choices) is too overwhelming.”

Regardless of their experiences with the cereal aisle, students filled their bowls and headed back inside where a steady stream of “Tom and Jerry” played on a projected screen. Students smiled and laughed as they watched the two animals battle.

“Sometimes I feel kinda sorry for Tom,” junior Alyssa Brown said.

Even so, Brown could not help a small chuckle as she watched Jerry best the feline yet again.

As much as students enjoyed the cereal and cartoons, that was not the true highlight of the event. Chesed Dent, director of training for CGE, said the real goal of the evening was to give TCKs a chance to spend time together.

“I keep telling (my bosses) all we need to do is provide the space,” Dent said. “(The TCKs) will connect. They’ll invest. We just need to give them a place to hang out.”

A simple look around the dimly lit room proved her point. At any given time, only about half of the students were watching the projected cartoons. The rest were engaged in streams of conversation that were repeatedly broken by greetings, hugs and introductions as more students found their way to the event.

Shared experience proved to be the thread that wove the students together. One trio discovered they had moved to the same European country at approximately the same age and began to compare their respective experiences. A group of TCKs who had lived close together in Asia for a time sat on the blanketed floor and reminisced about their childhoods. Dent found a young man whom she had known when he was much younger and began to tell his friends all sorts of stories that caused him to shake his head.

As the evening gradually neared 11 p.m. and the event ended, students slowly began to trickle out, exchanging goodbyes with friends and promising to meet up again.
For more information on TCK events, go to

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