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From Hong Kong to Colorado State University: One TCK’s Journey, Part 1 of 3

Photo labeled for reuse, courtesy of Unsplash.
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Kira Gregory grew up in the culturally rich environment of Hong Kong thinking she understood United States culture. Until she decided to attend Colorado State University and experienced a dramatic contrast to her preconceived ideas.

Photo is of Hong Kong, the city Gregory grew up in.
Courtesy of Kira Gregory.

Colorado State University Student, Kira Gregory, is a third culture kid (TCK) from Hong Kong with a riveting background. Gregory is 21 years old, being born on January 21, 1999 in a Hong Kong hospital. Born to a German mother and American father, her familial structure already incorporates a great deal of cultural crossovers. However, her family wanted her to gain an even richer sense of cultural fluidity in her youth.

Interviewing Gregory about her cultural experience in Hong Kong, it became apparent that she does not define Hong Kong as having one specific culture, but rather a larger spectrum, international culture. She explains that the culture cultivated in Hong Kong comes from a wide variety of people spanning throughout the globe. However, she explains that there is also local Hong Kong culture. Gregory grew up in a very cross-cultural and TCK manner, experiencing and visiting her parent’s passport countries as well as the myriad of local and international cultures centered in Hong Kong.

Early Years in Hong Kong

Photo is of Kira Gregory and her primary school friends.
Courtesy of Kira Gregory.

Starting in primary school, Gregory became immersed in local Hong Kong culture. Quickly, she began learning the language of Mandarin (commonly spoken in China) fluently and attending a school that was predominantly Chinese. Gregory explains that her parents largely associated themselves with fellow expatriates (expats), namely from the United Kingdom and other European nations. However, her parents took a different route from their friends in sending their daughter to a local elementary school, rather than an international one as many expats opted to do. This experience was one that allowed Gregory to completely immerse herself in a culture other than the German and American culture her parents exhibited growing up.

This did not come without challenges. Undoubtedly, she felt different from her classmates. Gregory states, “I was the only white blonde kid.” The surface differences were a challenge in fitting in. On top of this, her parents were not able to help her with her schoolwork as they did not speak Mandarin. Although challenging, she cites this experience as being unique from her other friends in Hong Kong for all the right reasons. Gregory began to learn the importance and power of cultural fluidity and being independant.

Her Connection to Travel

Photo is of Kira Gregory's parents, her mom being a flight attendant and her dad a pilot.
Courtesy of Kira Gregory.

Growing up being the daughter of a pilot and a mom who was a flight attendant, Gregory traveled constantly. This travel only added another layer to her dense culturally fluid background. Gregory travelled to her dad’s country of the United States and her mom’s hometown of Berlin, Germany often. She holds a German passport, United States ID and passport and Hong Kong ID. Gregory also travelled with her family to many other locations.

When asked, Gregory says that she cannot count how many countries she has been. She explains that it has to be “upwards of thirty.” Because of this, Gregory explains that she will never feel satisfied without being able to constantly travel and will never work for a job that does not allow her to do so. She feels that travel is a critical part of her identity and is all that she knows when it comes to home.

Gregory’s Teenage Years

Photo is of a teenage Kira Gregory with her family.
Courtesy of Kira Gregory.

During her teen years, Gregory switched from local schools, to attend an international school. There, she states, was when she began to be around primarily European teens, and some Americans as well. In the international school she blended in seamlessly appearance-wise. However, Gregory also felt in many ways different from them, holding much hidden diversity. She had a vastly different primary and middle school experience attending local Hong Kong schools. Gregory was able to experience the traditional expat side of Hong Kong as well as the local side. This prompted her to be more flexible in transitioning from one culture to another. This adaptation was something she had practiced from a young age. Gregory would continue to practice this adaptability as she transitioned into college in the United States, a far leap from where many of her U.K. friends planned on attending.

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