A calm joviality finds home in Calvin Karuniawan Widjaja’s face as he responds, “It’s fun,” borrowing Richard Branson’s words, on why he hosts his interview series.
Named after his initials, Global CKtizens is a livestreamed interview series on Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and multicultural communities of all profiles.
“I like to listen to stories… It’s a way to bond people,” Widjaja states.
For this adult Third Culture Kid (TCK) born in Jakarta, Indonesia, moved to Singapore at age 7, and became immersed in Irish culture through his tertiary education, Widjaja’s Global CKtizens serves as his emotional anchor. He attended international school in Jakarta, grew up with a Korean family member’s cultural influence his first 10 years in Singapore and also grew up alongside a cousin who was a business TCK.
Perhaps most relatable to TCKs is Widjaja’s experience of feeling like a hidden immigrant when he moved back to his passport country of Jakarta and felt more belonging to Singapore.
Widjaja: A Podcast Made ‘Out Of Passion’
Widjaja recounts when he started his Global CKtizens podcast, “At the time, if I did not do it, I would not have the emotional anchor that I need.” He had recently repatriated back to Jakarta and was living in a rural area two-and-a-half hours (five hours round trip) by car from the city. The content, for Widjaja, was “out of passion, out of love and that’s how the content came about.”
His interview series is not about money or fame. It is about touching even just one viewer or listener. Inspired by the advice of a friend, Widjaja describes what carries him through producing each episode: “Even if you only get one viewer and your viewer says thank you to you and they get it, you’ve done your job and that is something I carry with me every day.”
As of the time of this writing, Widjaja has created at least 82 Global CKtizens interview episodes since September 2019.
Recalling some experiences that he considers some of the toughest as a TCK, he recalls, “When people around you keep telling you, ‘This is the right way, this is how everybody is.” With these words, Widjaja describes what other marginalized population groups can likely relate to: “It’s the feeling that your existence is wrong, and you have to feel a certain way.” The interviews are a way for me to educate others about the impact of a globally nomadic lifestyle.
Widjaja On The Gift Of Being A TCK
Despite the challenges of being different, Widjaja hopes more TCKs realize the gift of being a TCK. “There (are) a lot of people who have not yet reached the stage or are still pursuing the stage they realize their global background is actually a gigantic blessing,” Widjaja states. “You can look at (situations) from multiple angles,” he adds.
In the summer of 2020, as some in the TCK community began to engage in more discussions about racism and the impact of George Floyd’s death, Widjaja was one of the voices that took a stance, with his article published on LinkedIn, “Why do we hate? How racism still persists.”
Discussing bullying responses to a post confronting racism in the private Facebook groups “TCKid: Third Culture Kids” and “Third Culture Kids Everywhere,” Widjaja says that he felt disappointed. He noticed, “Equality is [the racists’] own form of oppression. When they are told [others] are being oppressed, when they are told the way they have been living is wrong.”
In the same Facebook groups, his article received some resistance as well. According to Widjaja, “It was very disappointing. You would have expected that TCKs would be more receptive of global issues, but at the end of the day, TCKs are humans.”
Equality is [the racists’] own form of oppression. When they are told [others] are being oppressed, when they are told the way they have been living is wrong.
Yet, true to TCK form, he sees different angles simultaneously. “Some TCKs may not have been lucky enough to grow up in a custom that is a lot more accepting; but I will not be negative about it.” Widjaja points out, “This is not the TCK community, not anybody of color; [the racism] is just the person as individuals themselves.”
Widjaja’s growth as an interviewer since he started in 2019 becomes evident as he discusses what he has changed and his approach to workflow. One such lesson he learns is it is not quantity, but quality and consistency that matters. Widjaja gives credit to or quotes a few people who have inspired him in general, including personal friends, Culturs Editor-inChief Doni Aldine, Virgin CEO Richard Branson, Former L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant and TCK Author Ruth Van Reken.
Stories [are] what bonds people.
Now, Widjaja has some lessons about what is valuable to impart to those who may be just starting: “The importance of story and importance of context, everyone has different ones. We get to realize differences and similarities.” Widjaja emphasizes, “Stories [are] what bonds people.”
The future vision for his personal goals is to be an international speaker, trainer and coach for multicultural issues. With a degree in law, Widjaja also plans to be an intercultural mediator. He approaches these goals without specific expectations of what they would look like.
Rather, with anything he will accomplish, his desire is to one day, look back and say, “Ok, I accomplished this along the way.” Widjaja explains, “Not everything is set in stone. It’s not always perfect. As long as you learn or earn something out of it, it works.” For now, he is aiming to provide valuable content.
As long as you learn or earn something out of it, it works.
Most valuable of all, as has been observed by Widjaja’s peers in the TCK community, is his vulnerability. What makes Widjaja vulnerable is his honesty in the sharing of himself in his content, particularly in regards to family relations, including tensions.
While family tension is a very personal topic, addressing it can be liberating from the silence that has stunted personal growth and family reconciliation. Widjaja offers steps towards reconciliation: “When (family members) can acknowledge what you went through, what has caused these kinds of changes, all kinds of internal paradigms within you, then they can understand.”
According to Widjaja, parents especially can realize “Ok, we know what you are going through. It’s not that you’re doing something reckless. It’s just that you’re dealing with some kind of turmoil because of this type of lifestyle.” For non-TCK parents who may be less understanding without their own nomadic past, “at least the acknowledgement that this global life is not easy for everyone,” is helpful, he says.
Widjaja encourages the younger generation of TCKs, on their end of family relations, to “find a creative outlet, because it kind of creates a certain testament, hard core evidence, to show your global life has existed.”
Most significantly, Widjaja’s raw honesty helps other TCKs with ethnic and/or family cultures in which confronting inter-generational tension is taboo. By addressing hurtful family misunderstanding as well as discussing little changes towards family reconciliation within his own family, Widjaja has role modeled what is possible for other TCKs.
Ultimately, what he appreciates the most about his family. Just as raw as he is when he discusses tension, he is equally — if not more raw — as he highlights the trait of compassion as one of the traits he values about his family. Hopefully, one day, Widjaja can look back and see, this itself (the pathway he has created for family reconciliation over difficult TCK topics) is one of the things he is already accomplishing along the way.