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Growing up Mobile: An Interview with Madi Soler – Part 1 OF 3

Madi Soler in 2021

Unlike Madi Soler, many of us tend to grow up in the same environment until we reach adulthood and start branching out on our own. For Third Culture Kids (TCKs), we see major differences in the way they grow up. Whether they are moving from country to country or region to region, the upbringing of TCKs typically affect their lives immensely. TCKs often experience culture differences depending on the state.

Madi Solerin each state she has lived in.
Madi Soler in the different states she’s lived. Free via Permissions by Madi Soler. Photographed by Friends & Family.

Jump Around!

Madi Soler, a nineteen-year-old college student, knows just what it’s like to face the struggles of a TCK. Soler grew up in the United States (U.S.), however, she spent her childhood moving from state to state due to her parent’s work. Soler may have stayed within one country, but within the U.S., culture can range widely from state to state. From Maryland to Georgia to California to North Carolina, Soler has certainly experienced life through many different lenses.

Madi Soler: Becoming a Chameleon

Sitting down with Soler created a clearer understanding of some of the struggles and benefits TCKs face. In terms of struggles, Soler explains how the fashion from Georgia to California goes from “very preppy and chic to more casual street wear.” On her first school day in California in seventh grade, Soler dressed completely different than the other kids. With her ballet flats and blouse, she stuck out in the crowd of skaters and surfers. According to Noor Brara in article “Finding a Place for Third-Culture Kids in the Culture” from the New York Times, “any third-culture kid will tell you that shape-shifting becomes a necessary survival skill” for fitting in at school. When Soler moved from California back to the east coast to live in North Carolina, she applied the same shape-shifting skill to adapt to their fashion.

Hey, It’s Not All Bad

Looking at some of the benefits moving around can provide for TCKs, Soler spoke on why she is thankful for the life she has had. Soler explains how living in different states gave her an awareness that she may not have had if she lived in a bubble her entire childhood.

I got to meet people with different socioeconomic status’, different upbringings, different races, ethnicity, which have all contributed to me and who I am

Madi Soler, 2021 on the benefits of being a TCK.

When asked if moving impacted who Soler grew up to be, her answer was a resounding yes. She expresses how if she really wanted to “get plugged in” to a new environment, it was on her to make the effort. Growing up on the shyer side made this a challenge. However, Soler says it forced her to get out of her comfort zone and helped her grow as a person.

From Rough to Rewarding

Madi Soler on Decision Day repping UNC gear.
Madi Soler on Decision Day. Free via Permissions by Madi Soler. Photographed by Stephanie Kay.

Although mostly a positive experience for Soler, as she grew into a teenager, moving did not always excite her. The move following sophomore year, age fifteen, to North Carolina left Soler feeling resentful toward her parents. Soler discloses that no one tried being friends with her because everyone already had established lives. According to BBC News in “Third Culture Kids: Citizens of everywhere and nowhere”, with the intensified emotions that teenagers feel “problems are more likely to emerge especially during teenage years” after a move takes place. Luckily for Soler, after the rocky start and horrible first semester of junior year, she got to transfer to a different school in the same district in search for a better experience. With that, Soler adapted well and grew to really like North Carolina. So much so that she now attends the University of North Carolina as a Tar Heel.

Soler’s View on Her Life

Despite the challenges Soler faced as a TCK within the United States, she would not change her childhood. Soler believes “if [she] didn’t move [she] wouldn’t have all of the opportunities [she] has had”. Everyone who experiences life as a TCK or immigrant has different viewpoints regarding how they feel about it as we will see in other immigrant lives within the following articles of this series, with Susan Hsin and Daniella Nietzen. Luckily for Madi Soler, her experience as a TCK shaped up to be quite beneficial.

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