Third culture kids (TCKs) are people that have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside of their parents’ culture. Their home, host countries and experiences become the third culture. This can be a lot for anyone under the age of eighteen to adapt to.
TCK CULTURAL IDENTITY
I am not a TCK, when I learned about the term I thought these kids must have the most interesting lives. But, through research and more understanding it is evident that many struggles come with being a TCK. Often times, because of the young age and the exposure to so many different cultures, TCKs struggle with issues of personal and cultural identity. They can lack a sense of belonging and don’t know the definitions of home – or even where to call home, according to TCK artist Susan Mousakhani. Because most of the experiences TCKs have are before eighteen, their education can become a tool that helps them understand their struggles and identity.
ART AS A TOOL
For many TCKs art education was the most impactful course throughout primary school. These classes allowed them to express their ideas on culture, place and identity. Christine Rasmussen is a second generation TCK and U.S. citizen and only spent three years of her life in the U.S. Most of her childhood was spent in Pakistan, then Vietnam for her teen years. She talks about how her art classes helped her understand herself and her TCK cultural identity growing up. Rasmussen continued her art career through college, she now is an artist and an art teacher. Her artwork helps her relate to people with similar backgrounds and communicate the trials that come with being a TCK.
MANAGING EMOTION WITH ART
Rasmussen talks about how painting was her primary mode for expressing and communicating the emotions she felt throughout her life. Her career as an artist thoroughly helps viewers understand her life as a TCK. For instance, her work Letting Go explores the struggles she experienced following her college graduation. She had no “home” to return to, which she experienced for much of her life. This work signifies a forced independence throughout her life. Symbolizing the idea that she is letting go of the feelings of a lost childhood. It encourages “letting go of things outside of one’s control.” These are ideas she says TCKs share. She hopes her artwork can help other TCKs “let go” of what they can’t control and enjoy their unique culture.
“I think this painting explores the question of ‘how do I define my identity, when it’s not tied to a geographical place?’”– Christine Rasmussen, Third Culture Kids: Who are they?
Rasmussen’s career started as a way for her to understand the experiences she had as a TCK growing up. She turned to art education as a means to help other TCKs learn to appreciate the positive things that come out of such a unique and diverse experience. It is important that schools and TCK students have the means to adapt and understand themselves in different ways. Art teachers like Rasmussen have the ability to influence young TCKs and help them explore themselves.