Book Review: “The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition”

15 March 2011

A must read for all expats and their kids who see the World as their only home. This is one of the latest additions to our reference library. With thanks to Nel Vandekerckhove for writing this book review.

Book Review: “The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition” by Tina L. Quick

In general, guidebooks are not my favorites to review. While often written with the best intentions, to me these books have a tendency to overdo the how-to’s and must-do’s. Often after reading, little advice sticks. In view of the topic of this book, global nomads on their way to university, I was glad to make an exception. Transition of expat kids from high school to university – whether back in their ‘passport country’ or elsewhere once again – is a rockier path than generally presented, and therefore can use some extra attention.


The expat youngsters, or Third Culture Kids (TCKs) as they are addressed in this book, experience a double rite of passage when entering university. Not only are they moving from high school to university – leaving their family behind for a longer period of time, they do this in a country that is being referred to by their parents as ‘their home country’. College years might indeed be “the best years of your life”, but people tend to forget that the double shift from high school to university, and the process of repatriation/migration remains a challenge, even for Third Culture Kids who have lived in multiple countries before they reach the age of eighteen.

Tina Quick does an excellent job in addressing this matter and the possible hiccups for TCKs when they decide to repatriate or expatriate to attend university. The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition is a very lucid, well-written work that offers a detailed overview of the different stages of the ‘transition cycle’ of youngsters and their parents from the moment the TCKid decides to leaves and settle in the ‘home country’. In chapter one, the author addresses the Third Culture kid phenomenon and the issue of belonging TCKs might feel when relating to their peers who have not lived abroad. In chapters 2 to 6, each stage of the transition cycle is discussed in detail. Catchy titles such as ‘Itchy feet to dragging feet’ or ‘Fish out of Water’ grab the readers’ attention and straight away make them reflect on these issues. The second part of the book (chapter 7 till chapter 10) is set up as a practical guide on how to cope with mental and physical distress related to this transition process. For instance, how can the TCKs set boundaries with regard to drugs and alcohol, take care of their health and deal with the campus life abroad? In the last chapter (chapter 11), Quick addresses the parents to help them understand the struggle of their TCK offspring and the ways they can provide help and support. Being a mother of three college-aged TCK daughters, the author knows from first hand experience that often TCK parents are only too grateful for some tips and advice on this transition process.

One of the major strengths of this book, are the frequent use of real-life examples. The testimonial of Marie, an American/British TCK who lived most of her childhood in Switzerland, helps bring the matter alive and leads you to make comparisons with your own expat experiences. In that regard, the book is not just appropriate for TCKs and their parents at the eve of making the university transition. It is also insightful for everyone who lives or is thinking about living abroad to frame their own experiences or those of their (future) TCKids. A must read for sure!

Nel Vandekerckhove is a Belgian expat, who moved to Amsterdam a few years ago. She lecturers at the University of Amsterdam, Department of Political Science. At this international hot spot, she deals with Third Culture Kids on an everyday basis. A next move might turn her into a global nomad herself. In her research, she focuses on identity politics, the issue of belonging and the imagining of home amongst Asian migrants.