Utrecht Students Explore the Third Culture Kid Experience

7 September 2015

The Expatriate Archive Centre (EAC) has teamed up with the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences for a research project looking at the experiences of Third Culture Kids (TCKs).


Third Culture Kids

TCKs spend their formative years growing up in a culture other than that of their parents. They have become a subject of interest since David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken coined the term in their book Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds, in 1999. Although contemporary blogs and books written by TCKs abound, keeping this material safely stored for future academic research is something that many of them may not consider.

Dirk Postma, lecturer and researcher in Community Development at the Institute of Social Work at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, collaborated with EAC Director Kristine Racina to set up a student project examining whether TCKs were willing to share their life experiences.

Oral History

Last year a group of students – Asmaa El Moudden, Julie Toonen, Esther Jansen, Lisa van Oost, Thomas Parie, Ryanne Kelly and Ruben Heinen – carried out face-to-face interviews with 34 TCKs. Their main focus was the question, “to what extent do adolescent children of expatriates, living in the city of Utrecht, feel the desire to share their ‘third culture experiences’ with others in their neighbourhood?”. The presented their findings at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences in November 2014, concluding that this oral history project was indeed worthwhile.

The Next Step

Recently another student from Utrecht has taken up the challenge. Kim Schinkel arranged a meet-up with TCKs in June 2015. The attendees were enthusiastic about sharing their experiences, and the chance to meet face-to-face with staff from the EAC, people who are passionate about preserving life stories such as theirs, was a welcome opportunity for them.

What’s Your Story?

The experiences of TCKs are an important part of the social history of expat life, and keeping them safe for future research is our priority. If you have a TCK or expat story to share – whether in diary form, published in a blog or book, or written in letters or emails to friends and family – get in touch with the EAC and find out more about how we can help you to preserve your precious memories.